What do hotel guests really want? The answer may surprise you

What do you really want when you check into a hotel?

The lodging industry thinks it knows. The pollsters do, but too often they ask the wrong questions. One recent survey suggested guests crave more technology. (It was sponsored by Oracle.) Another claimed guests desire free Wi-Fi, breakfast and parking. Well, duh.

In this post-summer vacation period, a lot of us are scratching our heads about our last lodging experience and asking, “What were they thinking?”

And that includes me. I’m still baffled by the “family friendly” hotel I visited in Oregon a few weeks ago, which offered an impressive selection of artisanal teas, but no laundry facilities. Who said, “Add expensive tea, lose the washer” in the guest survey?

To find out what guests really want — and determine why hotels won’t offer it — I asked you, dear readers. Your answers suggest an enduring disconnect between guests and their accommodations. But never fear, I have a workaround.

First, let’s get real. You wouldn’t ask for a room with power, indoor plumbing or a phone line because you assume those are included. It’s the same with wireless Internet and adequate power outlets.

“It’s 2017, and we’re all connected,” says Peter Battaglia, who works for an investment company in Chatham, N.J. “Wi-Fi should not be an add-on or a loyalty perk.”

He and many other guests say there should be plenty of power outlets at waist level next to the beds and desks. Also, a hotel shouldn’t force you to join its loyalty program to access the Internet. Imagine if it asked you to sign up for its loyalty program to use the air conditioning or bathrooms.

“For me the most important items are a small fridge, microwave — and tea,” says Kathleen Walls, a frequent traveler and guidebook author who lives in Middleburg, Fla.

This is not an uncommon wish list, yet many rooms are still outfitted with a profit-hungry minibar with pressure-sensitive shelves, instead of a refrigerator. Move an item, it automatically charges your room. There’s no microwave. And they feature a selection of mediocre coffees and a coffeemaker that’s difficult to use and only makes a beverage one tiny cup at a time. If you’re traveling with kids, are on medication, want to bring your own food or prefer tea to coffee, you’re out of luck.

Another area of concern: lights and mirrors. Rooms, and especially bathrooms, are often poorly lit. The magnifying mirror generates an unusual number of complaints. When the light bulbs burn out, they often don’t get replaced.

“Some hotels have them but they are in such weird positions that they are unusable,” says Janet Keeler, a frequent hotel guest and fellow travel writer based in Tampa.

By far the top request is the condition of the room.

“Clean, clean, clean,” says Ellen Hillery, a travel consultant from Medway, Mass. “I want it to be so clean, I don’t even mind if it smells like bleach.”

Fancy amenities such as upgraded bedding, the latest electronics and expensive-looking soaps won’t make guests look the other way when they see something unpleasant.

“Squeaky clean,” clarifies Nicole Landreneau, who works for a Web design company in New Orleans and travels often. “The carpet shouldn’t look like it hasn’t been cleaned since 1912, and bathrooms should have no mildew or mold. No bugs!”

And then there are the hair dryers. So many travelers I interviewed mentioned hair dryers that I could write an entire column on these amenities alone. I will spare you. But Roberta Morgan, a retired nurse from Albany, Ore., makes a point that several hotel guests echoed.

“I don’t just want a working hair dryer,” she says, “I also want wall outlets so that a person can charge all the devices and still use the hair dryer.”

All of which raises one question: Why do hotels continue to tempt their guests with things they don’t want or need?

Are travelers not telling them what they want or are hotels not paying attention? In talking with guests and hotel insiders, it seems the answer may be a little bit of both. But hotel guests only have partial control. We can tell hotels what we want, both with words (sharing our feedback) or deeds (only doing business with hotels we like).

The rest is up to your hotel.

How to be heard by your hotel

• Tell them in person. If you have an issue, letting the property know about it in real time is the best way to fix it. A broken light bulb or an outlet that doesn’t work is often easily replaced or repaired. Do the same for positive feedback on things you like.

• Fill out a guest comment card. Yes, they still exist — and yes, hotel managers still read them. If you don’t see one, ask for one. If they don’t have them, go to your hotel’s website and give it a piece of your mind.

• Call the authorities. In the United States, hotels have to answer to a variety of state regulators. If something is seriously wrong, and the property refuses to address the issue, a written complaint to regulators is a great way to make your point.

Underwritten by

Underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Underwritten by Enterprise

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

Underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

Underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

Underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.