Hotel guests are happy again, J.D. Power study says

Maybe the hotel check-in process has been simplified. Perhaps it’s easier to make a reservation. Or maybe employees are just smiling more at guests. Whatever they’ve done is working. After years of declining consumer satisfaction, the hotel industry is finally making us happier. Markedly happier.

A new report released today by J.D. Power and Associates finds that guests are more satisfied than they’ve been in seven years with their home-away-from-home experiences at the nation’s hotels. In fact, our contentment level has leapfrogged 20 points since 2012.

Satisfaction has increased in all categories evaluated by the annual survey, with the largest increases coming in areas that sometimes make consumers scream: reservations, cost and fees and check-in/check-out.

The survey’s director, Rick Garlick, credits the recovering U.S. economy with some of the improvements – hotels are rehiring staff and improving facilities – and calls the findings “great news for an industry that has struggled to meet guest expectations in the past few years.”

That doesn’t mean we’re totally happy with every aspect of our hotel stays. The study indicates we’re still distressed about Internet usage, which is the thing that irritates us most as hotel guests. We hate the slow speeds, lack of availability and spotty connectivity. We also hate being charged for Internet connections when it’s free at coffeehouses and cafes.

Other things that annoy us about hotel stays: noise, inaccurate reservations and heating and air-conditioning problems.

A surprising finding is that we’re paying more for our hotel stays but don’t seem to care. “Hotel charges have gone up about 5 percent over the past two years,” said Garlick, “but people are still more satisfied.” Again, the economy may be playing a part in our price satisfaction because people have a little more to spend.

People who are the least happy with hotels today are budget travelers who chose a place to stay based solely on price.

The happiest travelers, according to the study, are those who scrutinize the Internet closely, looking for hotel reviews and articles about the various places they’re considering.

“Before these sites became mainstream, guests tended to choose a property based on price, previous experiences or location,” said Garlick. “Now guests can make more informed choices that ultimately result in more realistic expectations about the property. This can go a long way toward satisfaction with their stay.”

The annual study, now in its 17th year, also ranks hotels in the various categories. This year’s top scorers are:

  • Luxury: The Ritz-Carlton (for a fourth consecutive year)

  • Upper upscale: Kimpton Hotels

  • Upscale: Hyatt Place

  • Midscale full service: Holiday Inn (for a third consecutive year)

  • Midscale: Drury Hotels (for an eighth consecutive year)

  • Economy/budget: Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham

  • Upper extended stay: Homewood Suites

  • Extended stay: TownePlace Suites

J.D. Power, a global marketing information services company, conducted the 2013 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study between July 2012 and May 2013. It is based on responses from more than 68,700 hotel guests from Canada and the U.S. Overall guest satisfaction averaged 777 on a 1,000-point scale, up 20 points from 2012.