We’re more disappointed with U.S. hotel chains than we’ve been in seven years. That’s the conclusion of the most recent J.D. Power consumer survey when it comes to hotel guest satisfaction. When staying at a hotel in the United States, we’re far less happy than we used to be with the service.

As with airlines, it’s not difficult to find the root causes: fewer staffers and annoying fees. As hotels and resorts have cut staff levels in this recession, they’ve also done long-term damage to their brand. A disappointed guest is far less likely to recommend the hotel, either on social media or in person.

The survey also found that reaching into guests’ pocckets again to extract a fee for internet access—now as expected an amenity as hot water—creates outsized annoyance. “Guests who were charged for access had an average satisfaction score of 688 for costs and fees — 76 points lower than those who weren’t charged extra.”

And no, bundling that into a “resort fee” doesn’t help: we hate that too.

Just as free-bag airlines like Southwest and JetBlue come out on top in these surveys, those hoteliers who seem to provide great value in one rate come out on tops here as well: modest Drury Inn has kept its crown in the “midscale limited service” category for seven years now.

luxury hotelLuxury hotel guests are more forgiving of the nickel and diming though. Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, and JW Marriott came out as the top three in the luxury category, with the first one getting the highest score overall. The lower annoyance with extra fees is partly because the company is paying when guests stay there on business, partly because loyal customers get the extra fees waived. And Ritz-Carlton has built up a well-deserved reputation for personalized service and delightful surprises: just the kind of thing guests seem to be missing elsewhere in the DIY atmosphere (and long check-in lines) encountered so often elsewhere.

So what abou Latin America? Fortunately, when you run across an understaffed hotel in this region, it’s an anomoly. While you won’t find the swarms of people falling all over themselves to serve you like you will in India or Indonesia, low staff numbers are seldom an issue. When you stay at a luxury hotel in Latin America, you can expect luxury treatment.

You won’t’ go wrong with the big names, of course, like the ones mentioned above or the Starwood Luxury Collection and St. Regis properties. When those aren’t available in the region though, there are dozens of great local chains and fine independent hotels. See our Luxury hotel reviews in each country for the best of the best, reviewed by an expert travel writer on the ground.

See the full J.D. Power survey results here.

Don’t miss a post! Get our RSS feed or tap into our Facebook page.