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CAN'T GET NO (HOTEL) SATISFACTION
By Michael Matthews
August 1, 2013 -- Congratulations to Mick Jagger on his 70th birthday, but his endless prancing around indicates to me that he still can't get no satisfaction.

Speaking of satisfaction, this is the time of year when everyone sane is on the beach and only hotel junkies care that J. D. Power publishes the annual North American Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study. What a mouthful.

This is the 17th year that J. D. Power, a division of McGraw Hill, rated guest-satisfaction levels. It covered eight hotel segments, from luxury hotel groups to extended-stay chains and everything in between. About 69,000 hotel guests were surveyed.

Hotel brands are judged on a number of criteria, including how they handle reservations and the check-in/check-out process; the quality and condition of their guestrooms; food and beverage outlets; hotel facilities and other hotel services; and, of course, rates and fees. A hotel group can potentially garner a maximum of 1,000 points, but no lodging operation has ever climbed to the top of J.D. Power's rating mountain.

One especially interesting finding in this year's study: When a guest interacts with four or more hotel staffers, they tended to rate that hotel considerably higher, by a whopping 79 points, than the industry average. It would seem if you talk to the staff of your hotel, your satisfaction level with that hotel increases.

Overall, guest satisfaction with the hotel industry rated at 777, an increase of about 20 points compared to 2012. But who were this year's winners and losers?

In the luxury-hotel category, Ritz-Carlton topped the field for the fourth consecutive year. Its rating was 881 points, just ahead of Four Seasons with 876 points. There was then a significant drop to the next tier of luxury competitors (Waldorf Astoria, J. W. Marriott, Grand Hyatt and Park Hyatt). They averaged 843 points. Also-rans included W Hotels, Loews, Sofitel, Fairmont and InterContinental. They averaged only 826 points, 55 points below Ritz-Carlton.

I've worked for both Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons and stayed in most of the others and I have to say the difference of 55 points is probably justified.

You've probably noticed that several major luxury hotel groups, including Mandarin Oriental and Rosewood, were left off the rankings. According to Rick Garlick of J. D. Power, those chains didn't have enough rooms in North America to be included in the survey.

In the upper-upscale category, Kimpton Hotels led the way with 845 points followed by Omni, Embassy Suites, Marriott, Renaissance, Westin, Hilton, Hyatt and Wyndham. At the bottom was Sheraton, about 55 points behind Kimpton. By the way, if you're wondering why Embassy Suites is in this category, Garlick says it's because Embassy considers itself an upper-upscale chain. I disagree.

In the "upscale" lodging category, 12 hotel groups averaged 809 points. The Hyatt Place chain topped the field with 831 points, closely followed by Hilton Garden Inns. Hotel Indigo (from InterContinental) and Aloft (from Starwood) faired well, too. Radisson, Four Points, Crowne Plaza and Delta Hotels of Canada all ranked below the category average.

The "midscale" segment was once again topped by Drury Hotels, which led the category for the eighth consecutive year. It scored a whopping 858 points, more than all the other brands except for Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons. I have never stayed in a Drury hotel--they are concentrated in the South, Southwest and Midwest--but if any of you have, I'd love to hear your comments about your stay.

I won't go in to the economy/budget section other than to say that Microtel Inn by Wyndham, with 756 points, led the poor-scoring pack. But I guess that's why they are called economy hotels.

So what does this tell us? Well, obviously, if your T&E budget allows, head to Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons property. Otherwise, try Kimpton and Omni. And if there is a Drury Hotel at your destination, that would be my choice for satisfaction.

Staying on the matter of satisfaction, J. D. Power recommends that if you are a frequent guest of a hotel, you should find out the name of the front office manager and let him know you are coming.

I really wish more people would read my columns because J. D. Power definitely has not. I've preached going right to the top and calling the general manager for the past decade. Don't call some minor functionary way down the totem pole.

Do as I say and you'll get satisfaction. Call someone else and you won't get no satisfaction.

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ABOUT MICHAEL MATTHEWS Michael Matthews has managed and marketed fine hotels around the world for more than 45 years. He spent 14 years in Hong Kong building the legendary Regent International group. He has also worked with St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton and Rosewood hotels. Matthews is currently based in Arizona. He began writing Do Not Disturb in early 2004.

THE FINE PRINT Joe Brancatelli makes this space available to Michael Matthews in the spirit of free speech and to encourage editorial diversity and the wider discussion of important travel issues. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property of Matthews. This column may not be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Michael Matthews.

This column is Copyright 2013 by Michael Matthews. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.