Why travelers are fed up – and what hotels can do about it

Are you paying more for your hotel room and enjoying it less? If so, you’re not alone.  A new survey shows travelers are fed up with poor service, long lines and surly staff members. They’re especially unhappy about lousy Internet connections – and being forced to pay extra for them.

These are among the results of the annual J.D. Power & Associates report released Wednesday (today). The survey, which charts hotel guest satisfaction in North America, indicates the industry has a long way to go to make us happy.

Much of our dissatisfaction stems from downsizing, say experts. Many companies fired staff and put off renovations when the economy soured, according to Jessica McGregor, senior account manager in the global travel and hospitality practice for J.D. Power.  Although these hotel companies now have raised rates, they haven’t restored staffing to previous levels or moved ahead with improvements.

“It’s not enough to raise rates and offer the same service as before,” McGregor said.  “They need to make sure they have service-oriented staffs that will treat guests better and personalize their stays.”

A lack of staff translates into long lines at check-in counters—a major gripe expressed in this year’s survey,  and long waits when ordering in restaurants or from room service.
McGregor said the thing that angers hotel guests most, however, is the Internet, which she described as a flashpoint for today’s travelers. People want to use WiFi in their hotel rooms and don’t want to be charged for it. They also want it to work well.

But often it doesn’t.  Today’s travelers carry many devices—computers, cell phones, tablets—and need to be able to connect with all them.

“Band-width is a continuing problem,” says McGregor.  Hotel staff members “can’t tell people in the morning that they can’t shower because there’s no hot water left.  They can’t tell people after dinner that there’s no Internet because a lot of people are online then.”

But, in addition to listing the negatives, the report charts the hotel chains travelers like best.  Among them is a seven-time winner: Drury Hotels, which has made the top of the list seven years straight.
Drury, a family-owned group of 120 hotels in the Midwest and South,  has modest rates, and manages to give guests a lot for their money. The chain’s motto is “The extras aren’t extra” and guests can depend on free hot breakfasts, WiFi and an early-evening gathering with hot appetizers and beverages.

Ritz-Carlton, which has topped the list in the luxury category three times, manages to personalize its service and has gone to great lengths to offer excellent Internet connections, said McGregor.
A complete list of the top scorers in the poll, includes: Ritz-Carlton (luxury); Omni (upper upscale); Hilton Garden Inn & SpringHill Suites (tied in upscale); Holiday Inn (midscale full service); Drury Hotels (midscale limited service); Jameson Inn (economy/budget); and Homewood Suites (extended stay).

The survey, titled "2012 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study," is in its 16th year and is based on responses gathered between August 2011 and May 2012 from more than 61,700 hotel guests from the United States and Canada. Overall guest satisfaction in 2012 declined to 757 on a 1,000-point scale, down seven index points from 2011.