Hotel Online  Special Report

Four Seasons, Gaylord Hotels, Walt Disney World
Resorts and Courtyard by Marriott Most-favored
Hotel Brands in Which to Hold Meetings


Small Chains Surprise The Giants In MeetingNews Survey

NEW YORK, N.Y. (June 6, 2005) — Four Seasons, Gaylord Hotels, Walt Disney World Resorts and Courtyard by Marriott led their respective pricing segments as the most-favored hotel brands in which to hold meetings, according to a first-ever poll of meeting planner preferences of hotel and resort facilities.

MeetingNews’ Planners’ Hotel Preference Poll rated hotel brands based on the input of hundreds of meeting planners who have done business with them.

"In the past, the buyers of hotel meeting services have always had to rely on anecdotes and promises, never on actual empirical evidence," noted David McCann, editor-in-chief of MeetingNews, the biweekly "Newspaper Of Record" of the meetings industry.

"With this, our first Planners’ Hotel Preference Poll, meeting planners now have a clear view of those meetings properties that rise to the top in each of their price-point segments and in a variety of performance categories," McCann said. "Our poll also is instructive for all travelers and the entire hospitality industry. Meeting planners are more demanding about the entire range of a property's services than leisure or business travelers, who mainly want only decent amenities, room service and a comfy bed. As a result, this is a true indication of those hotels that provide great service from top to bottom."

Luxury Category

Four Seasons Hotels beat out its archrival, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., to take the top spot in the luxury category. Four Seasons edged Ritz-Carlton in 10 of 13 rating categories, although its overall average rating was only slightly ahead — 8.83 rating points (out of a maximum 10) versus 8.78 for Ritz-Carlton. 

Planners ranked Ritz-Carlton first in two categories and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, the third-place finisher in this segment, first in one category.

"Four Seasons seems to have a bit of a higher service level," said Mary Ryan, senior sales planner for Minneapolis-based Carlson Marketing Group, one of the country’s largest meeting and incentive companies. "With Four Seasons, you know the service level is going to be consistently excellent."

MeetingNews’ 2005 Planners’ Hotel Preference Poll
Luxury Brands
Overall average rating
(out of 10)
Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
Ritz-Carlton Hotels
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
St. Regis/Luxury Collection
W Hotels
Upper Upscale

In the upper-upscale segment, Nashville-based Gaylord Hotels — whose lineup of just three properties in Tennessee, Florida and Texas have come to be meetings favorites — dominated the rankings among similar hotels, coming out on top in eight of 13 rating categories and finishing comfortably ahead of No. 2 Sofitel Hotels in overall average rating.

Five categories in which the entertainment-oriented Gaylord chain led the field measured service aspects: banquet/catering, convention services managers, audiovisual services, front-line staff and billing.

"Having done meetings for 30 years, I’ve seen many properties, and Gaylord has been phenomenal from the get-go," said Doug Hudson, director of corporate communications at Brown & Brown, an insurance broker in Daytona Beach, Fla., which has met at Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, Fla., many times.

A focus on service is evident, Hudson said: "Whether it’s a front-desk person, or a server in the banquet hall, they always are pleasant, smiling and providing first-class service."

Upper-Upscale Brands
Overall average rating
(out of 10)
Gaylord Hotels
Sofitel Hotels
Le Meridien Hotels
Omni Hotels
Westin Hotels & Resorts
JW Marriott Hotels
InterContinental Hotels
Loews Hotels
Upscale: Central To Meetings

Among upscale hotels, the segment most central to the meetings industry, Walt Disney World Resorts was the choice of planners over such top-of-mind brands as (in order of finish) Marriott, Renaissance, Hyatt, Hilton, Sheraton, Radisson and Wyndham. 

Disney’s pre-eminence in this category was nearly complete. The company — with 20 resort hotels in Orlando, Fla., six of which are designated as convention facilities — was first in all but two individual categories.

However, the showing of Marriott International, with some 2,000 hotels, also was outstanding, with two of its brands, Marriott Hotels & Resorts and Renaissance Hotels & Resorts, coming in second and third among the upscale contenders.

Marriott’s two chains both ranked in the top three spots in 11 of 13 categories measured. Of particular note, Marriott was first in banquet/catering services, while Renaissance nabbed the top spot for fairness in negotiations. The two were flat tied with Disney for honors in the critical price/value relationship category.

Upscale Brands
Overall average rating
(out of 10)
Walt Disney World Resorts
Marriott Hotels & Resorts
Renaissance Hotels & Resorts
Hyatt Hotels & Resorts
Hilton Hotels
Embassy Suites Hotels
Sheraton Hotels & Resorts
Radisson Hotels Worldwide
Millennium Hotels
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
Doubletree Hotels
Adam’s Mark Hotels
Midprice Category

Finally, in the mid-price division, another Marriott International brand, Courtyard by Marriott, earned top honors, but by the slimmest of margins. In the tightest race of the survey, Courtyard (scoring 8.04 overall) edged Hilton Garden Inn (8.02) and Club Hotels by Doubletree (7.95) by less than 10 hundredths of a point. 

In the survey, MeetingNews randomly emailed meeting planners in its subscriber base, asking them to rate brands with which they do business. To qualify to rate a particular hotel brand, respondents were required to have done business with that chain within the past 12 months.

Brands were rated in 13 categories on a numerical scale of one to 10. Categories include sales staff professionalism, responsiveness to inquiries, fairness in negotiations, banquet/catering services, quality of food, convention services managers, front-line services, physical appearance of hotels, meeting space quality and flexibility, audiovisual services, guestroom quality, billing timeliness and accuracy, price/value relationship. MeetingNews tabulated 659 usable responses.

Midprice Brands
Overall average rating
(out of 10)
Courtyard by Marriott
Hilton Garden Inn
Club Hotels by Doubletree
Clarion Hotels
Holiday Inn Hotels
Four Points by Sheraton
Best Western International
Quality Inns
MeetingNews is part of VNU Business Media USA’s Travel and Performance Group. The publication’s subscribers are corporate, association and independent meeting planners; sales and marketing managers; administrative officials; trade show managers; incentive program managers; and travel agency meeting-department managers.

David McCann

Also See: Understanding Meeting Planners / Patrick Quek / PKF / March 2001
Survey Shows Meeting Planners Not Ready to Flex Their Muscles / Patrick Quek / PKF / March 2000

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