Marketing the Irish hotel industry in an economic downturn: an exploration into the rejuvenation of the Sligo hotel industry through customer innovation
The purpose o f this research study was to ascertain innovative ideas from a sample o f hotel customers’ from four participant hotels in Sligo in order to enhance hotel service offerings. The researcher conducted a comprehensive exploration on the previous literature regarding the topic. The literature revealed that given the ever changing nature o f the hotel industry, and the needs, and desires o f hotel guests hotel operators must increase the value o f their offerings to prosper (Victorino et al., 2005, p. 556; Fitzsimmons and Fitzsimmons, 2001; Olsen and Connolly, 2000). The researcher noted that while there were some studies to advocate the importance o f customer innovation in the hotel industry such as Johns and Mattsson (2003); Preissl (2000); Jones (1996), they were limited and only a minute number directly related to the Irish hotel industry (Ottenbacher and Gnoth, 2005). Given the knowledge and through witnessing the current difficulties that the Irish hotel industry is experiencing the following research question was formed. ‘What innovations can be ascertained from hotel customers to rejuvenate the Sligo hotel industry?’ In order to achieve the overall purpose o f the study three key research aims were formed which guided the study; to examine the innovations the participant hotels in Sligo are currently implementing; to assert the perceived importance the participant hotel managers place on customer innovation; and to ascertain the innovations customers wish to see implemented in hotels in order to enhance the service offerings. The research took the form o f an explorative study. Both qualitative and quantitative research tools were used to achieve the aims o f the dissertation study. The research methodology took two primary forms; firstly, the development o f an extensive review o f existing literature was represented in the literature review; and secondly, the research methodology, guided by the findings o f the review o f secondary literature, was carried out through the collection and analysis o f primary data, and the interpretation and dissemination o f the research findings. The collection o f primary data was carried out using two methodological tools Firstly customer questionnaires containing both qualitative and quantitative questions were distributed to forty customers from each o f the four participant Sligo hotels. This culminated in a total participant sample o f one hundred and sixty; and secondly, four semi-structured interviews were conducted with the managers from each o f the participant hotels. The findings o f the study reveal that the perceptions o f the participant hotel managers and customers differ quite strongly, despite the managers’ proclamations o f their firm commitment to innovation 33% o f respondents see no current innovations in the participant Sligo hotels. The future innovations which respondents wish to see implemented are; send e-mails regarding special offers such as complementary meals; discounts on multiple night stays; family discounts; group discounts; and complementary offerings; improvements made to in-room facilities, particularly the availability o f Wi-Fi internet access; the introduction o f a loyalty card system, rewarding guests for frequent stays; and finally improving leisure facilities. In summary, these results provide important insights for hotel managers, and indeed managers in general who are involved in innovation activities. Furthermore they contribute academically by providing conceptual based new knowledge about hotel customers’ perceptions and desires. However, due to a number o f limitations, principally concerning time and resources, while the study identifies the innovative preferences o f participant Sligo hotel guests and contributing factors in developing innovation activity, the make-up o f the identified essential factors and their contributions and interrelationships are worthy o f further consideration and debate.
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