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Hotel Noise Problems Include Snoring

Snorers Drive Hotel Noise Complaints to Record Levels

J.D. Power and Associates, that global bastion of customer satisfaction surveys, has been keeping hotels honest – or at least trying to – for 16 years. So it may not come as any surprise that its recently released 2012 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index shows that although hotel rates are going up, customer satisfaction rates are at an all-time low.

The main culprit is noise, and the J.D. Power study pinpoints the sound of snoring guests in other rooms as a top complaint this year. If you are a regular in the hotel circuit, you have almost certainly lost sleep because of noisy guests, including snorers. But pity the slumbering noisemaker who has no control over their twilight log-sawing, oblivious to the fact that he or she is driving their neighbors in adjacent rooms nuts.

Hotel managers have claimed for years to be addressing the noise problem that really hurts business, although according to the J.D. Power report, noise complaints are on the rise.

For corporate clients who require a sound night’s sleep to maintain a hectic schedule on the road, the sound of snoring from another guest room can mean a sure ticket to sleep deprivation, and a miserable day to follow. For corporate travelers who spend 25-50 percent of their nights in hotel rooms, peace and quiet is crucial to healthy sleep and productivity.

So, are hotels scrambling to find solutions to the ambient snoring problem which, unlike other hotel noise issues, requires a more sensitive approach than, say, shutting down a rowdy party or requesting the volume on a television be lowered? J.D. Power thinks not, as noise leaves a smelly room and rude staff in its hotel guest misery dust.

Some hotel chains in the UK have enlisted hallway snore monitors (we’re not making this up), uniformed snoring police who will actually bang on a hotel guest’s door to wake them if their snoring is disturbing others. Snorers get a warning upon the first wake-up drill, and are removed to a room in an isolated part of the hotel if the monitor is called back to the room a second time. Crowne Plaza is one such hotel chain with snore monitors patrolling hallways at some of its British hotels. Management is trying out snore-absorption rooms – rooms fitted with soundproofing material to block the noise between rooms, in properties throughout Europe.

“We receive excessive snoring complaints from guests in adjacent rooms frequently,” says Florence Eavis, a spokeswoman for IHG, which owns the Crowne Plaza brand. Eaves defended the practice of waking snoring guests and removing them if necessary. She says they only take such drastic measures when the snorer just can’t be quieted.

Crowne Plaza began deploying snoring monitors in June, 2011.

No such snoring police exist in any U.S. hotels thus far, and word in the industry is that they won’t be heading here any time soon.

Stuart Greif, J.D. Power’s vice president of global travel, recently told a USA Today reporter that it’s best if guests aren’t disturbed by noise to begin with, but when it can’t be avoided, a speedy and appropriate response by the hotel is critical.

“You’ll not always be able to make everybody happy,” he says. “But making an effort and doing everything you possibly can go a long way.

“Charging guests more and providing less is not a winning combination from a guest satisfaction perspective, much less a winning business strategy,” Grief says. “In short, hoteliers are falling further behind and need to catch up.”

The J.D. Powers annual survey measures overall hotel guest satisfaction in hotels ranging from luxury to budget, with seven key measurement areas – reservations; check-in/check-out; guest room; food and beverage; hotel services; hotel facilities; and costs and fees.

According to the 2012 report, guest satisfaction has declined 7 index points from 2011, down to a 757 on a 1,000-point scale, and down significantly since the 2006 study. Satisfaction with guest rooms has declined within one point of its lowest level in the past seven years.
Not good, hotel industry. Not good.

You would think that tackling the noise issue would be top on most hotel management lists, you know, since it’s the number one complaint among guests and all, but only a handful have installed noise deadening materials and created quiet havens for their guests. Oh, guess which hotels received the highest customer satisfaction ratings?

One option for hotel chains not ready to retrofit every room with noise blocking material may be to begin with a floor of rooms and advertise them as “quiet rooms.” Guests can opt to book one of these quiet rooms, based on availability, the same way guests can reserve non-smoking rooms. To offset the cost of the sound abatement material installation,hotels can charge a slightly higher fee for a quiet room.

Our guess is that there are plenty of hotel regulars who will gladly pay a little extra for a guaranteed night of quiet.

Those hotels who scored highest on the 2012 J.D. Powers survey are repeat winners who have established excellent reputations for providing guests with comfortable, quiet accommodations.

Let’s hear it (soft clapping, please) for the Ritz-Carlton taking the top spot in guest satisfaction among luxury hotels for three years in a row and Drury Hotels taking top honors in the mid-scale, limited services segment for the seventh year in a row.

Other top hotels for customer satisfaction include Omni Hotels & Resorts, the Hilton Garden Inn, SpringHill Suites, Holiday Inn, Jameson Inn and Homewood Suites.

The key is to find a way to respect hotel guests who deserve peace and quiet when they check in to their room for a sound night’s sleep, as well as the unfortunate snorer who isn’t out to disrupt his neighbors. The only solution is an effective noise barrier between the paper-thin walls of hotel rooms.

Sure, most guests may not thank hotel management out loud for the quiet room. But they will come back.

Hotel Snore Monitors – the Newest Weapon in Hotel Anti-Noise Arsenals

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.

Hotel Guests Sound Off on Noise: The Rudest Awakening

Industrial noise is usually considered mainly from the point of view of environmental health and safety, rather than nuisance, as sustained exposure can cause permanent hearing damage. Equipment used in a factory can be extremely loud. Everything from rotors, gears, fans, chillers, internal combustion engines, pumps, heavy machinery, etc., can be seen in industrial settings. All of this equipment can produce noise at decibel levels high enough to create environmental health and safety concerns.

Measures for controlling industrial noise are necessary to protect workers. Louder noise can also become a nuisance and may be considered noise pollution, in which case a community may require a company to take action and address it. When dealing with industrial noise mitigation, if possible, the goal is to always control the noise at the source by modifying the equipment itself or replacing it with a quieter model. However, for many companies, this is not always possible. Also, sometimes noise in a factory or industrial setting is the result of many machines running simultaneously.

Previous research has found that workplace noise led to severe health problems and resulted in significant increases in healthcare costs in many companies.

Noise Control

When an industrial operation is seeking compliance with OSHA noise regulations, the sound level regulation is a function of both sound level and daily exposure time. If the measurements reveal an excessive combination of sound levels and exposure times, a noise problem exists.

Depending on your budget and in-house capabilities, to find out whether you have a noise problem:

• It’s is always best to have an Industrial Hygienist identify the source of the noise and perform a noise measurement using proper instrumentation. Once you have their report, it can be given to a noise abatement company such as Acoustiblok who can help you find a solution using their soundproofing materials. If this is not an option:

• You can purchase a sound level meter, research how sound is measured and what the decibel levels mean, perform your own tests, and compare the results with OSHA noise workplace standards. If outdoor, also compare with your local city noise ordinance noise levels. If this is not possible:

• Another method is to try to talk comfortably with someone about 3.28 feet away (1 meter) from the noise source. If you can, there is probably not enough plant noise at that position to damage hearing. But if you, or others, must raise your voice above normal conversation levels (about 70 decibels) or shout to be heard or understood at close distances (between .6 foot to 1.3 feet (20 to 40 cm), plant noise at that position probably can cause hearing loss and you should have the sound levels there measured with suitable instruments.

• If you are certain you have a noise problem, some soundproofing material companies, like Acoustiblok, have in-house acoustical professionals who will assist you in determining your noise problem and with finding a soundproofing solution.

It’s also important to check noise traveling out of the noisy plant area as well. If personnel in other parts of the plant complain, you should investigate and measure the levels of the sound they hear. If plant neighbors complain, or if local authorities say the sound exceeds applicable noise ordinances, a problem may exist and measurements are called for.

Once A Noise Problem is Identified

Remember that the sound is a form of energy. Your goal therefore is to reduce the amount of sound energy released by the noise source, or divert the flow of (sound) energy away from the receiver, or protect the receiver from the (sound) energy reaching the person. In other words, all noise controls work at the noise source, along the noise path, or at the receiver.

Once you have identified and measured the source of noise, you are ready to consider what can be done to control the noise. When you can’t modify the equipment itself to mitigate the noise, the next best options are to block and absorb the sound using modern soundproofing systems.

The presence of reflecting surfaces (walls, floors, ceilings, and equipment) in an industrial workplace results in the build-up of sound levels in the reverberant field. By controlling the reflected sound (i.e. by preventing the reflections), reverberant field sound levels can be reduced. Generally, the reflections are prevented by use of these acoustically absorbent materials applied directly to wall or ceiling surfaces or suspended from the ceiling.

The key to noise control is finding the control that is both effective and fits your budget. You should know not only what controls can work, but also know how costly the controls are to design and install.

Some acoustical soundproofing companies, like Acoustiblok, use leading noise prediction software, such as DataKustik’s Cadna-A and Cadna-R, to develop acoustical models of the soundproofing solution being proposed before it is purchased and installed for some complex noise problems.

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