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 to be less satisfied with their stay, according to a new J.D. Power study.
Mobile apps are becoming as central to the hotel guest experience as soft pillows, extra towels and a competitive price.
According to the J.D. Power 2017 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study,SM released today, 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. The industry is currently emphasizing direct booking, where a hotel guest rents a room directly through the hotel rather than another way. Pushing for more guests to become rewards members will likely enhance this effort. 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; guest room; food & beverage; hotel services; hotel facilities; and cost & fees. Satisfaction is calculated on a 1,000-point scale.
Following are key findings of the 2017 study:
- Direct booking: When guests book through an independent travel website or mobile app (e.g., Expedia, Travelocity) instead of directly with the hotel, they are more likely to experience a problem and to be less satisfied with their stay.
- 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).
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