JD Power: Cost, fees driving guest satisfaction down

According to the J.D. Power "2022 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study," increasing demand and steadily climbing prices have not been met with a corresponding improvement in amenities or services at hotels. As a result, overall hotel guest satisfaction declined 8 points (on a 1,000-point scale) from 2021, driven primarily by dissatisfaction with cost, fees and guestrooms.

“The phenomenon we’re seeing this year tracks closely with the rise in average daily room rates since late 2021, putting hotel property owners squarely in recovery mode,” Andrea Stokes, hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power, said in a statement, citing STR data that during the fielding period of the study—June 2021 through May 2022—the average daily rate for branded hotels rose 34.8 percent. “Many hotel owners and operators are using this post-pandemic surge in travel to get back on a steady financial footing, yet they held back on investing in upgrades and improvements during the pandemic. Hotel operators must carefully balance a focus on recovery with the heightened guest expectations that come with higher room rates.”

Increasing Rates

The single biggest factor driving the 8-point decline in overall satisfaction is hotel cost and fees. Another factor driving the decline is satisfaction with guestrooms, which suggests that hotel guests are feeling like they are paying more, but not getting more in return. Stokes told Hotel Management that some of the biggest shifts in customer satisfaction were in the economy segment, where hoteliers have a harder time adding amenities that make guests feel like they're getting good value for money. "People are paying more for economy hotels, and they're not getting anything different," Stokes said. 

In a similar vein, while hotels still get relatively high satisfaction scores for guestroom cleanliness, scores for decor and furnishings, in-room amenities and quality of bathrooms declined from a year ago. With revenue up right now because of high demand, Stokes advised hoteliers to think about any maintenance projects that they might have put off due to the pandemic.

While rates are currently high, Stokes cautioned that demand may slow down when the summer peak ends. While price adjustments usually are based on precedent, especially when using revenue-management software, the past two years have turned precedent upside down. "Hoteliers are really going to have to watch their local area, their main competitors, and really keep an eye on that," she said. Business travel, she added, is not back to where it was before the pandemic, which means hotels can't rely on corporates to carry them after the leisure season ends. "It's probably one of the best summers ever. But going into the fall, it's kind of a different story."

Technology and Staff Interactions

The report found that frontline hotel staff are spread thinner this year due to the industry labor shortage. However, while fewer guests are interacting with front-desk staff and breakfast attendants this year compared with prepandemic 2019, they still give staff high ratings for courtesy.

Notably, while many guests rely on technology to minimize contact with staff, Stokes said that the "vast majority" of guests who check in online or through mobile app still interact with the front desk at some point during the day. "So I think the need for staff is still there," she said. 

A large majority (81 percent) of guests accessed the internet in their hotel rooms. The percentage of guests who paid extra for that privilege has increased 4 percentage points from prepandemic 2019.

Study Rankings

Upscale extended-stay and upper-midscale/midscale extended-stay are two new segments included in this year’s study. The following hotel brands rank highest in guest satisfaction in their respective segments:

  • Luxury: The Ritz-Carlton (885) (for a second consecutive year)
  • Upper-upscale: Hard Rock Hotels (883) (for a second consecutive year)
  • Upscale: Hilton Garden Inn (868)
  • Upscale extended-stay: Hyatt House (857)
  • Upper midscale: Drury Hotels (877) (for a 17th consecutive year)
  • Upper midscale/midscale extended-stay: Sonesta Simply Suites (852)
  • Midscale: Wingate by Wyndham (849)
  • Economy: WoodSpring Suites (798)

The 2022 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, now in its 26th year, analyzes guest responses to more than 150 questions regarding branded hotel stay experiences and benchmarks the performance of 101 brands across eight market segments. This year’s study is based on responses from 34,407 hotel guests for stays between May 2021 and May 2022.