The Adrian Loveridge Column – Guests Being Short-changed on Accommodation
Late last year I experienced probably the worst ever hotel stay that I have personally endured in almost five decades of being involved in the tourism industry. As I had fully pre-paid the hotel through a well known third party booking agency which does not identify the actual hotel until payment has been made, I arrived at the property with a low level of expectation, but was really taken aback that any self-respecting major hotel group would put its name to this ‘hotel’.
I wrote to the booking agency, the CEO of the hotel group concerned and posted my unhappy encounter on TripAdvisor reviews. Despite the many indisputable flaws, mostly relating to the appalling lack of cleanliness, the management of the actual hotel denied any responsibility. However, both the booking service and group chain offered a small amount of compensation through a mixture of refund to my credit card and reward points for another stay.
To my absolute amazement months later, negative reviews are still being posted on the TripAdvisor page for this property, fully substantiating my concerns and this after pleading with the CEO of the lodging chain to at least arrange an inspection for particular hotel.
I also notified the state and local tourism equivalent of our Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc and Barbados Tourism Product Authority and while Georgia (USA), where I stayed collects hundreds of millions of dollars in room occupancy taxes each year, it appears not a single cent of this is spent on regulation, licensing or inspection.
In a perfect world maybe self regulation works, but if a destination wants to maintain or enhance its hard earned reputation, there has to be enforcement of minimum basic standards.
Personally, I feel that many of the larger accommodation chains have ‘over branded’ by offering far too many named portfolio choices, leaving potential travellers no clear idea of what they are going to get in terms of product quality and level of management.
This is far more pronounced among the lower levels and budget brands, but it still works in some markets. Two shining examples in the United Kingdom who have it absolutely right are the Travelodge and Premier Inn groups. Spotlessly clean and well- managed with very predictable and acceptable standards. In the United States, this is not so guaranteed and especially when you include 4 and 5 star properties in the same grouping while at the same time offering independently owned 2 and 3 star hotels under the same trading banner and booking portal.
After my stay, I studied a number of other hotels operating under the identical brand, in the same state and there was a common thread with many guests pointing out almost identical defects, The question you then have to ask, is why senior management, especially in the customer service division, not have undertaken this same exercise and then implemented measures which would lead to greater concentration on improving customer satisfaction?
Of course, ultimately the customer makes the final choice, based on their previous experiences. Probably next time, booking with their feet and choosing a brand or independent lodging choice where they will obtain the highest possible level of satisfaction.