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New J.D. Power Study Reveals What Hotel Guests Really Want

J.D. Power this week released results of its 2016 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, the 20th in its series of annual reviews of traveler satisfaction.

The study measures consumer satisfaction in seven areas—reservations, check-in/check-out, guest room, food and beverage, hotel services, hotel facilities, cost and fees—across eight hotel segments, including luxury, midscale, economy/budget, extended stay, and so on.

The top-ranked hotel chains in each segment:

  • Luxury: The Ritz-Carlton
  • Upper Upscale: Omni Hotels & Resorts
  • Upscale: Hilton Garden Inn
  • Upper Midscale: Drury Hotels
  • Midscale: Wingate by Wyndham
  • Economy/Budget: Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham
  • Upper Extended Stay: Hyatt House
  • Extended Stay: Home2 Suites by Hilton

Overall, the results were positive for the hotels, with a 2 percentage-point increase in customer satisfaction over the previous year. But the improvement was less pronounced than in recent years, suggesting that travelers’ expectations and hotel deliverables have been brought into close alignment. According to J.D. Power, “As hotel guests increasingly come to expect amenities that used to be special perks, such as free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfasts and premium bed linens, the industry may be reaching a customer satisfaction plateau.”

Not surprisingly, satisfaction was higher among members of hotel loyalty programs. An eye-opener, however, was the program-participation rates among different age groups, with 66 percent of Baby Boomers belonging to one or more programs, 56 percent of Gen Xers, but only 39 percent of Gen Y travelers.

We’re finding that every succeeding generation seems to be less likely to be a member of a hotel rewards program than the one before. As we’ve seen across numerous industries that J.D. Power tracks, younger guests in particular are especially driven by the value proposition, underscoring the importance for hotel brands to make a stronger case for the benefits of loyalty to these travellers.

In other words, to remain relevant, loyalty programs need to step up their game. How could they do that? A hint might be found in the list of the survey respondents’ most important amenities: free WiFi, free breakfast, and free parking.

Slowly, painfully, free WiFi has become more or less the industry standard. That leaves free breakfast and parking on the to-do list for hotels looking to boost guest satisfaction and loyalty.

Reader Reality Check

What could hotels be doing to increase your level of satisfaction?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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