Comparing Satisfaction Levels of Asian and Western Travellers Using Malaysian Hotels

Article excerpt

This research pa per looks into the factors that account for the differences between the Asian and western travellers when it comes to satisfaction with their stay in Malaysian hotels. The paper goes on to review the literature on the concept of customer satisfaction as its relationship with hotel service attributes. Customer satisfaction and its relation to service quality, search and experience qualities and the disconfirmation paradigm, which includes expectation and performance concepts, are rigorously reviewed. The review analyses the importance of the tangible and intangible in the overall service encounter. A questionnaire with a 5-point Likert scale was applied to measure the differences between their perceptions of hotel attributes and customer satisfaction. Data were analysed using factor analysis, multiple regressions and the independent sample t test. Results indicated that differences between Asian and western evaluations of hotel quality did exist. The limitations of this research were discussed and suggestions for future research were also put forward.

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Walker (1996) defined tourism as a dynamic, evolving, customer-driven force. It is a science and a business, attracting and transporting visitors, accommodating them, and graciously catering to their needs and wants. In another perspective, Kandampully (2000) defined tourism as a unique product in that it is composite in nature, an amalgam of the tangible and intangible that includes everything those tourists experience. Tourism is no longer considered a luxury confined to economically developed countries. It has become an integral component of lifestyle, and it has become a major component of the economy of almost all countries.

The Tourism and Hotel Industry in Malaysia

Overall, the tourism industry in Malaysia showed an upward trend until the onset of financial crisis in 1997. The Tourism Development Corporation (TDC) was established in 1972 to further expand tourism through its marketing program and publicity campaigns both locally and abroad. The TDC was later replaced by the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board with the main objective to stimulate and entice the number of tourist arrivals into the country.

By 1990, with the launching of the first Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) campaign, the tourism industry had become the third major foreign exchange earner. Unfortunately, there was a downturn in worldwide travel in 1991 following the Gulf War. Thus, the number of tourist arrivals decreased moderately. The second VMY campaign was launched in 1994. Despite an increase in tourist arrivals by 10.7% in 1994, the growth rate remained far behind the first campaign. In 1995, tourism receipts amounting to Ringgit Malaysia (RM) 9.2 billion surpassed the target of RM8.36 billion for the year 2000 in the National Tourism Plan. To spur the growth in the tourism industry, investment approved for hotel and tourism-related projects has increased more than threefold from RM8.801 billion during the Sixth Malaysian Plan period to RM18.2 billion during the Seventh Malaysia Plan period (Economic Planning Unit, 2001). The proliferate growth of the tourism industry led to the growth of other related activities via industry linkages.

Research Problem

The purpose of this study is to identify the needs of Asian and western travellers based on their levels of satisfaction in hotel stays in Malaysia. The cultures of Asian travellers are different from their western counterparts. Understanding the differences between Asian and western travellers, in terms of their evaluation of Malaysia's hotel services and facilities is tactically important for hotel operators.

Specifically, the study aims to address the following objectives:

* to develop the underlying profile of hotel attributes that are important to tourists visiting Malaysia

* to examine the relative impact of the different hotel attributes in influencing the satisfaction levels of both Asian and western travellers

* to identify the similarities and the differences in Asian and western travellers' levels of satisfaction with hotel attributes. …