Making the Grade

By Cihan Cobanoglu | August 10, 2010

Researchers have long studied the factors that influence the satisfaction of tourists, and more specifically, the satisfaction of hotel guests. A University of Delaware study led by visiting researcher Murat Usta focused on this very issue.
 
The study, which covered 50 hotel attributes, asked guests to rate their satisfaction with each attribute based on their last hotel stay. The preliminary results of the study suggest that hotel guests are most satisfied with the following top five attributes: meeting facilities, convenience to meeting site, fast online reservations, 24-hour airport transportation, and hotel location.
 
The bottom five attributes on the guest satisfaction list are: adequate in-room desk/work space, in-room high-speed Internet access (HSIA), comfortable mattress and pillows, flat panel high-definition television (HDTV), and easily-accessible electrical outlets. It is interesting to note that only one of the top five attributes is related to technology (fast online reservations), while three of the bottom five attributes on the list are technology related (HDTV, HSIA, and easily-accessible electrical outlets). One can even argue that adequate guestroom desk/work space is also technology-related as it provides hotel guests with the space needed to use their own personal technology devices. These results indicate that even though hotels have made significant advances when it comes to delivering online reservations, there is still much to be done with in-room technologies.
 
An earlier University of Delaware study found that HSIA is one of the most important factors when it comes to hotel selection; this study shows that hotel guests ranked HSIA satisfaction at the bottom of the list. Similarly, easily accessible electrical outlets were ranked very high in the selection of hotels in the previous study; in this study, it was found that hotels need to do more to increase satisfaction.
 
When we cross tabulate the list of attributes, we see something very interesting. The satisfaction score of HSIA increases as the star ranking of the hotel decreases. In other words, guests who stayed at luxury hotels ranked HSIA lower than guests who stayed at economy hotels. This may be due to the fact that luxury and upscale hotels charge for HSIA, while economy and budget hotels give it away. Also when guests pay for HSIA, the expectation of the quality increases. Luxury and upscale hotels need to enhance the quality of HSIA significantly as it will impact the overall satisfaction of the hotel stay. When it comes to flat panel HDTV and easily-accessible electrical outlets, luxury and upscale hotels did better than economy and budget hotels.
 
Impacting guest behavior
Knowing how much guests are satisfied or not satisfied with hotel attributes is definitely important. However, it is equally important to determine how these attributes impact the likelihood of return visits, guest recommendations, and overall satisfaction. When we conducted a further analysis, we found that three attributes (the price of accommodations, HSIA, and easily-accessible electrical outlets) have the most significant impact on the likelihood of guest return visits. This is important to note because the hotel room is being labeled as a commodity. This particular finding also supports the notion that the single most important attribute in guests' decisions to go back to a hotel is price. For this reason, it is very important for a hotel to differentiate its offerings. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, HSIA became such an important attribute that hotels must do a perfect job in offering this service.
 
When we conducted a further analysis to see which of the attributes has the most significant impact on the overall satisfaction of the guest, we found out that cleanliness of the hotel, in-room temperature control, easily accessible electrical outlets, and free parking had the biggest impact. Cleanliness of the hotel and free parking are not surprising as they appeared in every hotel satisfaction study in the last 20 years. In-room temperature control and easily accessible electrical outlets play a significant role in predicting guests' overall satisfaction level. Hotels should offer the option to control room temperature in the guest room, preferably by the bed side with the help of a guest control system or via the TV remote.
 
This study shows that fundamentals do not change in the hotel industry; price, cleanliness of guestrooms, and location are always among the most important attributes when it comes to guest satisfaction. However, technology amenities have become significantly important in predicting guest loyalty and overall satisfaction. In addition, hotel rooms are increasingly being commoditized and technology is a critical factor in helping hoteliers to differentiate their properties.
 
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