American USALI and the historical evolution of the uniform cost systems: A Spanish challenge?

Francisco Martin Peña, Ramon M. Soldevila de Monteys, Vanesa Berlanga Silvente


Purpose: This study presents an inquiry on the historical evolution of the uniforming movement in cost accounting and its current position in the lodging sector. Its paramount objective is ‘to learn from the past' and, at the same time, to pose a question of future: where are aiming the current techniques of cost management in the lodging industry to? A specific purpose of this inquiry was fixed, on the base of a necessary retrospective look, in outlining and analyzing the actual accounting informative needs of today’s hotel complexes, considering the two main directions that hotel accounting has taken throughout its (long) history in search of uniformity. A uniform purpose that, from 1926 on, the successive versions of the USAH - Uniform System of Accounts for Hotels has being pursuing (an acronym modified in 1996 as USALI - Uniform System of Accounts for Lodging Industries).

Design/methodology: This work composes of two parts differentiated and clearly interconnected:

  • In a first study it examines the movement uniform system in its most dynamic period, as they were the years between the two WW (1920 - 1940), its aims and most outstanding contributions, its economic and politician circumstances, social influences, etc.

  • In a second study the interest is focused in the current period and specifically in the Spanish lodging industry, where, by means of the method of the survey and personal interviewing, it aims to evaluate and interpret the degree of need perceived by the managerial agents of the sector about an accounting uniform movement in Spain.

Findings: The inquiry offers two types of contributions and results: on the one hand, a reconfiguration of the role exerted by the ‘uniforming’ movement in the history of management accounting; on the other hand, it makes evident, by means of a field inquiry, which are the main informative needs of the lodging sector in Spain, beyond a mere sectorial adaptation of the current general plan of accounting.

Originality/value: The authors have focused their inquiry on the big evolutionary lines that have given fruit in the different versions of the USALI, considering its utility as the starting point for a hypothetical system of accounting management adjusted to the needs and idiosyncrasy of the Hispanic sector. One of the main conclusions that can be extracted is that, either by looking at the review of the past or by summarizing the analysis of the present needs, the evidence shows that the European hotel industry faces a pending task that the North American tradition has been successful to channel in a way comparatively more advanced: the fact of having a complete and uniform instrument of accounting information.


Hotel costs, Chart of accounts, Uniform systems of costing, Hotel management metrics

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Intangible Capital, 2004-2024

Online ISSN: 1697-9818; Print ISSN: 2014-3214; DL: B-33375-2004

Publisher: OmniaScience