Hotel web sites now score higher in satisfaction than popular travel sites
Jonathan Barsky and Lenny Nash
The Market Metrix Hospitality Index©, based on 35,000 consumer interviews conducted each quarter, includes a variety of measures about the hotel reservation experience – both online and offline. This data provides special insight into the growing popularity of website usage and the satisfaction with the online experience.
The growth of online booking as a percentage of overall reservations continues to grow dramatically. More people are booking online and less people are booking through central reservations telephone numbers and offline travel agencies. For example, over the past 3 years, Best Western has seen online bookings grow from between 10 percent to 15 percent of overall traffic to around 40 percent today. At Choice hotels nearly 60% of reservations now come from online bookings.
The majority of persons who make reservations online are now booking directly on the hotel or brand’s website (see “Market Share” in chart below). This is quite an achievement for the hotel industry despite many new websites attempting to book or refer hotel reservations. Now hotel companies are paying less money to travel portals and are establishing more relationships directly with their guests.
Because travelers are increasingly using the Internet to book hotel reservations, the online interface is an important part of the overall experience for many hotel guests. The quality of the experience with the website can influence customers’ decision making, ultimately reinforcing loyalty or losing customers for the brand.
*Data for 2006 is based on quarters 1-3
In 2004 and 2005, hotel websites were outscored by Yahoo! Travel and Hotwire, respectively for satisfaction with the online reservation experience. But now, for the first time in 2006, on average, hotel web sites scored higher in satisfaction (providing a better reservations experience) than popular travel web sites. To make these gains, hotel sites have improved their navigation, design, usefulness of information, ease of booking and other critical components of the online experience.
The top performing hotel site for 2006 (quarters 1-3) was Drury Inns. According to travelers, Drury’s website delivered the best user experience compared to all other hotel brand websites. Sleep Inns (Choice) and Courtyard by Marriott finished closely behind Drury. Hotel and brand websites have improved significantly and now, many of these sites outscore the best Internet travel portals in overall satisfaction with the online experience.
Among travel sites, Hotwire, Priceline and Orbitz received the highest evaluations for satisfaction with the online reservation experience for the first three quarters of 2006. This category includes independent travel websites that allow users to make hotel reservations online.
Jonathan Barsky and Lenny Nash are principles with Market Metrix LLC (MarketMetrix.com), a firm that provides customer and employee survey programs for the hospitality industry. For more information, call (800) 239-7515.