Study: Indirect Booking Linked To Lower Guest Satisfaction

COSTA MESA, Calif.—When guests book through an independent travel website or mobile app instead of directly with the hotel, they are more likely to experience a problem and be less satisfied with their stay, according to the new J.D. Power 2017 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study. The survey of 63,000 recent hotel guests in the U.S. and Canada also showed that incorporating mobile apps and functionality into a hotel stay is associated with higher guest satisfaction. Integrating this technology also makes guests more willing to share their positive hotel experiences on social media.

The risk for hotels is that greater use of mobile devices for booking means some guests might secure a room with an online travel agency (OTA), which is associated with lower satisfaction, rather than booking directly through a hotel. Pushing for more guests to become rewards members may enhance the effort to encourage direct booking. While OTAs remain popular among many guests, there are some disadvantages to their use, such as the need to deal with a third party if problems arise with a reservation.

“As mobile usage becomes increasingly ubiquitous for guests, the challenge for hotels becomes twofold—first, they must persuade guests to book directly with them, and second, they must encourage easy utilization of this technology,” said Rick Garlick, practice lead, travel and hospitality at J.D. Power. “By forging direct relationships, hotels can become guardians of the guest experience, but at the center of these relationships is an establishment’s mobile strategy.”

The study, now in its 21st year, measures overall guest satisfaction across eight hotel segments: luxury, upper upscale, upscale, upper midscale, midscale, economy, upper extended stay, and extended stay. Seven key factors are examined in each segment to determine overall satisfaction: reservation, check-in/check-out, guestroom, food & beverage, hotel services, hotel facilities, and cost and fees. Satisfaction is calculated on a 1,000-point scale.


Some key findings of the J.D. Power 2017 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study include:

Membership matters
Hotel rewards members are far more likely to book directly with a hotel or on a loyalty member site than those who are not members (75 percent vs. 47 percent, respectively), and their satisfaction is higher. The number of those who book through OTAs is increasing (19 percent in 2017 vs. 16 percent in 2013), despite the concerns some guests have ranging from earning hotel rewards to strict cancellation policies.

Mobile insights
In 2014, 14 percent of online reservations were made on mobile devices (smartphone or tablet), that percentage has since risen to 25 percent. Those utilizing mobile reservations are more likely to be younger or business travelers. Among guests who have a hotel’s app on their mobile device, 38 percent don’t use it during their stay. Few guests use the mobile app at check-in (4 percent) and check-out (1 percent), but when an app is used, it is associated with higher guest satisfaction. Guests who download and use a hotel’s mobile app in general are more satisfied and have greater loyalty to that brand. While only 19 percent of all guests have downloaded a hotel app, 70 percent of rewards members have done so.

Social media and online reviews
Despite the perception that people posting to social media only do so to complain, guests describing their experience via these channels appear to be more satisfied overall. At the same time, those who do experience a problem are extremely likely to post to social media (86 percent).

Slightly more than half (52 percent) of guests have read a review of a hotel, industry news, or an online forum in the past month, and 46 percent of those guests wrote a review in the past six months. Review readers and writers are also more likely to have higher guest satisfaction.

Hotel Segment Rankings
J.D. Power study measures guest satisfaction among a hotel brand’s own customers rather than directly comparing hotel brands to one another. The following hotel brands rank highest in guest satisfaction in their respective segments: Luxury: JW Marriott and The Ritz-Carlton (tie); Upper Upscale: Hyatt; Upscale: Hilton Garden Inn (for a second consecutive year); Upper Midscale: Drury Hotels (for a 12th consecutive year); Midscale: Wingate by Wyndham (for a third consecutive year); Economy: Americas Best Value Inn; Upper Extended Stay: Staybridge Suites; and Extended Stay: Candlewood Suites.

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