Consumer Reports Hotel Survey: More Than 27,000 Travelers Rate 48 Popular Chains

Consumer Reports Hotel Survey: More Than 27,000 Travelers Rate 48 Popular Chains

Rate Ritz-Carlton, Homewood Suites, Renaissance, Drury Inn & Suites, and Microtel Inn & Suites among the top chains for their price


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YONKERS, N.Y., May 4 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ — The rough economy has taken its toll on the hospitality industry and Consumer Reports Hotel Survey finds there are good hotel choices for every budget. Readers found The Ritz-Carlton, Homewood Suites, Renaissance, Drury Inn & Suites, and Microtel Inn & Suites were among the most satisfying of 48 chains in their respective categories.

Consumer Reports hotel ratings are broken into five categories: Fanciest, Luxury, Upscale, Moderate and Budget. Travelers’ expectations differ by category, but some moderate hotels pleased readers almost as much as the epitome of ritz, the Ritz-Carlton. Even the budget category had one winner: Microtel Inn & Suites which topped its category again. Microtel was top of its class in CR’s last hotel survey.

“The hospitality landscape has changed a lot since our last survey in 2006. Low occupancy and other factors are forcing some chains to cut back on services, but it also means consumers have an opportunity to find a great deal on some highly rated hotels,” said Tod Marks, sr. project editor at Consumer Reports.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed 27,506 subscribers who spent a collective 124,000 nights at 48 chains across all five categories from January 2008 to April 2009. Here’s what Consumer Reports found:

It pays to haggle. Only 35 percent of respondents tried to negotiate for a better deal, but those who did were rewarded with a lower rate or room upgrade 80 percent of the time. That’s a slightly higher success rate than readers experienced in Consumer Reports 2006 survey. Those who called ahead to do their haggling were even more successful than those who tried to negotiate in person.

Booking method doesn’t affect satisfaction. There was no correlation between respondents’ happiness with their hotel stay and how they booked it. Satisfaction was similar whether they called the hotel directly, used the hotel’s Web site, phoned the chain’s toll-free number, used an independent travel site, or walked in off the street without a reservation.

Suites have advantages. For approximately the same price as a regular room, the lodgings in an all-suite hotel give a more spacious, homey feeling. Respondents singled out Homewood Suites and Drury Inn & Suites as well-maintained and exceptional values. Suite hotels come in different price levels, and suites are sometimes an option at standard chains.

Some beds are better than others. Many high-end chains boast about their plush mattresses and lush linens. Survey respondents cited the Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance and Westin as having the best beds and bedding. Conversely, at least 11 percent of guests (three times the average) at Howard Johnson, Travelodge, and Americas Best Value Inn complained that their beds were so uncomfortable that they couldn’t get a good night’s sleep.

Most “bargain” hotels aren’t. Respondents who stayed at a budget hotel said they were drawn by cheap rates. But except for Microtel, budget hotels continue to earn the lowest scores for value, upkeep, and ease of checking in and out. They also generate a disproportionate percentage of complaints about bedding, lighting, decor, and heating and air conditioning. Travelodge, Econo Lodge, and the misnamed Americas Best Value Inn, a newcomer to CR’s Ratings, were consistently among the most trouble-prone.

Tips to Find a Great Rate:

Changing supply and demand makes prices a moving target, so it still takes a savvy shopper to unearth the best bargains. Consumer Reports June issue offers 10 tips to finding a better hotel rate and saving some cash. Here are a few of the highlights:

Wing it. Respondents who appeared unannounced paid about $20 less per night for comparable accommodations, on average, than those who made a reservation ahead of time. Travelers who really want to play “chicken,” ask the desk clerk for the lowest possible rate, then say you’re taking your business elsewhere. If occupancy is exceptionally low, the clerk might invoke the “fade” rate, an option coming into play more often. It’s the bare minimum the chain will accept for a room, as an alternative to leaving it unoccupied. If you’re willing to roll the dice and show up late in the day without a reservation, you could hit the jackpot-or end up sleeping in your car.

Become a fan. More chains are becoming involved in social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Fans or followers of a chain will be notified of upcoming promotions and specials as soon as they’re available.

Consider a discount-travel Web site. Our survey showed that discount site such as Priceline and Hotwire were the only surefire way to consistently reap substantially lower room rates. Respondents who reserved a room at an upscale hotel through a discounter paid an average daily rate of $80. Those who phoned the hotel or booked online by other means paid about $120 for a comparable room. But discount Web sites aren’t ideal for everyone because the identity of your hotel doesn’t become known until after you complete a nonrefundable transaction.

Lock in a rate. If you’re traveling to a popular destination at a peak time, call around and surf the Internet for price quotes from three to five hotels long before your trip. Then lock in the lowest refundable rate. As your departure date nears, try another sweep. If you find something better, cancel your original reservation in time to avoid a penalty.

Look for specials. Given the poor economy hotel Web sites are loaded with limited-time offers. Among those that caught CR’s eye: a $100 Amazon.com gift card for every two nights’ stay at a Westin; an additional night at half-price for every night you stay at a Sheraton Four Points; and a 15 percent discount when you book at least eight days in advance at Super 8.

For complete Ratings for upkeep, service comfort in value on all 48 chains, money saving advice and tips to avoid hotel fees and traps, visit http://www.consumerreportsenespanol.org or check out a copy of the June issue of Consumer Reports on newsstands May 4, 2010.

JUNE 2010

Consumers Union 2010. The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for commercial or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports(R) is published by Consumers Union, an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. To achieve this mission, we test, inform, and protect. To maintain our independence and impartiality, Consumers Union accepts no outside advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the interests of consumers. Consumers Union’s income is solely derived from the sale of Consumer Reports(R), its other publications and services, fees, noncommercial contributions and grants. Consumers Union’s publications and services receive no commercial support.

SOURCE Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports Hotel Survey: More Than 27,000 Travelers Rate 48 Popular Chains