What really makes guests feel the value?

This is the second installment of Coyle’s best experiences research, in which we will look at what 5,000 travelers mentioned when price or value were noted as part of their great experience.

Once again, let’s revisit why we did this study and what it means. We wanted to know specifically what caused rave reviews that ultimately lead to word of mouth marketing and repeat business. It is important to keep in mind that the data does not reveal what makes a hotel good or bad. Rather, the study looks at what made a stay particularly memorable, giving hoteliers an edge in securing a favorable place in their guests’ social networking. We asked:

1) What hotel provided you with the best experience in the last year?
2) Why?

The findings are promising. Although the economy and cutbacks were primary themes in 2010, price alone was not cited frequently as a key attribute contributing to great hotel experiences. While price was, and still is, most likely a key factor in securing the budget conscious traveler’s business, once on property it was rarely the reason why guests’ experiences were so positive. What we did find, however, was that adding value to a guest’s stay did, in fact, influence their experience more frequently.

Price Graph

As expected, and demonstrated in the chart above, the mention of price was varied amongst the segments. While in Luxury and Upscale hotels, price was only mentioned 1% and 4% of the time respectively, while in the Economy segment it was mentioned 17% of the time. Price was also in the top ten list of attributes for the Economy segment, though in all other segments, it was not.

This indicates that value for Economy properties truly is found in the price, which can significantly drive a positive guest experience in that segment. However, in the other segments, the actual price alone will probably not make a guest experience positive enough to rave about it and, thus, other measures will need to be in place.

Along those lines, Coyle tracked the mentioning of ‘added value’ items and their contribution to positive guest experiences. Based on the survey responses, they were categorized into Welcome Amenity, Complimentary Breakfast, Upgrade, and Other complimentary items. These value added items came up 14% of the time overall.

Category % of All Best Experiences
Value Added Items 14%
Complimentary Breakfast 6%
Upgrade 4%
Welcome Amenity 2%
Other complimentary items 4%

Complimentary Breakfast

Throughout all best experiences, respondents described complimentary breakfast more than any of the other value added items. In the Extended Stay segment, complimentary breakfast was highlighted in 26% of the best experiences and was one of the top three mentioned attributes. Complimentary breakfast was one of the top five mentioned attributes in Economy best experiences, being cited 16% of the time in that segment.

Welcome Amenity

As might be expected, welcome amenities were the most frequently mentioned ‘value add’ items in Luxury best experiences. It was mentioned in 5% of Luxury experiences. The attribute was not frequently mentioned in other segments, though when extracting the Lifestyle experiences, it was mentioned 4% of the time. This simple, relatively low-cost gesture is a way for the hotel to personalize the stay with a customized message or by recognizing a special occasion.


Upgrades were also mentioned as contributors to positive experiences. This was most frequently mentioned in Upscale (5%), Lifestyle (5%), and Casino (6%) Best Experiences. By upgrading the room, the hotel often exceeded expectations and transformed a standard experience to a great one. It was also noted that hotels often used this value add item as a service recovery tool. In addition, they also used it to acknowledge celebrations, such as anniversaries, thereby helping produce a memorable guest experience. If inventory is available and the situation warrants it, this is certainly a way to add value for low to no cost.

Other free items

CHG included the ‘Other free items’ attribute to track complimentary items such as small gifts, snacks, newspapers, champagne, or wine hours. While this ‘other’ category only came up 4% of the time overall, the findings were quite different in the Lifestyle properties. Wine hours were mentioned frequently, along with other touches, resulting in mentions in14% of the Lifestyle best experiences. While some respondents described welcome gifts such as champagne in the lobby or chocolate chip cookies at the front desk, some described items that were simply unexpected, such as the newspaper or bottled water.

So is price important or not? As mentioned earlier, price is most certainly a driver for booking a room at your property. However, despite the economy, it still appears that creating value through small or grand gestures is truly what most guests are looking for. If the perceived value is high (complimentary cocktails, a wine hour, a suite upgrade or a complimentary meal), the impression can be more positive than a straight discount on price.

While many hotels list value added items as ‘inclusions’ with the rate, perhaps that element of surprise is part of making it so memorable. If I am not expecting bottled water in the room, then discover that I do not have to go shopping for one, I undoubtedly am pleased with the hotel for the gesture. If I expect it to be there and it is not, I am automatically disappointed. While there is a fine line between what to disclose in order to market to prospective guests and what to hold back on, perhaps finding a few ways to pleasantly surprise the guests once they are on property would go a long way in word of mouth advertisement.

Hotels or hotel companies wishing to learn more about how their particular brand or segment fared should contact Katie Ho at research@coylehospitality.com.

Upcoming studies are:

  • Differentiating attributes of commonly categorized hotel segments
  • Service vs. Engagement – Is it what they do or how they do it?
  • Guestroom – The main drivers of satisfaction
  • Food & Beverage – Bars & Breakfasts

If you would like to receive any of these reports when they are published, please sign up for sQoreboard, Coyle’s news & research mailing list at: CoylesQoreboard

More data from the survey can be found at Coyle’s website at: www.coylehospitality.com/research

About Coyle Hospitality Group

Coyle Hospitality Group is a market leader providing mystery shopping and brand quality assurance services exclusively to hotels, restaurants and spas worldwide. Since 1996, Coyle has completed over 30,000 quality evaluations exclusively for hospitality clients. For more information please visit www.coylehospitality.com or call (212) 629-2083.

© 2024 Coyle Hospitality Group. Reproduction of any material without written authorization is strictly prohibited.

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