Customer satisfaction improves for hotel industry, led by Hilton

UNITED STATES Customer satisfaction ratings continue to climb for the hotel industry, even as travelers grow more frustrated with the airlines.

Consumer ratings for the hotel industry improved 2.7% in the 2011 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), to a score of 77. Lower rates and more perks have enhanced customers’ views of value for money, the annual survey concludes.

The aggregate of smaller brands—including small hotel and motel chains, individual luxury hotels, and bed and breakfasts—makes the most progress, up 4% to an ACSI score of 77. The industry is having more success with leisure travelers, as their satisfaction improves 1% to 77, compared to a 1% drop to 75 for business travelers.

“Although guest satisfaction has benefited from lower rates and various perks, there has been no effect on customer loyalty and repeat business,” says Claes Fornell, founder of ACSI and author of The Satisfied Customer: Winners and Losers in the Battle for Buyer Preference. “Price-induced satisfaction tends to make people shop around for the best deal rather than promote loyalty.”

Hilton Worldwide leads the ranking, unchanged at a score of 80, with both Marriott International (down 1%) and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide (up 3%) close behind at 79. Hyatt Hotels Corp. places fourth at 77 (down 3%). IHG’s scores are down 3% to tie Best Western (unchanged) at 76. Choice Hotels International follows, unchanged at 74. Wyndham Worldwide, despite making the biggest year-over-year gain—up 4% to 73—places last among the eight companies surveyed.

In the airline industry, passenger satisfaction is down 1.5% to an ACSI score of 65—a very low score that keeps getting worse. Poor service, higher fuel prices, and fees for baggage and other services are contributing to discontent among travelers. Passengers who pay for checked bags are much less satisfied than those who do not.

ASCI is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to U.S. consumers. The index was founded at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and is produced by ACSI LLC.