As hotel brands in other parts of the world adopt smoke-free environments as their latest marketing strategy, a vast majority of European guests prefer a smoke-free hotel environment, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 European Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index StudySM released today.

The study finds that nearly 70 percent of hotel guests in Europe prefer a smoke-free environment that exceeds the boundaries of their room, which is slightly less than hotel guests in North America (79%). The desire for a smoke-free environment ranges from 57 percent of guests who reside in Spain, to a high of 76 percent of guests who reside in Sweden and the United Kingdom.

"As we've seen thus far in the United States and Canada, non-smoking hotel environments are also slated to be very popular in Europe, and the hotel brand that serves as a trailblazer in the European market will have an extremely beneficial competitive advantage," said Linda Hirneise, executive director of the travel practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "For example, earlier this year, all Westin Hotels & Resort properties in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean implemented a policy of 100 percent smoke-free guest rooms and public areas. Additionally, in September, Marriott International, Inc. also went smoke-free in their U.S. and Canadian properties. It's only a matter of time before the trend also hits the European market."

Among 37 possible amenities and services, complimentary breakfast is the single most important amenity for hotel guests in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden. In the United Kingdom, complimentary breakfast follows the coffee/tea maker as the most important amenity. High-speed Internet access is also considered a "must have" for European hotel guests. However, high-speed Internet may not prove sufficient in the future, as guests within the upper upscale, upscale and mid-scale full service segments also consider wireless Internet access a "must have."

The study, now in its second year, measures the overall satisfaction of European hotel guests based on seven factors: reservations, check-in/check-out, guest room, food and beverage, hotel services, hotel facilities, and costs and fees. Forty-five hotel brands were measured and ranked in four segments, including upper upscale, upscale, mid-scale full service and economy. While guest satisfaction of luxury hotels is measured in the study, there is no official hotel ranking in the segment due to an insufficient sample size.

Steigenberger Hotels & Resorts ranks highest in the upper upscale segment, receiving top ratings from guests in all seven key factors of guest satisfaction. Sheraton/Arabella Sheraton follows Steigenberger, and Hilton Hotels ranks third in the segment.

Among upscale hotel brands, Radisson SAS Hotels & Resorts ranks highest in guest satisfaction. Radisson receives highest ratings in check-in/check out, guest room, hotel services, and cost and fees. Courtyard and Copthorne Hotels, respectively, follow Radisson SAS Hotels & Resorts.

With segment-leading performances in reservations, check-in/check-out, food and beverage, hotel services, hotel facilities and guest room, Dorint Hotels & Resorts ranks highest among mid-scale full service hotel brands. Express by Holiday Inn follows Dorint, and Scandic Hotels ranks third in the segment.

In the economy segment, Tulip Inns ranks highest with top ratings from guests in hotel facilities, guest room, check-in/check-out, and food and beverage. Premier Travel Inn follows Tulip Inns in the rankings and performs particularly well in reservations, and cost and fees.

The study also finds that nearly 50 percent of guests book their hotel reservations online-up from 34 percent in 2005. Independent Web sites-such Expedia and Hotels.com-are continuously ceding market share to hotel brand Web sites, as hotel guests are twice as likely to book reservations through a hotel brand Web site.

"Making reservations online has increased in importance as far as convenience for customers in Europe," said Hirneise. "We've witnessed very similar findings in the North American hotel market, where the rate of booking online has increased consistently since 2003."

The 2006 European Guest Satisfaction Index Study is based on responses from 12,090 guests who stayed at a hotel in Europe between June 2006 and September 2006.

Related Link: J.D. Power and Associates