Hotel happiness factor on the rise..Wanted: more Canadian travel studies!
Interesting piece by Barb De Lollis in USA Today about how hotel guests appear more satisified in the past year than they were in the 12 months prior to that.
J.D. Power and Associates latest study suggests a combination of reduced rates (yeah, that helps makes folks happy) and fewer crowds (ditto) boosted hotel ratings in a variety of categories. Mark Schwartz, in charge of J.D. Power's travel practice, said hotels put more of a focus on service in the last little while, and thank goodness for that.
"All of them are focused on improving guest satisfaction," Schwartz said "Almost all of the chains increased their scores on a year-over-year basis - and not a single hotel chain saw its score drop significantly."
Tops in the luxury category was Ritz-Carlton, with Toronto-based Four Seasons coming a very respectable second, ahead of J.W. Marriott and fourth-place (still quite good, and also Toronto-based) Fairmont.
Winner in the "upscale" category was Omni Resorts, with Delta way down at 15th, while the "mid-scale, full service" category winner was Hilton Garden Inn for the second year in a row. In the category of "mid-scale, limited service," Drury Inn and Suites won for the fifth straight year, while Microtel Inns & Suites copped top honours in the economy/budget category for the, wait for it, ninth year in a row. In the extended stay category, the gold medal went to Homewood Suites.
Sadly for Canadians who like to stay within our own country, a lot of these resorts are U.S. chains with limited or no presence north of the border. I don't see any Canadian locations on the Drury Inn & Suites website. Microtel's website doesn't show any of their own properties near Toronto, Ottawa or Calgary but does link to a lot of other hotels, including Howard Johnson properties and Travelodge hotels.
It's a common problem for us Canadians, as so many studies are based out of the U.S. and don't quite work for us. I get a lot of email around the Fourth of July talking about quick getaways, but the people sending them don't understand we have our own national holiday that's already over by then. And I get a lot of form emails in the days right after July 4 saying things like, "Dear Jim, Hope you had a great Fourth of July weekend. Now that you're back to work, check out the great deals at the Dolly Parton Twin Towers in Bosomville, Tennessee," and things like that. (Wouldn't that be a great hotel, really? I mean, we have Dollywood. So why not a Dolly Parton hotel? Of course, here in Canada we'd have to have the Pamela Anderson chain, complete with vegetarian restaurants utterly devoid of foie gras.)
I checked out the hotel ratings and it was interesting to read about the luxury category. Ritz-Carlton was given an overall five stars out of five, while Four Seasons got four out of five stars for overall satisfaction. Looking around a bit more, I found that Four Seasons hotels got five stars for their rooms and four out of five for check-in, check-out, but only two out of five stars for their reservation system. Which makes me think there's something seriously weird going on. I looked at their website today and it seems fine by me, but obviously folks in the study found things they don't like either on the website or on the phone. Or perhaps they're booking certain rooms and things aren't working out when they check in? I can't tell.
Fairmont got three stars out of five overall, but, again, just two out of five stars for reservations. Is there something wrong with our Canadian companies when it comes to hotel reservations, or is this some kind of weird anomaly based on Americans using American websites, or what? Just for fun, I went online this morning and checked out the Four Seasons site. It looked fine to me. I found various resorts around the world and, in honour of the fact that the London Olympics open in just about exactly two years, I clicked on the Canary Wharf Four Seasons Hotel in London. It popped up with a nice site and I easily found a room for a very reasonable 190 British Pounds (I think just a bit more than 300 Canadian dollars) on a Saturday night in late August. I went on the Fairmont site and easily found a room at the famous San Francisco Fairmont for $279 U.S. a night on Aug. 22.
It was pretty painless, so I'm a touch baffled about what reservation issues J.D. Power is talking about. Still, if I was in charge of Fairmont or Four Seasons today I'd be doing some serious reviewing.
The study found that 58 per cent of folks booked their hotel rooms on-line. I'm a bit surprised it's that low, actually. I don't recall the last time I booked a hotel over the telephone, myself.
In a side note sure to set tongues wagging at Expedia and other such places, Schwartz said guests who make reservations directly through the hotel -- whether via phone or website -- are notably more satisfied with their overall experience than guests who book through an independent travel website.