YONKERS, N.Y., May 4, 2010 -- 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
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
- 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
- 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 www.ConsumerReports.org
or check out a copy of the June issue of Consumer Reports on
newsstands May 4, 2010.
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