understanding hospitality service

designing research

One size does not fit all when it comes to guest services. This two-part research activity was developed to explore guest perceptions of hospitality service based on the varieties of reasons people travel. Whether the trip is for business or a romantic getaway, we set out to understand guest expectations not just once they have arrived at their destination, but during the entire experience including choosing a destination, mode of transportation, and possible activities.  This research was designed to take a holistic look at service and how traveler expectations and needs might differ depending on the type of travel.

In the first activity, participants were asked to draw on past travel experiences. Each traveler made guided choices about their trip by selecting their destination, method of transportation, food, activities, and comfort. Along the way, they were offered information in the form of trivia about certain choices they had made. Additionally, participants were faced with options such as upgrading their room or more attentive house keeping and guest services.  At the end of the activity, each participant was asked to write a review of their trip and give it a star rating.

In the second activity, participants were told they had won a trip into outer space. They were asked to select their date of travel and plan their own itinerary. At the end, participants were asked to write a postcard home to their best friend about the experience and then write a review to benefit future travelers voyaging beyond the Earth's atmosphere. 

observations & conclusions 

Despite being more complex, participants overwhelmingly stated their preference for the first activity. The reasons they gave:

  • Though they were confined to only the available options, they felt this helped guide them through the experience and helped them feel confident in the choices they made.
  • Having options inspired them to think about future trips, not just the current itinerary.
  • The trivia information was fun because it was concise and related to the participants chosen itinerary, so it did not feel like a sales pitch or unnecessary filler.

When discussing the fantasy trip to outer space where participants had the freedom to plan any itinerary they wanted without parameters, the responses were:

  • It was more difficult to plan the itinerary because there were no suggestions of where to go and what to see.
  • They felt lonely, not just because they were floating in a space capsule, but because they could not share the experience with a loved one.  (Comparing the trip ratings between the two activities, the reviews and star ratings showed less enjoyment of the space voyage over activity number one with the top reason being that they were alone.) 

addition observations & insights

Participants who chose to travel for leisure and stayed in standard rooms were, in general, more satisfied with the amenities and service and rated their experience much higher than those staying in luxury suites. The participants that chose luxury suites for leisure tended to be less satisfied with the trip and opted to upgrade and change rooms more often. 

rating system

When reviewing how participants rated their experience, there was often a discrepancy between the amount of stars given and the written review. When asked why their written review was overwhelmingly positive and encouraging of others to try this trip / service, but only gave 3-4 stars, the response was typically that even though it was a great experience, they reserve 5 stars for only those experiences that are absolutely mind-blowing. 

applying the data

Hotels and service-based industries would do well to begin their interaction with the guest at a much earlier point in the trip planning process by keeping the guest informed, prior to arrival, of local activities and points of interest that relate to the guests specific interests. 

Do not let the star rating system be a determining factor of how well your services and amenities are being received. Read deeper.

Keep in touch with guests to offer information on similar or different trips based upon the guests stated interests for future travel plans.