Market Metrix, a provider of market research services for the hospitality industry, announced the 2006 annual results of the Market Metrix Hospitality Index (MMHI). Based on 140,000 consumer interviews conducted from January through December 2006, Drury Inns, JetBlue Airways and Enterprise Rent-a-Car ranked number one in hotel, airline and rental car industry customer satisfaction, respectively.

Compared to 2005, hotel customer satisfaction for 2006 was unchanged at 82.1, slightly below the pre-9/11 customer-satisfaction score of 83. For 2006 Drury Inns led the way, improving 2.3 points to 91, but most of the industry did not show improvement. The only segment to advance was Midscale with food and beverage (+.5 to 79.4) led by Clarion Hotels & Resorts (+.9 to 80.4) and Holiday Inn Select (+.7 to 79.9). The luxury segment showed the biggest decline (-.7 to 86.4) with W Hotels (down 3.5 to 85.7) posting the largest drop.

The airline industry dropped .7 points to 78.5, its lowest score since the industry was rocked by 9/11. As airlines continue to struggle with labor contracts, bankruptcies and higher fuel prices, consumers feel they are getting less for their money. Industry leader JetBlue still rules the industry at 89.1. Spirit Airlines made the industry's biggest jump, improving nearly 6.1 to 81.6. Northwest Airlines, on the other hand, dropped 1.1 to 70.9, taking last place in the industry as it struggles with strikes and a Chapter 11 filing.

Satisfaction among car rental companies was unchanged at 78.9 with Payless showing the biggest improvement (+2.8 to 75.1) and Advantage Rent-A-Car falling sharply (-4.5 to 76.1).

Hotel websites score higher

The MMHI includes measures of 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.

More people are booking online than ever before - and hotel companies have been trying hard to get these customers to book through their websites. These efforts have paid off. The majority of persons who make hotel reservations online are now booking directly on the hotel or brand website rather than going through the big travel portals. This is quite an achievement for the hotel industry despite many new websites attempting to book or refer hotel reservations. Hotel companies are paying less money to travel portals and are establishing more relationships directly with their guests.

One big reason why more customers are using hotel sites to make their reservations is that hotel companies have significantly improved their websites. The quality of the experience with the website can influence customers' decision making, ultimately reinforcing loyalty or losing customers for the brand.

In 2004 and 2005, hotel websites were outscored by Yahoo! Travel and Hotwire for satisfaction with the online reservation experience. But now, for the first time, 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 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.

MMHI Top-Hospitality Rankings 2006

- Hotel - Overall | Drury Inns
- Airline | JetBlue
- Car Rental | Enterprise
- Luxury Hotels | Ritz-Carlton
- Upper Upscale | Walt Disney World Resorts
- Upscale Hotels | Staybridge
- Midscale w/ F&B | Park Plaza Hotels & Resorts
- Midscale w/o F&B | Drury Inns
- Economy Hotels | Jameson Inns
- Timeshare Accommodations | Disney Vacation Club
- Upscale Casino | The Venetian
- Casino | Borgata
- Hotel Reservations Website -- Hotel Brand | Sleep Inns
- Hotel Reservations Website -- Travel | Hotwire