STUDY: Hotel ‘perks’ becoming standard expectations

The hotel industry may be reaching a plateau with regard to customer satisfaction as guests increasingly expect special perks to be offered as standard features, according to the J.D. Power 2016 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study.

The hotel industry may be reaching a plateau with regard to customer satisfaction as guests increasingly expect special perks to be offered as standard features, according to the J.D. Power 2016 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study.

While items like free Wi-Fi, free breakfast, free parking and luxury bed linens have historically served as inducements to choose one brand over another, the study says more and more guests are expecting those things to be offered as standard features. The perks listed were the top four perks cited by the 63,000 guests surveyed for the study.

“Customers have responded well to the enhanced offerings provided by some hotel brands to create value, but as those perks become standard, customers are quick to ask, ‘What have you done for me lately?’” Rick Garlick, global travel and hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power, said in a statement announcing the survey results.

Garlick says the next area in which hotels will have to up their game is service.

“When guests no longer see added value in the quality of amenities they receive, the only option to truly differentiate a brand is to develop a strong service culture that makes guests feel special and appreciated,” he said.

Although the survey, which is now in its 20th year, shows that overall satisfaction improved for a fourth consecutive year, the rate of increase has slowed from previous years.

Guest satisfaction in the 2016 survey increased by two points from 2015 to average 806 on a 1,000-point scale, a much smaller increase than in the recent past, and part of the reason is satisfaction with cost and fees. While the measure of satisfaction with that category improved 25 points between 2014 and 2015, it improved only a single point between 2015 and 2016.

Graphic showing satisfaction results for Luxury hotels per JD Power survey
Luxury segment results
Cost and fees is one of seven metrics considered in the study. Others include the reservation experience, check-in/check-out, guest room, food and beverage, hotel services and hotel facilities. The study measures overall guest satisfaction across eight hotel segments: luxury, upper upscale, upscale, upper midscale, midscale, economy/budget, upper extended stay and extended stay.

Interestingly, while satisfaction in most segments has remained more or less flat, the luxury segment has improved by 12 points overall, with much of that improvement attributed to a 20-point improvement in cost and fees.

“Despite luxury hotels typically being the most expensive, this segment has been able to show guests that they’re providing additional value, which is clearly resonating,” Garlick said.

The study also finds that while satisfaction was significantly higher among members of hotel rewards programs than among non-members regardless of the guests’ generational group, younger guests are less likely to be members than older guests. Only 39 percent of Gen Y guests belong to a rewards program, compared with 56 percent of Gen X and 66 percent of Boomer guests.

Key findings

Among the study’s key findings are that, overall, only three percent of guests take advantage of online or mobile check-in, though check-in/check-out satisfaction was highest among these guests than among those who used any other method for check-in/check-out.

Among guests who posted a review of their stay on social media, 75 percent of the posts were positive, compared with 13 percent that were negative. "Most people are under the impression that only the really unhappy people post on social media, Garlick told TheTravelPro in an email. " Our data show that, actually, the opposite is true. In three out of four cases where people post to any social media, it is to comment positively about their hotel experience."

The highest satisfaction score for a single hotel chain as well as the highest average satisfaction score was in the Luxury segment while the lowest scores in both categories were in the Economy/Budget segment.

Hotel segment rankings

In the Luxury segment, Ritz-Carlton ranked highest for the second consecutive year with a score of 896, which is also the highest score ever achieved by any hotel chain in the history of the study. It was followed by Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, JW Marriott, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Lowes Hotels & Resorts, Fairmount Hotels & Resorts, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, W Hotels and Grand Hyatt.

Omni Hotels led the Upper Upscale category in JD Power Hotel Satisfaction Study
Omni Hotel San Antonio
The Upper Upscale segment was led by a personal favorite, Omni Hotels & Resorts, for a second consecutive year followed by Kimpton Hotels, Hyatt, Renaissance Hotels, Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Embassy Suites Hotels, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hyatt Regency, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Westin Hotels & Resorts, Delta Hotels and Resorts, and Sheraton Hotels & Resorts.

Hilton Garden Inns led the Upscale segment followed by SpringHill Suites, Hyatt Place, Courtyard by Marriott, DoubleTree by Hilton, Coast Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Radisson, Aloft by W Hotels and Four Points by Sheraton.

Drury Hotels, which previously led the Midscale segment, was moved to the Upper Midscale segment in 2014 and led that segment in this year’s study. In total, Drury has led its segment for 11 consecutive years. Upper Midscale hotels that followed Drury are Hampton Inn/Suites, Fairfield Inns & Suites, Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn, Comfort Suites, Best Western Plus, Country Inns & Suites, Wyndham Garden, Comfort Inn, Ramada Plaza and Clarion.

The leader in the Midscale segment was Wingate by Wyndham for a second consecutive year. It was followed by AmericInn, Baymont Inns & Suites, Best Western, La Quinta Inns & Suites, Sleep Inn, Red Lion, Quality and Ramada.

Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham led the Economy/Budget segment for a fourth consecutive year, followed by America’s Best Value Inn, Days Inn, Super 8, Red Roof Inn, Econo Lodge, Howard Johnson, Travelodge, Motel 6, Knights Inn and Rodeway Inn.

Hyatt House led the Upper Extended Stay segment followed by Residence Inn, Staybridge Suites and Homewood Suites by Hilton. Home2 Suites by Hilton led the Extended Stay category, followed by TownePlace Suites, Candlewood Suites, Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham and Extended Stay America.

The 2016 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study is based on responses gathered between June 2015 and May 2016 from more than 63,000 guests in the U.S. and Canada who stayed at a hotel in North America between May 2015 and May 2016.

Visit my main page at for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

Photo by Carl Dombek; graphic provided by JD Power
Click to view larger images