中文摘要 / Summary in Chinese
As access to smartphones increases around the world, more people are using them to go online for purchasing travel-related services. This trend has brought with it a wealth of business opportunities for many industries, including tourism, among which the opening of new channels for hotels to connect with their clients. A study by a scholar from IFTM says that hotels can use their official websites as “a powerful and effective marketing tool for fruitful and long-lasting customer relationship management.”
The study involved IFTM Assistant Professor Dr. Simon Lei, who worked in partnership with Professor Rob Law from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. They conducted an evaluation of the mobile version of the official websites of a total of 121 hotels in Hong Kong.
The researchers used a number of criteria to test website functionality performance, based on the outcome of 3 rounds of focus-group discussions drawing experts from this field. The set of criteria they developed covered a total of 37 attributes, each with an assigned weighting.
With this instrument, the researchers evaluated the existence on the mobile version website sample, of details on available hotel facilities, reservations, promotions, and contacts. The study also looked into matters such as the availability of useful information for travellers — including weather conditions, public transportation, and the existence of hotel shuttle services — and the number of language options offered by each website.
The research, titled “Functionality evaluation of mobile hotel websites in the m-commerce era”, was published last year in the Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing.
Info on promotions found ‘crucial’ for users
The study showed that participants in the focus-group discussions highlighted as “crucial” the availability of information on promotions on the mobile-device version of a hotel’s official website. “[Potential customers] were particularly interested in seeing seasonal discounts, long-stay packages and [loyalty programme] membership rewards,” the researchers wrote.
Drs Lei and Law noted that, at the time of their study, official hotel websites faced “strong competition” from hotel price aggregator websites. The latter allow users to quickly find the lowest price for the same type of hotel room across various accommodation choices in a particular location.
In the absence of information on promotions, “hotels’ official mobile websites may lose much value,” the researchers stated, citing the results of the focus-group discussions. Under such circumstances, “third-party booking sites (e.g. agoda.com) will be sufficient for the travel needs of the participants,” they added.
The focus group stage also pointed to the importance given by consumers to certain particular functions of hotel mobile websites. These included the availability of a ‘live-chat’ option to allow website users to interact with hotel staff. “Live-chat capabilities… can help boost customers’ confidence,” stated the researchers. “This way, travellers are assured that they will receive responses on time.”
The researchers said that hotel-managed websites acted as an official channel between the consumer and the hotel firm. The degree of “preparedness” by the hotel in terms of such web content — and “completeness” in terms of the information — could “help improve customer satisfaction and mitigate purchase risk,” Drs Lei and Law stated.
Their evaluation of mobile-device versions of hotel websites showed that the functionality performance of such websites was positively correlated with hotel star ratings*: hotels with a higher rating — for instance, 5 stars — were more likely to have a higher score regarding the functionality performance of the mobile-device version of their website, than hotels with a lower star rating. “Luxury hotels arguably have more financial and human resources for the continuous development and maintenance of company-owned websites than other hotels,” suggested the researchers.
The mobile website evaluation findings however also showed that hotels under the same brand did not necessarily obtain similar functionality scores. Drs Lei and Law stated this seemed to be linked to the degree of corporate-level standardisation. Some brands within a hotel group used similar website templates and booking engines across their properties; other brands had a slightly different approach, allowing more flexibility for each individual member hotel to present and highlight their unique features in their respective mobile-friendly websites.
* Hong Kong does not have an official star-rating system for hotels. An unofficial hotel star-rating mechanism, however, has been adopted for this study.
Professor Rob Law has worked in Canada and Hong Kong in the industrial and academic sectors. He joined the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 1995: he is currently a Professor at the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at that university. He holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Regina, in Saskatchewan, Canada. Professor Law has received many research-related awards and honours, as well as several external and internal research grants.
Simon Lei and Rob Law: “Functionality evaluation of mobile hotel websites in the m-commerce era”, Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, Volume 36, Issue 6, pages 665-678, 2019.