The hotel ACSI scores are composites of separate scores for amenities, check-in, cleanliness, food service, in-room entertainment, Internet service, loyalty program, reservations and staff courtesy. The overall hotel industry average score was 77. By comparison, the latest ACSI score for airlines was 69 overall, ranging from highs in the low 80s for JetBlue and Southwest to lows in the mid-60s for American, United and US Airways. Don't place too much emphasis on score differences of a point or two. But larger variations are significant.
-- The top scoring chain, Fairfield Inn at 84, is "midscale;" number six, Hampton Inn (81), and number nine, Comfort Inn (79), are also "midscale."
-- Of the two "luxury" brands covered, only JW Marriott earned a near-top score of 83; Grand Hyatt, at 77, just tied the industry average.
-- Six of the eight "upper upscale" chains -- Embassy Suites (82), Hyatt Regency (82), Marriott (82), Hilton (81), Westin (81) and Hyatt (79) -- made the top 10, with four 10th place ties, but Wyndham (77) and Sheraton (76) just barely made the industry average.
-- Among the "upscale" chains, Hyatt, Hyatt Place and Courtyard by Marriott tied for 10th, at 79, with Doubletree (Hilton) and Hilton Garden Inn a bit lower.
-- Among the rest of the "midscale" group, Holiday Inn (78) just barely beat industry average; Best Western and Quality Inn tied the average.
But price does matter at the low end. The only two "economy" chains covered in the study, Super 8 (66) and Econo Lodge (59), ranked at the bottom. "Midscale" Ramada (69) was also well below average.
Among the overall corporate families, Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt brands generally scored well. Starwood's two entries, Westin and Sheraton, didn't do as well, and Wyndham's four brands -- Wyndham, Days Inn, Ramada and Super 8 -- earned four of the bottom six scores.
The report summary does not indicate why some major brands were excluded. InterContinental's only entry was Holiday Inn; Accor, Carlson/Rezidor, Motel 6 and several well-known luxury brands were not scored at all.
Do these scores -- and score differences -- provide useful guidance about choosing a hotel for your next trip? They do to a degree: Clearly, Marriott management is focused on satisfying guests at all its corporate properties, and Hilton and Hyatt are close. Wyndham management has some work to do.
But composite scores don't always represent the choice parameters of individual travelers. For example, I really don't care about food service, amenities, or even loyalty programs when I reserve a hotel room: My main choice factors are location and price, plus in-room WiFi on most trips. In that connection, I am especially frustrated by the fact that even most low-end hotels manage to provide "free" in-room WiFi, while the expensive chains charge up to $30 a day extra.
Unfortunately, the published ACSI results don't break the scores down by the individual components. Presumably, that's what ACSI sells to hotels to support its work. So use the results as a guide, but use your own preferences to guide you when you click that "buy" button.
Probably the most important take-away from this data is that you don't have to pay top dollar to enjoy a great hotel stay. But you can't expect miracles from the budget end of the scale either.
(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at email@example.com. Perkins' new book for small business and independent professionals, "Business Travel When It's Your Money," is now available through http://www.mybusinesstravel.com or http://www.amazon.com)
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