Survey Says: The Best Hotel Chains in the USA and Canada

Ritz-Carlton luxury

Ritz-Carlton comes out on top

Surveys continually show we hate the airlines and aren’t always thrilled about our rental car company, but when it comes to hotels, we’re quite happy with what we’re getting. J.D. Power & Associates got feedback from around 60,000 hotel guests from the United States and Canada and found that the overall satisfaction level is at the highest level ever since the survey began 19 years ago. There were also significantly fewer complaints about problems.

On a scale of 1,000 points, the average this year was 804, up 20 points from 2014. As stiff competition in the hotel sector leads to lots of renovations and new builds, it seems that guests are getting a lot more for their money and are happy about it. (Contrast with the airlines, where “unbundling” means we’re steadily getting less for our money and are grumpy about it.)

The survey breaks down the results by category, showing up the top 10 brands in each category, as well as who scored above the average. The overall leader Ritz-Carlton may not be much of a surprise, but the overall #2 hotel chain might be: Drury Hotels of the “upper midscale” category. Other category winners were Omni Hotels & Resorts, Hyatt Place, Wingate by Wyndham, Microtel, Homewood Suites, and Candlewood Suites.

The top above-average luxury brands after Ritz-Carlton were Four Seasons, JW Marriott, and Waldorf-Astoria.

The scores edge down a bit when you go down by price, but not by much. There’s probably a factor at play that if you’re getting more perks in your rate at $150 than you would get at $400, you’re likely to be happy with the value of your room. (See 2015 Resolution: No More Paying for Hotel WiFi.) Here are the Upper Upscale ones, where there’s only a 30-point decrease in the average satisfaction score compared to luxury.

best hotel chains USA

There are a few surprises in the results. Canada’s home team Fairmont did not fare so well, despite a good reputation among travelers and excellent experiences from Hotel Scoop’s reviewers. (See our Fairmont Hotels reviews here.) W Hotels apparently puts the cool factor higher on the importance scale than satisfaction: they scored last in their category.

In that Upper Upscale segment, it was surprising to see how close the scores were. It seems like this is the segment where you are most likely to have a great experience no matter which brand you choose. The top score here was 860, but the bottom was only 816. To put that another way, the #10 showing here (Sheraton) scored higher than the #1 showing in the Economy/Budget section (Microtel). That tells me if you bid 4-star or 5-star on Priceline, or make a last-minute Hotel Tonight booking with no research, at that level you’re probably going to be fine no matter what you get.

The trend of ever-increasing satisfaction in our hotel stays is gratifying, especially at a time when many people have found the flying part of their vacation to be so unpleasant. These days, once you get to where you’re going in the USA or Canada, you’re probably going to enjoy where you’re staying if it’s a chain hotel. You can be reasonably confident that the place will at least score a B and meet your expectations.

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