The Sunday Wall Street Journal carried an interesting article on how travellers who book chain hotels through third party sites (i.e. Online Travel Agents like Booking.com or Expedia) often receive poorer service than those who book on the hotels’ own websites. They focus on two particular areas: quality of room and quality of extras.
Travellers in the US are getting more and more fed up with chain hotels charging fees that are compulsory but not shown in their online room rates at the time of booking. The most common are “resort,” “housekeeping,” and (our old favourite) “WIFI access” fees. Now independent consumer advocate Ed Perkins has taken up the cudgels in the Chicago Tribune:
“Our objection to these fees is simple: If they’re mandatory, they should be included in the hotel’s base room rate. […] You know how it works: A hotel that wants to collect, say, $200 a night for a room, instead posts a phony rate of $170 a night, then adds one or more mandatory fees to make up the $30 difference. The problem, of course, is that it’s the phony $170 price the hotel posts online and submits to the online pricing sites; you don’t find out about the true $200 price until later — maybe not until you’ve made a non-refundable purchase.”
In a guest article on HospitalityNet, Georges Panayotis (founder of the MKG Group) has presented both sides of the argument in the “rate parity” battle that is currently raging in the USA (and, to a lesser extent, in the UK.) As we’ve mentioned before, “rate parity” is an arrangement which ensures that when a customer searches online for a room with a big hotel chain like Hilton or Holiday Inn, the price will be the same everywhere – regardless of whether he/she searches for it on the hotel’s own website or on the website of one of the big online travel agents (like Booking.com or Expedia) This allows both the hotel chains and the OTAs to advertise their price as the “cheapest.”
Recently, on theBandBer.com, we talked about the fact that guest satisfaction with chain hotels is declining (as reported by USA Today). In particular, travellers seem to be getting increasingly fed up with impersonal service, mass produced food and being charged a fortune for extras (especially WIFI). American B&B website “Better Way to Stay” has now picked up the story and added some new insights.
According to a new story in USA Today, guests are getting more and more fed up with big hotels in the US. They are particularly disillusioned with impersonal service, mass-produced food and having to pay for WIFI. These points in particular are interesting because they inadvertently highlight the things that make B&Bs stand out from chains.
The survey was based on online responses from more than 61,700 guests who stayed in a North American hotel June 2011 through May 2012 and found that overall guest satisfaction has declined from a year ago, having dropped seven points on the survey’s 1,000-point scale, from 764 to 757.
Premier Inn and Travelodge continue to expand aggressively into the UK accommodation market. Premier Inn now has over 600 hotels in the UK and Ireland, while Travelodge is not far behind with 499 at the last count. Both brands also spend a huge amount of money on advertising. It’s hard not to miss their deals on the web. “Rooms from Just £19 Per Night!” “£12 Hotel Room Sale!” they scream. It’s easy to imagine owners of bed and breakfasts and independent hotels feeling somewhat overwhelmed as these corporate monsters devour everything in their path.
It always makes sense to keep abreast of what your competitors are doing, so …
The behemoth that is Premier Inn continues to rumble on, though the main focus of its current expansion seems to be in London rather than the rest of the UK.
There’s a new threat on the horizon for owners of B&Bs, Guesthouses and other independent accommodation providers. The UK’s main budget hotel chains – Premier Inn and Travelodge – are planning to move aggressively into developing much smaller properties (20 – 40 rooms) in unusual locations such as pubs, defunct cinemas, office buildings, snooker halls, retail outlets, business parks and even derelict buildings. The impetus for Travelodge’s concept – dubbed “Metro” – comes from its purchase last year of 52 Innkeeper’s Lodges. The aim is to open 100 “Metro” hotels by 2020 and Travelodge’s Chief Executive has said that, “there’s an opportunity for us to put a Travelodge at every Tube station.” Meanwhile, Premier Inn is heading down an equivalent path, opening hotels of about 40 rooms in similarly non-traditional sites.