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Prevent Poor Social Media Reviews by Soundproofing Hotel Rooms

Online trip advisory reviews have ushered in a harsh new business environment for hotels, motels and inns that live or die by referrals. If a guest had a lousy night’s sleep due to exterior noise from traffic, railroads or activity at the swimming pool, the guest will often post about their poor experience on an online hotel review site without ever speaking to the manager. For hospitality chains that rely on positive guest reviews and worth of mouth, viral online grousing’s impact can be immediate and long-lasting.

But the absence of a posted review does not necessarily indicate satisfaction either. A guest that is unhappy with a room due to excessive exterior noise might not post a review, but likely will not return either. The guest might also complain to friends and business associates, where negative word-of-mouth travels fast. This also can take a bite out of revenue.

Despite harsh online rebukes, well managed hotels acknowledge that they are prisoners of a paradox: They must build near major thoroughfares, highways and rail services so that they are accessible and convenient; yet such locations are often the source of their noise complaints.

As noise awareness grows, some proprietors mistakenly believe the only solution is replacing every window – an expensive upgrade with no guarantee of success.

Historic districts that preserve beautiful, but aging, buildings also create problems for ownership. Since the exterior design cannot be tampered with, swapping out old windows for new is rarely approved — even if guests complain regularly about noise and use their social media outlets to let the world know about it.

Commune Hotels and Resorts, like many hotels, found it needed to find a way to cut down the amount of noise entering guest rooms at one of its hotels. The Waterfront Hotel at Jack London Square in Oakland, CA is not a designated historic site, but it was built in the 1960s next to a railroad crossing. Passenger and freight trains, north and south bound, regularly pass by with horns blaring and safety guard rails ringing their alarms.

The majority of the hotel’s online reviews at TripAdvisor and other sites consisted of guests stating they were unhappy with and inconvenienced by the noise. The hotel’s internal guest satisfaction survey was equally negative in that area.

However, replacing ever guest room window would do considerable damage to the stucco faÇade and would not be an economical remedy. While researching a solution to this problem, I found Soundproof Windows Inc. ( located in Reno, NV.

Soundproof  Windows said that by installing inner windows, it could significantly reduce the amount of noise entering the rooms. I was intrigued but not immediately convinced. I chose three guest rooms for a test, stacked on multiple floors at the front of the hotel. One room was not altered.  Test windows were installed in the other two rooms, one with a 5/8 inch thick inner window and the other with 1/4 inch thick inner window. Then an independent acoustic firm was hired to analyze the test results.

When compared to the room without an inner window, the room with the 5/8-inch glass inner window eliminated noise by 75 percent, exceeding the other test product.  The experiment won me over and also proved to me that noise was entering through the windows, not the walls.

However, ordering and installing 75 windows would still be a challenge because the face of the building has a variety of window sizes and shapes including rectangular windows that open and porthole style windows. Plus, sliding doors opening onto patios are also available in some rooms. Fortunately, I found out that the windows we chose can be configured to match any existing style of window, as well as sliding doors. The installation took a week.

Since we installed the inner windows, the hotel’s online scores and ranking have gone up. In an internal survey, before the change, noise was the number one complaint. Now it has receded to only an occasional mention. TripAdvisor now ranks the Waterfront Hotel at No. 2 out of 48 Oakland hotels, up from No.9. Due to the success we saw with the installation of the windows in part of the hotel, this year the Waterfront Hotel’s owners approved installation of soundproof windows for the rest of the hotel.

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