The Provision of Hotel Services to International Tourists: An Investigation of Japanese Tourists Visiting London Hotels

Article excerpt

It is being increasingly recognised that hotels should assess whether or not services aimed at particular customer categories meet the needs of these customers. This paper focuses on the importance of hotels having a cultural awareness in accommodating international customers and upon the methods of accommodating these customers. It reports upon empirical research undertaken to explore the provision of hotel services to Japanese tourists visiting London, Such tourists are a profitable market for London hotels, However, little research has been done into this market category. This research examines the services that London hotels offer to Japanese tourists and the services that Japanese tourists expect from London hotels. The gap between service provision and service expectations is also compared. A survey was conducted of 17 London hotels and 96 Japanese tourists, The results show that culture-specific and customised services are not fully implemented in London hotels and a gap is found between London hotels' service provision and Japanese tourists' service expectations. The English language is found to be a constraint for Japanese tourists and it is recommended that London hotels provide Japanese language-related services to fill the gap and offer more value-added services.

As part of a wider study, this paper reports upon research that has been undertaken to explore the provision of hotel services to Japanese tourists visiting London. The significance of hotels meeting the requirements of the Japanese market effectively has been recognised at Government level: "... my advice to those at home if they want to target Japan is that professionalism is crucial, high standards are extremely important and they should recognise the potential of the Japanese market" (Virginia Bottomley, National Heritage Secretary, 1996).

Japanese tourists form an important market for London hotels not only because of their numbers but also because they are known as one of the highest spending groups in the UK (British Tourist Authority, 2001), However, it is a challenge for London hotels to attract and satisfy Japanese tourists, since they are

Tomoko Osawa Novotel Sheffield, United Kingdom

Stephen Ball The Centre for International Hospitality Management Sheffield Hallam University, United Kingdom often described as very different from tourists of other countries (Pizam & Sussmann, 1995). From this a research question arose: "Do services in London hotels meet the needs of Japanese tourists?"

This paper deliberately concentrates upon providing details of the research method and some of the research findings. A full review of the underpinning literature, more findings and a detailed discussion of the results and resulting conclusions can be found in (Osawa, 2002).

Japanese Outbound Tourism Trends

Since the removal of overseas travel restrictions in 1964, the number of Japanese overseas tourists has grown steadily, except in 1991 when the Gulf War occurred. This growth has partly been due to the government incentive Ten Million Program started in 1965, and partly due to Japan's strong and stable economy and good exchange rates in the early 1990s. As a result, the number of Japanese overseas tourists grew from 128,000 in 1964 to 17.8 million in 2000 (Ministry of Justice, 2001.) Spending 31.5 billion dollars in 2000, Japan is currently the fourth most important generator of tourism receipts on international travel in the world, accounting for 6.6% of the market share (World Tourism Organisation, 2001). Distinctive patterns in Japanese overseas tourism have emerged. These include the following:

* The number of leisure travellers has increased steadily to around 85% of the total in 2000 (British Tourist Authority, 2001). According to Gilbert and Terrata (2001), this increase reflects the Japanese people's growing interest in leisure activities. Also, Japan's ageing demographic makes a contribution, since changing lifestyles have increased the amount of free time for travel. …