J.D. Power: Guest satisfaction declines as travel volume, room rates rise

Hotel occupancy rates are on track to approach pre-pandemic levels this year as travelers get back on the road and in the air to make up for two-plus years of deferred vacation plans. However, according to the J.D. Power 2022 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index (NAGSI) Study, 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 eight points (on a 1,000-point scale) from 2021, driven primarily by dissatisfaction with cost and 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,” said Andrea Stokes, hospitality practice lead, J.D. Power. “During the fielding period of the study—June 2021 through May 2022—the average daily rate for branded hotels has risen 34.8%. 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.”

Following are additional key findings of the 2022 study:

  • Pricing up across all segments, but many travelers not perceiving good value for money: The single biggest factor driving this year’s eight-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.
  • Satisfaction with guestrooms decreases: While hotels still get relatively high satisfaction scores for guestroom cleanliness, scores for decor and furnishings, in-room amenities and quality of bathrooms decline from a year ago.
  • More guests paying for internet access: The one hotel amenity that guests can’t live without is WiFi. A large majority (81%) of guests accessed the internet in their hotel rooms. The percentage of guests who paid extra for that privilege has increased four percentage points from pre-pandemic 2019.
  • Fewer staff interactions: After emerging as the heroes of the pandemic by helping to keep hotels up and running through one of the most challenging periods in history, 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 pre-pandemic 2019, they still give staff high ratings for courtesy.

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 (NAGSI) 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.