A new study by Flemming Sørensen and Jens Friis Jensen from Centre for Experience and Tourism Research shows how the usual tourism service encounters are limited in terms of value creation and knowledge development.
The argument revolves around the standardised and rigid oneway service deliveries, that dominate hotels, attractions and restaurants. They are not experience oriented. This is a paradox because the tourism sector is an experience intensive sector in which customers seek out and pay for the experiences above everything else. The study suggests that changing the character of tourist-employee encounters from service to 'experience encounters', the value of these encounters will rise.
The Case Study: Retro Design Boutique Hotel
In a case study hotel employees were suggested to sustain more customised and engaged encounters that could situate and integrate the encounters in the experiential setting. This included the following specific routines.
To facilitate conversations about the hotel and its decor and about the guests’ specific needs and (latent) desires, rooms should no longer be allocated to guests before their arrival.
This would result in conversations about room allocation with guests on their arrival. In these conversations front-line employees were encouraged to use their knowledge about the hotel and its furniture in order to integrate the hotel experience better with the encounters.
Additionally, front-line employees were encouraged to use their own (and appropriate) personal knowledge and experience in conversations with guests (e.g. about art museums or ‘off the beaten track’ restaurants or exhibitions).
The front-line employees were also encouraged to use different simple phrases to facilitate conversations, such as simply asking guests about their reasons for visiting the city.
Information about guests derived from the above mentioned practices was to be noted in the hotel reservation system, so that this information could be transferred to other employees dealing with the guests, and to the management.
The Findings: Flexible tourist encounters can make a big difference
Employees must ‘open up’ tourists encounters. They should be interested in their reasons for visiting both the company and destination. In other words, they must find out which experience the tourist is seeking, their so called experiential desires. Simple knowledge sharing procedures, such as writing knowledge about guests in reservation systems, can help other employees sustain the co-creation process, and it can accumulate knowledge within the company that can be used for innovation.
The study shows that there may indeed be a potential for experience encounter-based knowledge development and value creation that is waiting to be exploited in many tourism firms. However, being based on a single experiment in one hotel, the findings are indicative rather than conclusive. Thus, more research-based knowledge about the potential for knowledge and value creation in experience encounters in different types of tourism companies is needed.
Reference: Sørensen, F., & Jensen, J. F. (2015). Value creation and knowledge development in tourism experience encounters. Tourism Management, 46, 336–346. doi:10.1016/j.tourman.2014.07.009