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Global survey ’checks out’ hotels


One in ten travellers will only book green; 58% like trying new hotels every time; and half of all Americans believe the toiletries are ’part of the experience’

KUALA LUMPUR — Leading global market research firm Synovate today released results from a consumer survey on hotels, finding that one in ten people will now only stay at a hotel if it has a green policy.

Sheri Lambert, Synovate’s United States-based Senior Vice President for Travel & Leisure research, said the company undertook the survey to explore how people find and select the hotels they stay in, and how important certain hotel features are to them.

“Ask any regular traveller and you can almost guarantee they will have a hotel-from-hell story and (hopefully) a hotel-from-heaven counterpart. Whether people are travelling for pleasure or business, the place where they park their head at night can make or break the experience.”

So what matters? Does a hotel need a spa? Toiletries? (To take?) The latest technology? A green policy? How do people decide where they will lay their heads? Synovate asked over 6,300 people across 10 countries to find out.

The chosen one (hotel, that is)

With so much choice and a mind-boggling amount of information out there, how does a traveller find the hotel that suits them best? Most people (46%) do a little research, find a few comparable choices and select the most suitable one. But one in ten (10%) people simply choose the first ok one that they find.

Lambert said the proliferation of online information has changed the nature of hotel marketing.

"What an opportunity for hotels! All they have to - and yes, it’s easier said than done - is create easy-to-find search ads to pursue this 10% of potential guests... the ones who want to find an ’ok’ hotel quickly. They have to get their name in front of these people first.

“But it’s not simply search marketing. There’s also the 19% of people who research every hotel in the area so they can make a truly informed choice. Thirty-nine percent of respondents from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and 31% from Hong Kong do this. A well-considered and beautifully presented online strategy is a must.”

The survey asked people exactly how they research their hotel options. Demonstrating the importance of an impressive online presence, the number one way people assess a hotel is via its website. Twenty-nine percent of potential hotel guests globally use this more than any other research tool, topped by the French at 55%.

Word-of-mouth is the second most popular choice, with 20%, or one in five people, who ask colleagues, friends or relatives about hotels. This approach was especially popular in the two South East Asian markets surveyed (42% of people in Indonesia and 35% in Malaysia use this more than any other research technique).

Managing Director of Synovate in Malaysia, Steve Murphy, said word-of-mouth rules the roost in markets such as Malaysia.

“There is a firm cultural focus on the importance of family and friends here so opinions and recommendations are often shared throughout social circles. The experience of someone who is trusted trumps any other marketing in many cases.”

Seventeen percent of respondents primarily use review sites, far and away led by 54% of our broadband-savvy Japanese respondents¹

Lambert said: “Again we see how vital an online presence is for hotels. Some of the larger hotel companies are now employing people to stay on top of important review sites. Even for smaller hotels, it cannot be ignored.”

Other interesting findings on selecting a hotel:

* 13% of Americans read travel magazines to choose hotels, more than anyone else
* 24% of people in Hong Kong and 17% in the UAE check with their travel agent (still very personal)
* 10% in the UAE read individual travellers’ blogs for insight
* Brochures and flyers seem more important in Indonesia than elsewhere - 17% of Indonesians refer to them to choose their hotel

Download In:Fact Hotels (PDF, 112kb):

A room with a...PC?

Technology is not only the way many people find their hotels, it can make or break whether a hotel is chosen. Taking work with them, or even enjoying an on-the-road iPod dock, has become increasingly important to more and more people.

An overall 47% of people agree that a hotel must cater to their technology needs before they book it, including 50% of men and 44% of women. The highest agrees were found in Brazil (68%) and Malaysia (64%).

Murphy said of the Malaysian result: “A little surprising maybe, but urban Malaysians who travel are fairly tech-savvy and will want the same offerings outside of the country as they experience within Malaysia, where the high-end hotels are well set up technologically.”

Lambert added: "We are finding that it is now no longer an added feature to have wireless internet in hotels, but rather it is expected. Travellers, whether for business or leisure, need to be connected. Wi-Fi internet access is becoming a requirement for many guests, as they have fully adopted the freedom Wi-Fi provides in their own homes.

“I think we will also start to see hotel guests relying more on the internet for local city information even after they’ve checked in. This may even prompt a gradual switch from a ’real live’ concierge to an ’internet concierge’. Time will tell.”

The green scene

A hotel’s green credentials are also important to guests. The Synovate survey asked potential guests to choose a statement that best described their feelings about all-things-green in their home away from home.

Interestingly, nearly one in ten people (9%) say they will not stay at a hotel unless it has an environmental policy. There was significant difference across markets, with Malaysians leading the green charge (27%), followed by Indonesians (17%) and Brazilians (15%).

Over half of all respondents chose the pragmatic-yet-caring approach, agreeing that ’a hotel’s environmental policy is important to me, but I don’t research it ahead of time’. This was most prevalent among Japanese (70%) and French (63%) respondents.

Synovate Japan’s Managing Director Rika Fujiki said she’s not surprised by the ’middle-of-the-road’ response.

“Most Japanese do not deny the importance of a hotel’s green policy, but they do not actively pursue it.”

Sixty percent of Hong Kong respondents (the highest) agreed with “I don’t care if a hotel has an environmental policy; I will stay there regardless,” which Brendan Shair, Managing Director of Synovate in Hong Kong, explained:

“While people in Hong Kong care about the environment, it is a long way from being as important as brands and luxury to the Hong Kong traveller. It’s not that people are against green, it’s simply that they don’t think it should get in the way of choosing at the hotel where they want to stay.”

Experience the suite life

Even the most travel weary road warrior can still get a thrill from a spectacular hotel experience. Of course there is a flip side too and hotels need to rigorously manage the customer experience from start to finish.

An overall 72% of all respondents agree that a bad hotel experience can ruin an entire trip, led by France (83%), Japan and Hong Kong (both 79%), the US (76%) and the UAE (75%). And 85% of people globally agree they will tell others about a bad experience, led by France (97%), Canada (96%), Hong Kong (94%) and the US (93%).

But in better news for hoteliers, 90% say they will tell others about a good experience, sharing the ’inside scoop’ with their friends and family. There was almost universal agreement with this from France (97%), Canada (96%), Brazil (96%) and the US (95%). Thierry Pailleux, Synovate’s Managing Director for France notes that the French are outspoken about their experiences, good or bad.

“During a trip, a hotel is the place where people expect to have a rest in the best possible conditions. Of course if they can’t do it properly, it can ruin their whole trip. The French are not known for suffering in silence, but luckily they are also happy to talk about good times.”

And what about new experiences? Overall, 58% of hotel-goers are open to trying a new hotel. Hong Kongers led this response at 70%, followed by other adventurous travellers from Japan and the UAE at 64% and 63% respectively.

Frances Li from Synovate Hong Kong explains: “That’s both a loyalty challenge and a huge opportunity for all hotels. The findings are probably more true for leisure travel than business travel. Hence, it is even more important to build loyalty with business travellers. As for the leisure travellers, you want them to have very good experience so that they may use other properties from the same group.”

Stealing beauty

Some guests arrive at a hotel, dump their bags and make a beeline for the bathroom to check out the nature and breadth of the toiletry samples. It turns out that this is not so unusual – half of all American hotel guests say the toiletries belong to the guests and ’are part of the experience.’ Globally, 26% of survey respondents agreed, led by the US (49%), Japan (43%) and France (41%) – in each case with more women than men agreeing.

Lambert said the supply of toiletries has evolved from no-name items to a not-to-be-missed branding opportunity for both the hotel and the beauty product brand, often linking into spa products.

“Most high-end hotels should - and do - make the absolute most of people’s propensity to enjoy ample samples. Linking the hotel brand to a luxury beauty brand helps create a certain lavish image in a guest’s mind, and it works for both brands. Everyone wins – the hotel, the beauty brand and the happy guest.”

Fujiki explained the Japanese perspective: “Japanese hotel guests do not necessarily take these samples for economical reasons. Japan has a sort of ’miniature’ culture. In general, we like things made smaller than normal size. It’s kawaii (cute). These products are cherished and seen as a way to make the home bathroom also look kawaii.”

Despite the growing acceptance of hotel toiletry-ownership, the most popular approach is to simply use what you need during the stay and leave the rest. Half of all respondents do this, led by Indonesians (65%), Malaysians (58%) and Hong Kongers (54%).

With the taking of hotel toiletries a guilt-free pursuit for many, do others feel like they’re stealing if they take some home? The survey found that 9% of respondents agreed with the statement “You love taking them with you but always feel a shade guilty.” French women most often selected this, with 21% feeling a slight remorse about pilfering products.


* 39% of all respondents like getting steamy in their hotel... in the spa, that is. They prefer to stay in a hotel with these facilities. Men are just as interested as women in this amenity.
* Seven in ten (70%) of people say they will stay in less expensive hotels given the current economy
* People say the best hotels can be found in Europe (27%) and Asia (19%).

About the survey
This survey was conducted online, via telephone and face-to-face in January 2009 with 6,354 travellers across ten markets – Brazil, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the United States of America (US).

About Synovate
Synovate, the market research arm of Aegis Group plc, generates consumer insights that drive competitive marketing solutions. The network provides clients with cohesive global support and a comprehensive suite of research solutions. Synovate employs over 6,000 staff across 62 countries.

For more information on Synovate visit


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