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Behaviour of European guests under the spotlight.
Thursday, 2nd July 2009
Source : NH Hoteles
Spaniards and Italians are the most demanding touristsm while the Dutch and British, on the other hand, are more concerned about practical aspects and less about the details of their room.

Over 80% of European tourists think that a very important factor when booking a room is a shower or bath, and over 60% acknowledge that the first thing they do when arriving is check out the bathroom.

39% of users only visit the hotel restaurant if breakfast is included in the price, and 20% buy food outside the hotel to eat in their rooms

Europeans spend between 8 and 9 hours planning their leisure trip, although Spaniards and Italians may spend as long as 13 hours

Swimming pools and spas with long opening hours and massage services are what the hotels are most likely to pay an extra charge for in the hotel

More than 50% of Dutch guests think that the availability of rooms designed for men or for women is a good idea

The Dutch and the British, for their part, usually choose to sleep on the same side of the bed as they do at home

Although differences still remain, clichés are becoming less and less important for European tourists. This is shown by a survey carried out by Synovate for the multinational hotel chain NH Hoteles which looks at how European travellers behave and, in particular, their relationship with the places where they stay. The report, carried out in five key markets (Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands), shows that the habits of travellers from each of these countries are remarkably similar, albeit with a number of significant coincidences.

Thus, Spaniards and Italians are the ones who spend the longest on organising their trips, and are also the most demanding when booking and assessing the comfort of a hotel and the equipment in a room. The British and the Dutch, on the other hand, pay less attention to minor details, are not as interested in any extra services hotels may provide and lay greater weight on practical aspects such as Wi-Fi Internet access, mini bar, the type of bed or whether the bathroom has a shower or a bath. Germans, however, are a good representation of the average European traveller.

For over 80% of European tourists, the type of bathroom is a decisive factor when booking a room, although the location of the hotel is what is most important. More than 60% acknowledge that the first thing they do when going into their room is check out the bathroom, and half of them travel without any bath kit of their own because they prefer to use the products the hotel offers its guests free of charge. In fact, 16% keep them every day so that they are replaced and they can take home as many products as they can.

In hotels, tourists place increasing importance on the use of facilities for resting, relaxing or exercise, and a large percentage, that varies from one country to another, would be prepared to pay an extra charge for using such services -swimming pool, gymnasium and spa- or for having them available for longer periods of time.

More days on trips per year

Travelling has become a widely extended source of pleasure among Europeans. They spend on average 10 days every year on discovering new places or resting a long way from home, although Spaniards (13 days) and Italians (11) spend the longest time. Trips are also made because of work, although in this case, only for 5 days a year. The Italians, who spend 8 days on this, are the people who are most used to this type of trip. Germans, on the other hand, who spend only 4 days, are at the other end of the scale.

On what dates to they travel?

Summer is still the time when most trips are made, followed by weekends. However, the NH Hoteles survey brings out some interesting behaviour. More than half the Dutch do not take advantage of long weekends to get away, quite the opposite of the British and Germans (more than 86%). Moreover, they are by far the most stay-at-home at Christmas time: only 26% travel at that time of year, compared to 53% of Italians and 44% of Spaniards.

Organising a trip which involves booking a hotel room is not done in the same way in all the countries. Germans, British and Italians, for the most part, prefer to take all their decisions personally, whereas Spaniards and Dutch opt rather for taking their decisions jointly with other people. The Dutch also have, furthermore, the highest percentage of citizens who do never travel for pleasure: 7%.

Spaniards and Italian are very similar as regards their obsession to organise every little detail. Although other Europeans spend between 8 and 9 hours on preparing a trip, they spend between 11 and 13 hours.

Organising using the Internet

The Internet has become the main source of information for over 80% of Europeans, more than travel agencies, in those countries where the Internet has become more important: the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Even so, other channels are still extremely important. For half the population, recommendations made by friends are a frequent source of information, while in Italy and the Netherlands (47%) still make regular use of travel books.

What sort of information do future tourists look for? Above all, about cultural activities and excursions, although the British and the Dutch, who have very similar interests, place greater importance on restaurants and special events. Italians, for their part, put information about leisure facilities ahead of any other matter (72%). Spaniards are more interested than anyone else in shows on in the city (52%), while the Dutch are the tourists with the highest percentage of people who do not look for any information of any kind (15%).

When booking a hotel room, the Internet is once again the first option, with the United Kingdom (87%) coming top. Spain (73%) and Italy (70%) are still somewhat behind as regards on-line operations. Even so, travel agencies still have a high share, and around 50% of those surveyed say that they use their services for booking rooms, although this percentage is much lower, 20%, in the United Kingdom, lower than the percentage of British travellers who sometimes book directly by phone.

The growing importance of the internet when arranging trips has made for a change in tourists' travelling habits. Given this change in traveller profile, NH Hoteles has over the last year embarked upon a major update of its website, building up the aspects that customers are calling for more in their internet relationship with the hotel chain.

Choosing a hotel

There are no defined preferences when searching for a hotel and, in many cases, users aim to find out about new hotels in each of their trips. While the British and Dutch are not so particular about their choice, Spaniards are the most loyal to a specific hotel chain, and 22% say that they try to choose hotels belonging to a specific firm.

The hotel's location is the most important factor for any tourist when making a booking. The other two factors that are most decisive apart from this are the type of bathroom (shower or bath) and the times for entering and leaving rooms. Spaniards, Italians and Germans place particular importance on specific features, such as Internet access or the availability of rooms for smokers. For British and Germans, the possibility of recouping their money if the booking is cancelled is very important, while Spaniards ask about whether or not there are double beds in the double rooms.

In this regard, NH Hoteles has given greater space to information about not just hotels by providing more detailed descriptions of all areas, photos and virtual visits, but also about destinations in general. Thus, the search tools available have been updated, integrating the use of points of interest, access routes and a simple, highly efficient system to find the best prices in any hotel in the chain on each day of the week.

The NH Hoteles portal has been redesigned to improve the user experience, by simplifying the booking process so that it is faster and more precise.

Not all the services are valued at the same level in a hotel. The most important services for the users surveyed are, in fact, the activities that take place outside the hotel itself, followed by there being a swimming pool with long opening hours. Spaniards and Italians place great importance on virtually all the services, in particular that there be vending machines. 52% of Germans appreciate the presence of a gymnasium with long opening hours, and 49% of Dutch guests feel that a spa is very or quite important.

Although this is a trend that is only just beginning to appear, the Dutch appreciate being able to choose rooms specially designed and equipped for men or women (52%), quite the opposite of the Germans (only 22% think that this is important). Italians are the ones most interested in renting films in their rooms and, together with the Germans (19%) are the ones who take the greatest interest in escort services (30%).

Sometimes, to use some services involves paying an extra charge. Travellers are not always prepared to do so. The report shows that the average European does not mind paying for a massage or clothes repair service, or to have the swimming pool open longer hours. The British are the ones who least follow this trend, because not only are they less interested in paying for any extra service, but even when they do, they opt first for the baby-sitting service and film rental.

Tourists make little use of the hotel restaurant services. Around 40% of users say that they only go to the restaurant if breakfast is included in the price of the room. Spaniards, British and Germans tend to buy food outside the hotel to eat in the hotel quite often.

A comfortable room for resting

Although the British and the Dutch are more used to travelling with children (42% and 50%) respectively, they are also the ones least interested in the availability of activities for children in the hotel or babysitting services, which are much appreciated by Spaniards and Italians. Germans are the group of tourist who most often book single rooms when travelling alone (72%), quite the opposite of the British and the Dutch, who in over 40% of cases never choose this type of room even though they are not travelling as a couple or with friends. 23% of Dutch couples prefer separate beds, and 27% of British choose a double bed even when travelling alone.

What Europeans most appreciate in their rooms are aspects that affect comfort and rest, and matters of a practical nature. The most important factor is the sound-proofing of the room, and giving bottles of water as a welcome present is most highly appreciated, quite the opposite of what they think of there being a TV channel that receives guests when they enter. High marks are also given for the speed at which a room is made available the first time they arrive at a hotel, and for bathrooms, where they demand that the shower be adjustable and have a panel rather than curtains. This latter point is not, however, so important for British travellers.

What issues relating to the room are you very much or quite in agreement?

The state of the bathroom and the views are the first thing a European tourist checks out when entering his or her hotel room. Other very common behaviour apart from this are to take a look at the TV channels or to bring books, magazines, music or videogames in their luggage to pass the time. Italians and Spaniards, furthermore, pay special attention to drawers and wardrobes. The Dutch and the British, for their part, usually choose to sleep on the same side of the bed as they do at home.

Half the tourists no longer take their own bath kit, and use the products provided by the hotel. The exceptions to this are the Italians and, above all, Germans (62% nearly always bring their own toilet bag. 34% of the British say they often take up food to eat in the room, and 24% usually ask for a second pillow for sleeping.

Spaniards, for their part, think that an apparently minor detail, to be able to switch off the table lamp using the bed switches, is essential. Spaniards and Italians are also the ones most bothered by the fact that there are no blinds on the windows, quite the opposite of the British, Dutch and Germans who are used to this because they do not have blinds in their homes in their own countries. The typical aspects of each culture come out in this section, as the British (82%) and the Dutch (64%) are the ones who stress the importance of having a kettle so that they can drink coffee in their room. The Italians are, for their part, the ones most likely to wash clothes in their rooms and hang them in the bathroom (25%), quite unlike any other Europeans.

The British and Spaniards attach very little importance to the fact that the bathroom and toilet are separate, and the Dutch do not pay much attention to how the bathroom is equipped: few of them notice any lack of power in the hairdryer (12%), they hardly ever ask for safety razors (5%) and, quite unlike the Italians (31%) and Spaniards (27%), they are not interested in taking the dressing gown without being charged for it (4%).

"Unmentionable" behaviour

Not all behaviour is something to be proud of. The groups most likely to indulge in such behaviour are the Germans, Spaniards and Italians. In this regard, they have a higher percentage of tourists who keep the bathroom accessories every day so that they have to be replaced and they can take them home with them (25%).

At the other end of the scale are the Dutch, who are not much interested in this type of behaviour. One curious point, Germans are the guest who most often fall asleep with the TV on (16%).
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