ricewaterhouseCoopers research and data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), the US Department of Labor and Smith Travel Research show that although there was a small decrease reported in the first quarter of 2007, customer satisfaction levels in the lodging industry are at positive record levels with a recent high index value of 75 in 2006. This high level of customer satisfaction comes even as the lodging industry has reduced the number of employees per available and occupied room and while many other industries, especially tourism-related, have experienced declines.

?Because the decline in the first quarter of 2007 was so widely reported, we believe it is important to emphasize the record high level of satisfaction for lodging, and how favorably lodging is performing compared with other tourism-related industries,? said Bjorn Hanson, Ph.D., a principal with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Customer satisfaction levels in 2006 were the highest since 1995, even with a 10.2 percent decline in the number of employees per occupied room in the U.S. lodging industry. While customer satisfaction in hotels has increased at a compounded annual rate of 0.2 percent since 1995, customer satisfaction in other tourism-related industries measured by ASCI, such as airlines, has declined.

Although, according to ACSI, the customer satisfaction scores declined to 71 in the first quarter of 2007, most of the decline was among the smaller hotel chains, which experienced the largest decline in satisfaction scores.

A number of factors including new services, design and technology (including express check-in and check-out kiosks, in-room entertainment systems and wireless internet access in both full-service and limited service hotels), enhanced loyalty programs and increased levels of amenities for full-service and limited-service hotels have contributed significantly to increased customer satisfaction. A high occupancy level has also contributed to employee productivity gains. Additional factors include changes in organizational systems, processes and philosophies such as increased employee empowerment, establishment of employee recognition and reward programs, high-frequency dedicated departmental training programs and outsourcing of non-core activities.

?The lodging industry has used technology and training to enhance guests' experiences with extremely favorable results,? adds Dr. Hanson.