Managing tourist expectations of budget hotels- A case study of Premier Inn.
This study takes on qualitative research by collecting and comparing previous literature on budget hotels in the hospitality industry. Qualitative research allows for the exploration of a phenomenon to be conducted with the employment of a number of sources (Saunders, et al. (2009). In qualitative analysis, case study approaches are highly common and can enable the researcher to discover the underlying meanings of a phenomenon (Travers, 2001). These could include things such as investigating the motivations behind a certain phenomena like, what factors influence people to go on holiday. In line with this, the aim of this dissertation, “Managing tourist expectations of budget hotels – A case study of Premier Inn” is an ideal topic to investigate, using qualitative means as a tool. Therefore, qualitative research places more significance on push and pull factors, people’s emotions and feelings in order to get a better understanding of why people decide to engage in particular things and behaviours (Dunbar, 2005). As a result, a case study approach of Premier Inn has been taken in order to demonstrate how tourist expectations of budget hotels are managed within their service operation.
Case studies are also linked with the inductive approach which is concerned with discovering new theory that exists from current data (Guba & Lincoln, 1994). Also referred to as the ‘bottom-up’ approach in research methods, this approach allows the researcher to change or alter the direction of their study upon discovering different types of theories (Radovic-Markovic & Alecchi, 2017, p. 25). Unlike deductive approaches, the researcher is allowed to go in with an open mind and is unlikely to know what the hypotheses or outcome of the study will be because discovering new types of data and information along the way can change the course of the study altogether (Saunders, et al., 2009). Inductive approaches are also often associated with the interpretivist philosophy, upholding the idea that the study of phenomena can only be conducted from a subjective point of view (Leitch, et al., 2010). In this, interpretivists contend that phenomena can be understood by intervening with reality, whereas positivists argue that phenomena should not be disrupted, rather, studied objectively through observations (Simon, 1996). They also state that although this belief constitutes to many interpretations of reality, it still contributes to scientific knowledge.
As this dissertation will take on a case study approach, it is important to justify why this is the best route to investigate the research aim. A case study approach is considered as a robust method which takes on a holistic approach to research (Hamel, et al., 1993). Yin (1984, p. 23) defines a case study approach as, “an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context; when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident; and in which multiple sources of evidence are used”. With quantitative methods, research is often limited as mentioned earlier due to being more concerned with numerical data (Baskarada & Koronios, 2018). This means that there is a smaller opportunity to provide in-depth explanations that relate to social and behavioural patterns and characteristics for example (Yin, 2012). As the research aim focuses on the investigation of people’s expectations, also trying to gauge their perceptions and experiences of Premier Inn, it relies on understanding their social and behavioural attitudes toward their services and operations. Focussing on case studies as a qualitative research method has been applied to a various range of disciplines such as Law (Lovell, 2006); Medicine (Taylor & Berridge, 2006) and Sociology (Grassel & Schirmer, 2006).
Qualitative research is also associated with the use of secondary data (Collis & Hussey, 2003). Secondary data or analysis is defined as using secondary sources, mostly in the form of literature and statistical data often obtained from governmental and corporate documents, to conduct a study of a phenomenon that are of interest (Saunders, et al., 2009). Creswell (2009) states a research method is necessary because it consists of a process that enables the researcher to collect, analyse, and interpret the sources used. Therefore, Avelidou-Fischer (2013) stipulates that a qualitative approach allows for secondary analysis to take place by applying theoretical knowledge and conceptual skills to existing data, in order to answer the research question. In accordance with this, the study undergoes the comparison of different literatures in the context of the hospitality industry in budget hotels. Secondary data is also associated with including more depth to it, as it has the advantage of being able to draw on previous numerical data and theoretical concepts, whereas primary research predominantly focuses on statistical data sources which has been collected by the researcher themselves (Creswell, 2002).
This leads into establishing the advantages and disadvantages of using secondary research for this study. One of the common advantages associated with employing secondary research is that the information used is collected by someone else (Vartanian, 2011). This means that the researcher does not need to conduct primary research themselves, which involves having to compose the materials in the form of questionnaires, surveys and interviews for example, in order to get the necessary information to address the research aim (Saunders, et al., 2009). As this is not required in secondary research, the researcher is able to save time and expenses (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Another advantage is that there is the opportunity to use reliable documents that maybe more valid in nature than those which are composed during primary research studies, such as the use of governmental documents (Vartanian, 2011). Secondary research has also been recognised as a useful tool in facilitating primary research as well, because it can identify gaps in literature which need to be addressed (Collins, 2010). There is also the advantage of accessing the information needed for secondary research a lot more easily, as there are fewer ethical considerations to take into account (Crowther-Dowey & Fussey, 2013). The researcher also does not need to wait a certain time period to obtain the data and analyse it because in most cases the information which is required is readily available through online sources (Taylor, et al., 2016). Another useful benefit is that if the researcher encounters any issues during their research, such as difficulty obtaining a certain document, then they can ultimately adjust their research aim to suit their requirements accordingly (Dunbar, 2005).
However, there are also some disadvantages which come with this approach that need to be acknowledged. Due to secondary research relying on literature and documents obtained from previous work, there might not be enough information available to address the research aim effectively (Malina, et al., 2011). Ultimately, inadequate information lacks specificity and may not fully answer the question in concern. Other issues have been recognised around the validity and credibility of the sources used in secondary research. Issues can arise as a result of the “researcher bias”, a term describing a researcher’s personal influence on the study they conducted (Norris, 1997). This can either happen knowingly or unknowingly on the researcher’s part for example, if a study based on primary data is conducted via a questionnaire, then it is highly likely that the researcher has composed the questionnaire themselves, consisting of questions that could lead a participant to prove their hypotheses (Fellows & Liu, 2015). In instances like this, the data collected can in fact be distorted as the researcher predominantly controls the direction of the findings (Amaratunga, et al., 2002). Therefore, secondary sources used in quantitative research approaches can cause a certain degree of bias that is transferred as a result of using someone else’s work. As a result, another issue which could arise because of this is the relevancy of the documents and information used (Rwegoshora, 2014). Table 1 demonstrates the differences between primary and secondary sources in order to get a better understanding of how the two methods operate.
Table 1: Differences between Primary and Secondary Approaches
|Researcher conducts data on their own||Researcher uses sources obtained from third parties|
|Deductive in nature – associated with positivism paradigm||Inductive in nature – associated with the interpretivism paradigm|
|Numerical/statistical data||Use of theoretical concepts and previous studies|
|Less easily available||More easily accessible|
|More ethical considerations due to working with human subjects||Possibility of fewer ethical considerations due to not working with participants|
|More time consuming||Less time consuming|
Sources: Saunders, et al., (2009); Malina, et al., (2011); Creswell, (2002)
Ethical considerations are also another important aspect that needs focus on. Panter & Sterba (2011) state that ethical considerations can influence what type of study and what kind of route the researcher wants to go down. Depending on what route the researcher decides to take will also determine if they need ethical approval from a relevant body, scientific community or society (Miller, et al., 2012). Ethical considerations are most often discussed in relation to human subjects and whether or not they have consented to taking part in a study which requires their involvement (Mandal & Parija, 2014). In line with this, it is agreed that when using human subjects to partake in a study, whether it is asking them to fill out a questionnaire or observing them in their own environment, anonymity and confidentiality must be clearly maintained (Punch, 1994). Couchman & Dawson (1990) early on stipulated that ethical guidelines enable the researcher to get informed consent, whilst maintaining the participant’s dignity and ensuring that they do not come to any harm during the study or investigation. This leads into how the data obtained from studies using human subjects is stored. Eddie (1994) states that data needs to be stored in a way which only the researcher has access to and also no one should be able to identify the data, ideally the researcher themselves as well. This level of privacy can be obtained by making the study anonymous from the beginning by avoiding asking the respondent to state any details which could reveal their identity such as their name and address (MacClancy & Fuentes, 2015).
In secondary research, ethical approval from the ethics committee may not always be needed because the data which is being used might not include any specific information which can be linked straight back to the participant (Guillemin & Gillam, 2004). For this study, literature and case studies are being used that have been previously conducted by scholars and academics in order to identify what the possible expectations of tourist’s of budget hotels could be. This will give an insight into what has already been discovered and written upon in order to give some indication on tourist’s motivation patterns when it comes to budget hotels in the hospitality industry. As the study is predominantly focussing on tourist expectations, specific information that may expose their identity is not required as it is looking at the underlying motivations of how they feel about budget hotels. Due to this, ethical approval is not needed for this study, more so because the information used is also readily available to the public (Cowton, 1998). Ghauri & Gronhaug (2005) state that the information which is published in the public domain is often an indicator that the documents are free from any ethical issues that could compromise the identity of participants involved. For the purposes of this study, information has been obtained from online journal article sites such as Taylor and Francis, Emerald Insight and Science Direct in order to inform and compare previous studies on budget hotels and the hospitality industry. In this, tourist’s perceptions, expectations and their experiences of budget hotels, including any relevant theoretical models will be applied to Premier Inn in order to demonstrate how people could possibly feel about using their services and operations.
Results and Discussion
As mentioned in the introduction of this study, Premier Inn was initially developed in order to compete with the budget hotel, Travelodge. Premier Inn have experienced an ambitious growth over the years with over 750 hotels in the UK and 68,000 rooms in different locations, with an emerging growth in Europe (Premier Inn, 2018). These statistics suggest that Premier Inn have had the opportunity to grow due to a popular demand in their services, also including their prices. In line with this, Tax et al., (1993) stipulated that there are certain factors that contribute towards a guest’s pre-purchase decision of visiting a budget hotel, and price was identified as one of these factors. Furthermore, Doryol, et al., (2014) cite that tourists expect value for money when choosing an accommodation provider, because of this; consumers automatically have a pre-conceived notion of what they would expect from a low budget hotel. It is significant to mention here that Premier Inn offer two different rates for their guests, which is the ‘saver rate’ and the ‘flex rate’ (Premier Inn, 2018). Saver rates tend to be the most popular choice by guests because they are cheaper. In another study conducted by Ogut & Tas (2012) found that price also affected how quickly and which hotel guests booked with. It is found that Premier Inn’s ‘saver rate’ rooms are indeed booked quicker than the ‘flex rate’ rooms, deeming Ogust & Tas’s (2012) study to be true. Brotherton (2004) also discovered that tourists were more likely to go with cheaper accommodation when booking a holiday because they had further expenses to pay for in the form of flights, food, attractions and activities whilst on holiday. This could be another possible indicator as to why people choose to book with Premier Inn.
Now focussing closer on tourist’s expectations of budget hotels and what they deem suitable for the price, it can be understood that Premier Inn is viewed with the perspective of short stays (Robinson, 2012). In support of this, Leslie (2009) has stated that guests staying at budget hotels view their stay as temporary. This meant that guests were aware that the service that they receive at budget hotels would include fewer luxuries than that of a more upscale and luxury hotel brand such as Hilton (Rauch, et al., 2015). It is also recognised that Premier Inn expect guests to stay only for a short period of time, this could be for the purposes of a stopover, business trip or visiting a city for a short break (Premier Inn, 2018). All of these stay factors could possibly contribute to guests perceptions of Premier Inn, as the average stay for one of their guests is expected to be low anyway (Premier Inn, 2018). Further to this, Premier Inn also advertise themselves as a short break accommodation provider, something which Senior & Morphew (1990) state further contributes to a budget hotels image of providing cheap, efficient and practical rooms. In order to understand Premier Inn’s brand and image better, the marketing mix of the 4 P’s might be useful here, which cover four critical aspects of a firm that help evaluate their marketing objectives (McCarthy, 1960). These are as follows, product, price, promotion and place.
Using this framework and applying it to Premier Inn in order to assess their marketing environment from a tourist’s perspective, product is one of the most critical aspects of their business. In this, Premier Inn’s core product would be their budget hotel rooms, as this is the most basic reason why people consume their products, allowing guests to stay with them for a specific amount of time. McLeod & Croes (2018) state that tourists are characterised by their short stay travel patterns and it can be assumed that tourists will stay no longer than 2-7 days at a destination on average. Supporting products and augmented products also apply to Premier Inn guests because they provide free breakfast for instance for children, which also helps in gaining a competitive advantage. Their product offering is further augmented by other facilities which are included in their rooms, such as a hairdryer or housekeeping service (Premier Inn, 2018). Moving on from this and briefly discussing price, as mentioned earlier, this is another fundamental reason why tourists choose to stay with Premier Inn and could help form their expectations of the hotel (The Guardian, 2017). According to the pricing strategy mix, Premier Inn conforms to the economy pricing of the matrix framework because they offer basic features and services for consumers who have a low budget (Cheverton, 2004). Leading into the promotional aspects of the business, this involves the marketing efforts which Premier Inn have made in order to advertise themselves as a low budget hotel. In this, Premier Inn have used various means as a way to promote their business, this includes TV adverts, billboards and more recently, the use of social media which will be discussed in the following sections (Premier Inn, 2018). Chen, et al., (2016) states that it is important to make products easily available for consumers, and accessibility on vacation has also been highlighted as an element which is involved in the tourist decision-making process. Therefore, place is also another deliberating factor that contributes to tourists expectations of budget hotel locations. Apart from this, technology may also be considered as another compelling feature of place, because tourists need access to online resources such as being able to book through their website and navigate it efficiently (Mayr & Zins, 2009).
It also becomes important to understand what form tourists expectations of budget hotels. Reviews have been outlined as one of the most compelling influences on where tourists choose to stay whilst on vacation (Schuckert, et al., 2015). It can be argued that tourist’s expectations are formed as a result of what they see, hear and read (Cantoni & Xiang, 2013). This is further supported by Gretzel & Yoo (2008) who found that in a study of Home Inn’s in China, that three quarters of tourists referred to online reviews as a way of finding affordable accommodation in their chosen destinations, and online reviews were a big influence in facilitating their decision as well. A majority of businesses, especially the hospitality industry have conformed to using technology as a way to not only manage their operations and back of house services such as check-in procedures, staff training and payments, but also using technology in the form of social media to promote and reach bigger markets (Chan & Guillet, 2011). With the likes of Tripadvisor and Expedia, tourists expectations of budget hotels may increase or decrease depending on the nature of the reviews (Lee, et al., 2011). With the online travel community always on the increase, it becomes easier to share information about a certain experience online as a way to provide recommendations or express disappointment about a service (Kamboj & Rahman, 2017). With Premier Inn having locations in a number of places, people leave comments and reviews based on which city hotel they visited. For example, the Premier Inn London Euston Hotel has an overall rating of 4.5 (Tripadvisor, 2018). This is also considered as e-word of mouth (eWOM) which constitutes as a form of marketing that could become viral on the internet (Zhang & Cobanoglu, 2017). Ye, et al., (2011) discovered however, that online reviews which occurred as a result of eWOM had a significant impact and influence on tourists decisions.
However, in recent years this has proved to be damaging on the reputation of budget hotels as well and tourist expectations of their services. Therefore, online reviews can distort the view which guests possibly have of budget hotels negatively (Pantano & Di Pietro, 2013). It is also important to stress that a majority of the population now engage in some of form of activity online, with millennials or young people being dominant in the use of social media (Dunne, et al., 2010). As a result of this, millennials are also accessing online travel sharing sites more than ever, which suggests that these are a potential market that budget hotels need to cater and look for (Bernardi, 2018; Ghoat & Coldwell, 2017). In the case of Premier Inn, they have been recognised as one of the top hotels which provide some of the best services in terms of facilities and customer service (Kollewe, 2017), and as a result, are able to maintain a relatively stable level of customer satisfaction. Therefore, Ye, et al’s., (2011) study could be correct to the extent that eWOM does have an impact on tourist purchasing decisions because negative reviews deter guests away from using a particular tourist service, and positive reviews, as displayed in the rating of Premier Inn, suggest a steady growth and interest from tourists who want to consume their services. However, it is relevant to mention that customer perceptions, expectations and experiences may vary depending on the location of the hotel.
Looking at customer profiles of budget hotels may also need to be addressed, as the aim looks into studying how young tourists perceive and experience budget hotels as well. Young tourists are set to drive the tourism and hospitality industry forward due to their growing interest in this industry (Monaco, 2018). Travel has also increased amongst this group, which suggests that they will also be high consumers of accommodation in the hospitality industry (Benckendorff, et al., 2010). Younger tourists are often viewed with the perception of having lower income, due to not being established in a stable career and often studying, but still inhibiting the desire to seek out new places and experiences (Cavagnaro & Staffieri, 2015). Due to this developing market of tourists, it is important to address their needs so that they can afford to travel knowing that there are cheaper alternatives of hotels that they can stay in. In line with this, it can be understood that budget hotels also target this market of younger tourists. This is because of their economy pricing strategy which they use, that provides relatively cheap rates for the student or youngster looking for a good deal.
As a result of this, and due to the increased use of online sharing and communities, Premier Inn has also embraced this and is now visible on some popular social media sites. Premier Inn can now be found on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, carrying on their popular campaign “a great place to start” with a Bridesmaid’s TV tale, which involves the small story of a bridesmaid and groomsmen getting ready for a friend’s wedding day (Premier Inn, 2018; Instagram, 2018; Facebook, 2018). In this, Premier Inn advertises their many hotel features such as their vanity mirrors, unlimited Wi-Fi and unlimited breakfast as a way to encourage people to stay with them and get prepared for celebrations. This plays an important role in the minds of young tourists because they can easily access content such as this on their social media pages, where Premier Inn often advertises, and even if they are not staying with the hotel for a particular celebration or an event, they can still consume their services of unlimited Wi-Fi and breakfast regardless (Premier Inn, 2018). In addition to this, Premier Inn make it clear from their campaign that they do not offer elite or high luxury services which may be found in upscale hotels, as they advertise just the basic features of their services. This is also important because it helps the guest who is planning to stay with them to be informed about what kind of level of services they will be consuming if they decide to stay with Premier Inn. Therefore, the content which Premier Inn put out on social media also contribute to the perceptions that potential customers have of them however, it is also important that the expectations which are stimulated as a result of social media campaigns are also met.
Customer expectations are closely interrelated with customer satisfaction (Hubbert, et al., 1995). As a result of this, when tourists read good reviews of Premier Inn for instance in a certain location, they may expect to receive the same service if not better at all their hotel locations. However, this is not always the case as Tripadvisor (2018) suggests that the Premier Inn hotel in Torquay has an overall rating of 4, slightly lower than that of their London Euston Hotel. Hill & Alexander (2006) posits that customer satisfaction is achieved when customer expectations are met or exceeded. Further to this, Yuksel & Yuksel (2001) defined that there were two sides of customer satisfaction, one that includes the outcome of the process and the other which focuses on the whole process and not just the end state. Further to this, Pizam & Ellis (1999) stipulated that when assessing customer satisfaction, the customer undergoes a cognitive evaluation of the hotels attributes and services. In line with this, it has been found that customers are often disappointed with hotel services because they compare services of a budget hotel to that of a luxury hotel (Brotherton, 2012). Before budget hotels existed, there were more upscale and elite hotels which would predominantly cater to the wealthy (Mason, 2016). The typical tourist at the time was also seen as someone who was rich and came from a highly educated background (Mason, 2016). As a result of this, the perception that hotels provide luxury services was developed. This could potentially be an issue as it causes people to generalise the idea that customer service levels, including the facilities they offer will be similar across all hotels (Jasinskas, et al., 2016).
In the case of Premier Inn, if tourists were to assess their satisfaction based on just the end outcome, as stipulated by Yuksel & Yuksel (2000) then this would include a judgement of whether the room they paid for met their expectations, as mentioned earlier that the core product of Premier Inn is their rooms. On the other hand, if the second part of their definition is taken into account of the whole experience, then this would include guests basing their judgement of Premier Inn on all aspects of the service. This may involve the whole booking process depending on whether the customer booked online or over the telephone for instance, customer service, such as the extent to which staff were friendly, engaging and helpful to the smaller details in their room such as cleanliness, ease of finding everything, parking and so on. Customer satisfaction also impacts the way tourists and guest’s rate and review them (Li, et al., 2013). Therefore, it can be understood that Premier Inn ratings on Tripadvisor for instance, also reflect the level of which customers were satisfied with their services, leading them to make a decision on how well they rated them.
Customer satisfaction then leads into customer experiences which are another feature included in the aim (Amin, et al., 2013). Premier Inn can be considered as selling an experience when they launch their many different campaigns. For example, their latest launch includes the story of a bridesmaid and a groomsman and as a result, they are selling the idea that Premier Inn can help facilitate their celebrations by making it a memorable day. Sotiriadis (2017) states that selling experiences through social media has now become common and allows the company to spark a discussion between customers online, which they have constructed through their campaign launches. Although reviews and ratings create customer perceptions about Premier Inn, it can also be assumed that perceptions are developed before a customer has even consumed any of Premier Inn’s services through campaign launches as well (Leung, et al., 2013). Moreover, the SERVQUAL model is considered as an important tool that can help capture customer expectations and perceptions, but also help provide an indication of customer experiences as well (Parasuraman, et al., 1988). This is because every aspect of the SERVQUAL model, which includes, reliability, assurance, tangibles, empathy and responsiveness as measures, are all a part of the customer experience which guests have with Premier Inn (Oh & Pizam, 2008).
Applying this model to Premier Inn, the first measurement of reliability refers to how well they deliver the promise of their service. Premier Inn’s good night guarantee promise falls into this category of reliability, and guests will measure their experience against this criteria of whether they have successfully met their promise (Premier Inn, 2018). This may involve ensuring that they have the best mattresses which provide guests with the upmost comfort for example. The measurement of assurance of Premier Inn would take on the form of how well employees are knowledgeable about their services, so as to instil a certain amount of confidence in their guests by indicating to them that they are doing their job correctly (Saleh & Ryan, 1991). Tangibles involve the level of facilities which are available at Premier Inn and if they are modern and up to date (Kaynak & Herbig, 1998). Although Premier Inn provides basic facilities, they have a good level of quality for the price which people pay. For instance, they take pride in their ‘Hypnos’ mattresses, provide a choice of soft or firm pillows, the option of a shower or bath in rooms, which are all fitted with Freeview TV that come with 80 channels as well (Premier Inn, 2018). In this sense, it can also be understood that their level of facilities coincide with their reliability and promise of a good night’s sleep.
The last two measurements of the model, empathy and responsiveness take on the form of caring, being attentive and going out of the way to help the customer (Kaynak & Herbig, 1998). Premier Inn can be seen taking an approach to customer care by providing guests with free parking at their sites. Another way in which customer care translates is by offering guests free unlimited Wi-Fi. Premier Inn also has have a dedicated complaints section on their website, which requires a guest to fill out of a form outlining the details of their complaint so that they can be more attentive to their issues and solve it with closer focus on what the problem was, so that they can change it from a negative experience, into a better experience (Premier Inn, 2018). Further to this model of SERVQUAL, Smith & Wheeler (2002) emphasise that in the hospitality industry, experience is often defined from a subjective perspective. This means that guests are more likely to conclude on an experience depending on how they felt about it on emotional level. Therefore, SERVQUAL proves to be a beneficial model for the purposes of assessing Premier Inn from a consumer perspective because it covers aspects that engage guests to evaluate from a subjective point of view as well.
The aim of this dissertation was to study “Managing tourist expectations of budget hotels – A case study of Premier Inn”. Three areas of managing tourist expectations have been investigated, namely, customer perceptions, customer satisfaction and customer experiences. In this, a number of factors were identified that influenced the level of perception, satisfaction and experiences which customers felt. This was seen in the form of price, location, social media and advertisements, online reviews and eWOM. It was emphasised that budget hotels are significantly characterised by their low rates, including Premier Inn, and as a result of this it was found that they offer two popular deals in the form of their ‘saver’ and ‘flex’ rate for their customers. This had a fundamental role to play in the expectations of people because firstly, budget hotels are supposed to be cheaper than a luxury hotel, hence why they market themselves as budget hotels and secondly, price was also highlighted as a determining factor in who and where tourists decided to stay. It was also found that tourists conform to the characteristics of a budget hotel, as a tourist’s average vacation or stay lasts between 2-7 days, with Premier Inn also advertising themselves as a short stay hotel. It was further discussed that tourists often found themselves comparing or evaluating hotel services from a luxury point of view, even though they were paying cheaper for a budget hotel. Further to this, the 4 P’s demonstrated how Premier Inn fall into these four categories that help distinguish themselves as a top budget hotel and illustrate how they are gaining a competitive advantage with their services.
It then went onto evaluate how online reviews have an impact on tourist perceptions. It was emphasised that the online travel sharing community has become popular and grown in presence over the years. This is as a result of the internet, and Tripadvisor and Expedia were identified as two key travel review sites that people use to post reviews on. In this, it was found that Premier Inn has multiple reviews and that they varied according to which city their hotel was based in. What this suggests is that guests staying in Premier Inn hotels do not experience the same level of service everywhere; therefore, reviews of their hotels may be a bit misleading, especially because they are based on personal judgements. However, Premier Inn still scored relatively well for a budget hotel with ratings of 4 and 4.5 for some of their hotels, with a scoring of 5 being viewed as the highest rank a service can get on Tripadvisor.
It was also found that the millennials and young tourists had a role to play in online reviews and the emergence of eWOM amongst the online community. It was identified that these types of tourists were a new market which the budget hotel industry could capitalise on because they are often students with a relatively low income. Another reason could be that they are one of the highest users of social media, therefore it can be expected that an adequate amount of responses on travel sites actually come from them. This was interlinked with their marketing campaigns, where it was found that Premier Inn are present on popular social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook. With this, Premier Inn have been able to successfully launch a new advertisement for their “great place to start” campaign by publishing it on all their social media platforms, which is definitely going to gauge the attention of these young travellers. Therefore, young traveller’s perceptions of budget hotels matter, as these will be the next generation of tourists who will drive the tourism and hospitality industry forward.
Customer satisfaction was the next aspect which was covered in relation to budget hotels and Premier Inn. It was identified that customer satisfaction was either the final outcome or end state of a service, or the inclusion of the whole process. In this, two examples were given stating that if customers based their satisfaction on the end outcome, then this may involve how they felt in regards to the room and whether they managed to sleep as well as Premier Inn’s guarantee. If the whole process was taken into consideration, then this would accumulate to an experience, as it involves taking into account every detail of their stay, from cleanliness, to car parking facilities, customer service, checking in and more. Therefore, customer satisfaction and customer experiences were closely interlinked with one another, because if Premier Inn is able to deliver a good level of service that customers are satisfied with, then it could be understood that their overall experience was also to a high standard. In this, the notion of selling experiences by Premier Inn was also briefly discussed in the form of their campaigns. Carrying out the theme of celebrations and depicting the image of a wedding, Premier Inn showcased that guests can stay with them during celebrations and they can help facilitate them to have a memorable experience.
In line with providing a good experience, Premier Inn’s service quality was also assessed to demonstrate how their features and facilities meet their guarantee of a good night’s sleep. The SERVQUAL model was used to illustrate how the five measurements of assurance, reliability, tangibles, empathy and responsiveness applied to the services of Premier Inn. Certain aspects were highlighted that suggested that although Premier Inn provide fewer luxuries than that of a more up-scale hotel, they still invested in up to date and modern facilities for the comfort of their guests. This was seen in their ‘Hypnos’ mattresses so that they could meet their promise of a guaranteed good night’s sleep. Other things were also identified in the offering of free parking and Wi-Fi to guests as a way to show that they care about their guests needs.
The factors highlighted in the conclusion suggest that Premier Inn guests expectations of their hotel maybe amplified as a result of social media use and online travel communities, their advertisements and campaign launches, their company motto and the promise of guaranteeing a good night’s sleep, all of which result in the overall perception and level of experience felt by the customer. The way in which Premier Inn manage their tourists perceptions is by ensuring that they are providing the best level of service that they can, so that they can gain good reviews online, marketing is also visible in their efforts of maintaining a good image and a good degree of perception amongst tourists and guests. Apart from this, Premier Inn has changed the perception that tourists may have had about budget hotels in general, as there is a clear indication that they have made investments for the comfort of their guests, suggesting that their updates in modern facilities at a cheap price could transform the budget hotel industry in the future.
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