The hotel industry saw great improvement in the last two years with guests reporting high satisfaction with the quality of service, value, and confidence in cleanliness, but that satisfaction has decreased in 2022. According to the recently released J.D. Power North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study (now in its 26th year ), guests reported an 8-point dip in overall satisfaction from the previous year, for an overall satisfaction score of 822 out of 1,000.
The study analyzes guest responses to more than 150 questions regarding branded hotel stay experiences and benchmarks the performance of more than 100 brands across six market segments. Three key takeaways emerged from the report, highlighting the need for hotels to find new ways to deliver high levels of service to guests with limited resources – doing more with less.
- Satisfaction with guest rooms decreases
While hotel occupancy rates have climbed dramatically this year, the surge in demand and steadily climbing prices have not been met with a corresponding improvement in amenities or services. As a result, overall hotel guest satisfaction declined, driven primarily by dissatisfaction with cleanliness, appearance, and price. Even before the pandemic hit, “cleanliness” was high on guest’s satisfaction list, with 78% of guests saying that it was the most important influence in deciding where to stay. Although the category scored relatively high on this year’s study, it was much lower from a year ago along with, “décor and furnishings,” “in-room amenities” and “quality of bathrooms.” Drew Pinto, Marriott’s Global Officer for Global Sales, Distribution and Revenue Management, said that much of the dissatisfaction has come from reduced housekeeping services and limited amenities leftover from the pandemic. He added that, “Improved communications about what a guest can expect upon arrival can help improve satisfaction.” The buffet breakfast was another casualty of the pandemic (36 percent of hotels eliminated buffet-style serving), and in all but one hotel segment, guests were particularly dissatisfied with reduced variety and quality with breakfasts – if the meal was offered at all.
- Pricing up across all segments
Hotel price rises were up across all segments, but many travelers were not perceiving good value for money. In fact, the single biggest factor driving this year’s 8-point decline was overall dissatisfaction in hotel cost and fees. According to hotel market data provider STR, hotel prices increased by around 33% across the US over the last year. “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,” said Andrea Stokes, hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power. “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.”
- Fewer staff
During the pandemic, hotels were running skeleton staff due to low occupancy rates. When bookings began to lift, hotels were finding it difficult to fill open positions. The American Hotel and Lodging Association (ALHA) – which represents 80 percent of all franchised hotels with 3.8 million rooms across the country – said that 97 percent of its members reported a staffing shortage in July, with 49% severely so. The most critical staffing need is housekeeping, with 58% ranking it as their biggest challenge, while frontline hotel staff are spreading thinner due to the industry labor shortage. However, while fewer guests are interacting with front desk staff and breakfast attendants this year compared with pre-pandemic 2019, they still give staff high ratings for courtesy. To meet the demand for new staff, hotels are offering a range of incentives for potential hires. Top of the list is nearly 90% have increased wages, while 71% are offering greater flexibility with hours, and 43% have expanded benefits. This has been met with some success – by the end of 2022, hotels are expected to employ 1.97 million people— a 20% increase from last year.
Where does the industry go as we look to 2023?
The road to industry-wide recovery is a marathon and guest sentiment can be a roadblock on that journey. As hotels continue to develop new strategies to do more with less – less staff and smaller budgets – managing costs while keeping guests happy has become increasingly difficult. Converting guests into brand advocates can go a long way in addressing dissatisfaction while automation and outsourcing provide opportunities for cost savings – freeing up staff resources. Solutions like Onyx’s commission processing solution CommPay can help hotels streamline the commission process and reduce administrative burden so your team members can get back to the business of keeping guests happy.