CULTURAL BACKGROUND: DOES IT INFLUENCE MATURE TRAVELERS EVALUATION OF HOTEL ATTRIBUTES?
The mature traveler segment offers huge potential as they generally have more leisure time and fewer demands on their available income than younger travelers; therefore understanding their needs and desires is ever so important. The current study explores the impact of cultural background upon mature age travelers’ evaluation of 35 hotel attributes presented in a self-administered questionnaire. A survey of 245 international mature travelers (aged over 55 years and from countries with Western and Asian cultural heritage) was administered in the check-in area of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport. The findings show that the attribute of cleanliness ranks highest amongst important attributes while leisure facilities rank relatively low by both groups of mature travelers. Interestingly neither group ranked hotels aimed specifically for seniors as an important attribute. The study shows a strong correlation between mature travelers in the range of desirable of hotel attributes with few exceptions, irrespective of cultural background.
Keywords: culture; hotel attributes; mature travelers; tourism
There are substantial costs involved with investments in the hotel industry, both in the physical properties and the marketing of the associated businesses. Therefore, investigating which facilities and services travelers appreciate assist those in the hotel industry in better allocating resources. Excellence in the design of physical facilities and operations can benefit all age categories in various culture.1 This is also true for members of the tourism industry, ranging from private enterprises to government tourism authorities, from individuals to major corporations. The competition within the international tourist industry is increasing, so participants must plan and direct their marketing to target specific sectors of inbound tourists from different cultural backgrounds. A very important sector to focus upon are mature travelers, firstly because their numbers are increasing substantially, for example statistics provided by the Tourism Authority of Thailand comparing the number of mature travellers visiting Thailand in 1998 and 2007 show; Korea increased by 552%; Japan 160%; India 450%; Australia 234%; USA 216%.2 Therefore, an understanding of the impact of cultural values on service provision3 as well as hotel facilities is an increasingly important consideration within this sector, particularly in countries with a significant economic reliance on tourism (e.g. Thailand). In order to successfully market to any demographic segment it is first necessary to understand the important expectations and desires of that segment.4
The cultures of Asian countries are different from that of Western countries, therefore understanding the differences between Asian and Western travellers, in terms of their evaluation of the importance of hotel services and facilities is imperative for hotel operators. In recent years a number of studies examine the impact that cultural background has on service provision expectations in the hotel and tourism context. Mattila5 suggests that Asians focus upon the importance of personal service while Westerners rate items related to enjoyment and pleasure as being more important. It should be noted that this study specifically explores the service evaluation of business travelers in a luxury hotel setting. There are relatively few studies of the hotel attributes deemed important by mature travelers6, and the author has not found any that specifically investigate differences due to cultural background.
This study fills a knowledge gap in this area by examining the differences among the hotel attributes considered important by mature travelers with Western and Asian cultural backgrounds. The ability to identify the hotel attributes considered important by these...
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