Ever since J.D. Powers first presented verifiable proof that noise is the number one complaint among hotel guests, response from the hotel industry has been lukewarm.
Some chains have hired consultants to spend time in hotel rooms and take notes on bothersome noises that might be distressing hotel guests. A rackety air conditioner for instance, or a continuous humming from a light or in-room refrigerator.
I am not sure why I found this surprising, but there seems to be a big problem among hotel guests who are subjected to the loud snoring from guests one room over. Folks who travel for business are ever-protective of their in-room quiet, and the snorers are keeping a lot of travelers awake at night. In fact, some who travel routinely on business have admitted they dread hotel stays because of the noise and accompanying sleep deprivation they say they have surrendered to.
When J.D Power published the results of their detailed North American Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study in 2011, noise complaints far outnumbered other complaints of smelly rooms, rude staff, and slow Internet connections combined. OK, no real surprise there.
Stuart Greig, J.D. Power’s vice president of global travel, says noise is a definite downer when it comes to hotel guest satisfaction, and this distinction is not limited geographically.
Apparently, noise in hotel rooms is horrible globally.
But the snoring next door is the problem getting the most attention. Although I have stayed in many hotels in my life, in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Mexico, I do not recall ever being stuck next to a snorer, although that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen; it just means that if I was next to a snorer, I don’t remember. I never complained to the front desk about a snorer, but loud parties and out-of-control kids shrieking up and down hallways – yeah, I’ve lost it a few times over that kind of noise.
But the snoring problem seems to be widespread, and hotels are looking at ways to alleviate the intrusion of snoring guests on the guests they’re disturbing. The Crowne Plaza hotel chain now has “snore monitors” – people who patrol some of the chain’s UK hotel hallways to monitor noise coming from rooms – particularly snoring. If they hear a snorer in the course of their patrols, they knock on the door and tell the snorer to pipe down or move out of the room!
OK, in all fairness, the Crown Plaza has instigated this monitoring process in areas they call “quiet zones,” rooms in which guests can request to be accommodated, where they will not be subjected to ordinary hotel noises, snoring included. If a guest in a quiet zone room turns out to be a snorer, first it is suggested they try a calm bath with some of the hotel’s complimentary soothing bath salts. This is what they really do. If that doesn’t do the trick, which I assume is usually the case because if bath salts were a cure for snoring I think the whole world would be aware of it - the snoring guest can be asked to move to a regular room in a non-quiet zone portion of the hotel – you know, with the rest of the riff raff.
After the initial anger of being woken from a sound sleep in a hotel room you’ve paid for, to be told that you’re snoring and it had better stop - even if you manage not to tell the snore monitor all about places where the sun don’t shine before calling the front desk to complain about such inhospitable behavior, it’s got to be a mortifying experience.
The Crowne Plaza has also installed sound abatement material in their quiet zone rooms as an added layer of protections for guests who want to be guaranteed a quiet experience during their stay. They’re calling these rooms treated with noise absorbing materials “snore absorbing rooms.”
According to the British Snoring and Sleep Apnea Association, four in 10 Brits are snorers, a condition caused by a partial blockage of the upper airway. It’s not like snorers set out to be unruly and prevent people from sleeping, but they might as well be premeditated rabble rousers as far as some are concerned.
Crown Plaza representatives say they only resort to waking snorers and threatening them with a move to the non-quiet portion of the hotel as a last resort.
Happily, U.S. Crown Plaza hotels have no plans to hire snore monitors any time soon, but they are considering adding soundproofing materials to more hotel rooms, which really is the most sensible – and sensitive option.
The chain also is trying out snore-absorption rooms in Britain, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands.
And although it is considered one of, if not the most serious problem, snoring is still just one of a myriad of irritating sounds hotel guests have to contend with.
Doors slamming, conversations being conducted in hallways, amorous couples in the room next door, traffic from outside – all these sounds contribute to sleepless nights for hotel guests. Many hotels have done nothing to address noise issues for their guests until recently, but it seems to me that staffing hall monitors to wake those poor snoring souls crosses a line.
If a hotel wants to become known for its quiet rooms, installing sound abatement materials in at least some of the rooms, and offering those rooms to guests at a slightly higher rate, or on a first come, first served basis makes much more sense. Just like they have smoking and non-smoking rooms, there should be rooms treated with noise blocking and noise absorbing materials, and rooms that are not treated. Noise is unhealthy, and the sleep deprivation it causes is unhealthy. Second hand smoke is unhealthy, which is why people have a choice to book a non-smoking room. Why aren’t noise problems given equal attention?
Some hotel visitors sleep with earplugs, unplug offending noise makers like in-room refrigerators, or request rooms in the most isolated corners of the hotel. But usually, noise can not be avoided due to the very nature of hotels – lots of people, all with different agendas, descending on the same place to spend the night. It’s a recipe for noise any way you look at it.
Hotels that are serious about reducing noise to improve customer satisfaction need to address the thin walls and structural issues that contribute to their noise problems, and change the acoustical shortcomings of the rooms and hallways, instead of waking snoring guests and asking them to move to a different room. I bet that gesture can trigger a whole new noise source in and of itself.
Parties, fighting couples, loud music and televisions – these are the noisemakers that can be resolved with ultimatums, but not all noise problems are as easy to fix. The first hotel to offer rooms treated with proven noise abatement materials is going to be the one that attracts guests seeking quiet, with no inappropriate or invasive procedures necessary.