Travel Notes: Price, location are top hotel priorities; luxury spending slowly returns

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In the end, most travelers from around the world are very similar.

Price and location are among the top factors in picking a hotel, according to a new study of more than 200,000 hotel guests from eight countries, according to a new study written by researchers from JD Power and Associates.

The study was aimed at helping hotel chains with properties around the globe better serve guests from various cultural backgrounds.

Among the travelers from eight countries, most ranked location and price as the top reasons for choosing a hotel. The exceptions were Italian travelers, who ranked a hotel's reputation above price, and Spanish travelers, who ranked previous experience higher than price when booking a room.

Still, the report said travelers from some countries are harder to please than others.

For example, Japanese travelers typically give the lowest ratings when asked about their satisfaction with hotels, and Americans usually give the highest ratings.

But when it comes time to check in, Americans have the lowest tolerance for waiting too long, and travelers from Japan have the highest tolerance, the report found.

"These findings underscore the importance of staff training to delineate the differences in cultural preferences of guests from various countries," the study concluded.

Upscale rooms, airline seats

With the lingering effects of the Great Recession slowly disappearing, more business travelers are reserving high-priced hotel rooms and booking roomier seats in the front of the plane.

But the luxury spending may be benefiting executives, not middle managers and lower-level workers.

At the depth of the recession, most major companies restricted workers to flying in the economy section and booking budget hotel rooms. But some businesses now seem to be loosening the purse strings on the travel budget.

A recent study by a major travel company found a 3.5 percent increase over last year in the number of business travelers reserving upscale hotel rooms. The study also found a 4.6 percent increase in the number of agents who said at least 11 percent of their clients are booking first or business-class seats.

"We're seeing a notable increase overall in the number of business travelers flying first and business class," said Steve Loucks, a spokesman for Travel Leaders Group, the company that conducted the survey of 946 travel agents. "This is a positive indicator that businesses are feeling better about the economy."

But some local travel managers say the luxury spending does not extend to all business travelers.

"My perception is that, no, companies are still cracking down on travel spending," said Sean Paraham, travel director for Corinthian Colleges Inc., a for-profit company that operates 111 campuses in the United States and Canada.

The only exception to the crackdown, he said, are executives.

"Sometimes executives are given bandwidth to fly in first class, but I don't see that in the general population," said Mr. Paraham, the incoming president of the Los Angeles Business Travel Association.

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