The objective of embracing internal marketing practices by hotels is mainly to meet the desires and needs of the hotel guests; in this case, the elderly tourists. This research intends to find out some of the customer-specific internal marketing activities that hotels carry out to improve service provision to elderly patrons. The elderly tourist in this research is identified as men and women aged above 65 years who tour different tourism destinations for leisure. This research seeks to find out the extent to which hotels go to hire staff, train them and motivate them towards adopting practices that meet the needs of the elderly tourist.
Internal marketing practice is the philosophy of managing the human resources in an organization while laying a strong emphasis on how the marketing of products and services will affect the organization (Paraskevas, 2001). In hotels, internal marketing practices are seen as a prerequisite for success in external marketing activities (Groonroos, 2001; Parasuranan, 1987). Some of the activities that are considered as part of the internal marketing process include: disseminating marketing information to the employees of a hotel; implementing a recognition and reward system to motivate employees to give the clientele the best services possible; implementing a marketing approach in HR management as well as establishing a service culture among the employees (Jones, 1986; Kotler et al., 2003). The objective of embracing internal marketing practices by hotels is mainly to meet the desires and needs of the hotel guests; in this case, the elderly tourists. This research intends to find out some of the customer-specific internal marketing activities that hotels carry out to improve service provision to elderly patrons. The elderly tourist in this research is identified as men and women aged above 65 years who tour different tourism destinations for leisure. As such, they expect the service provision provided in the hotels (accommodation, food, and beverages) to meet their specific needs and satisfaction levels (Gronroos, 2001). More to this, the elderly tourists have specific activities that they would enjoy most irrespective of their age. It is thus the responsibility of the hotel’s human resources department to hire, train and retain staff that will be able to meet the internal marketing objectives of a hotel by providing the elderly clientele with services and activities that not only meet their needs but also satisfies their leisure activities.
This research seeks to find out the extent to which hotels go to hire staff, train them and motivate them towards adopting practices that meet the needs of the elderly tourist. The survey is done specifically to ascertain if the hotel owners lay much importance to the elderly clientele despite it signifying a small percentage of the age population that benefits the tourism and hospitality industry.
In research conducted by Wilhite et al. (1988), it was found that elderly travelers differ from other segments of the traveling population. As such, the research suggested that the desired approach of service provision for hotels should be designed to meet the individual interests and needs of the elderly hotel patrons. The research however notes that marketers should avoid stressing “the differentness” very much during their marketing campaigns because such attempts would make the elderly feel that they are being treated differently because of their age. According to Wilhite et al., (1988), marketing hotel products to the elderly market should follow the traditional marketing mix. This means that the product, place, and price must appeal to the elderly market. In addition, hotel marketers should use the right promotion means to get as many clients as possible. The marketing mix must however be designed towards meeting the interest and accommodation needs of the elderly population. Apart from accommodation, the marketing of hotel services to the elderly must be concentrated on meaningful and appropriate travel experiences to the target market. Wilhite et al. (1988) further note that tourism hotel marketing efforts targeting the elderly must be respectful. Further, they should stress the dignity of the elderly to appeal to them.
A study on mature tourism in Europe conducted by Avcikurt (2007) came up with several recommendations on how to market tourism services to the mature and elderly market. In what the researcher called practical solutions for the tourism industry, Avcikurt (2007) states that the tourism industry should perceive the elderly as a heterogeneous group, which can be sub-divided into various distinct segments. This means that the mature age market needed to be segmented to meet the diverse needs presented in the elderly market. Although Avcikurt defines the mature age market as people aged 65 years and older, he still argues that the market can be segmented along age groups, income groups, attitudes, gender, lifestyles and values that the different older people have.
Avcikurt (2007) further states that developing marketing strategies for the elderly market should include activities that offer a cultural or cultural theme to the tourists. More so, the activities should not only be entertaining, but should also have a learning component thus allowing the elderly people a chance to know new things.
The perfect media to use when promoting tourism packages to the elderly market are television and newspapers. According to Avcikurt (2007), the elderly exhibited above average levels of television viewership and newspaper readership. Marketing tourism services through travel clubs or associations that seniors subscribe to was also identified as a viable internal marketing strategy by marketers. This is especially so because seniors have some kind of allegiance to the senior travel clubs.
Marketers can also succeed in their marketing campaigns to the elderly market by promoting tourism packages that include events and festivals that would appeal to the seniors. As Avcikurt (2007) notes, the elderly tourists are more likely to spend more time travelling because besides having a lot of free time as retirees, they have fewer money commitments when compared to the 30-60 years tourists. Notably, festivals and events of interest to the seniors provide them with new opportunities to socialize and meet new people.
Internal marketing strategies identified in the study conducted by Avcikurt (2007) also consider issues that are important to the elderly market. Such include friendly hotel staffs, sufficient security in the hotels, cleanliness, easy access to the various part of the hotel, help with the luggage. In addition, the hotels should be well maintained in order to offer seniors the comfort and luxury that would most appeal to them.
Loyalty schemes for seniors in hotels has been identified as one of the strategies that hotels can use in order to keep the elderly clientele coming back on return visits (Lewis, 1989). However, Arnett Et al. (2002) notes that how clients react to the offers provided in a hotel depends much on the service provision therein, which in turn depends on the internal marketing processes that hotels initiate in their respective work environments. The better trained, motivated and appreciated employee will be more satisfied by their work and is therefore more likely to provide better services to the clients.
Ylanne-McEwen (2000) observes that the UK market has an emerging leisure market especially after the retirement age was lowered to 55 years. This is mainly because leisure tends to replace the amount of time previously spent at work. Notably however, the research observes that at 55 years, most retirees in Britain feel they are not old enough to fit into the “aged” tourist’s category. As such, the research pays specific attention to ageism and anti-ageism in marketing tourism packages to the elderly.
Notably, the most successful tourism campaigns as noted by Ylanne-McEwen (2000) were those that promised more satisfaction to the elderly. More so, studies conducted by Kelly (1990, cited by Ylanne-McEwen, 2000) suggest that marketing strategies that offered to assure the retirees successful aging and easy adjustment to their new lifestyle seemed to be more successful. The activities that were found to have positive effect on successful aging, adjustments and life satisfaction were social activities and physical activities. Ylanne-McEwen (2000), notes that such activities are not only satisfying to the retirees, but are also important for their psychological and physical well-being. This is especially so because the early retirement gives the retirees an average of 20 years to look forward to.
This research seeks to answer the following questions:
- Do hotels and other players in the hospitality industry adopt internal marketing practices specifically with the aim of serving the elderly tourists well?
- Do the elderly tourists represent a large enough percentage of visitors to warrant special attention from the hotels?
All the hypotheses for the research question are on the affirmative side. The hypotheses for this study are:
- H1: Hotels take considerable effort to hire, train and retain staff who can serve the elderly tourist market well.
- H2: Though not as large as the 30-55 age groups, the elderly population still represent a big enough percentage of tourists and thus attracts special attention from the hotel management.
This study was carried out for exploratory, explanatory and descriptive purposes. Yin (1994) suggests that exploratory studies should be carried out when the research problem does not fall in specific definitions. As such, the researcher should be ready to gain insight, gather explanations, eliminate impractical ideas and form hypotheses for the study. A review of literature can also be used when conducting an exploratory research, as well as surveys, case studies and focus groups. A descriptive research defines the questions to be used in a survey, describes the survey sample and the analysis method prior to commencing data collection (Erickson & Weidersheim-Paul, 1997; Su et al., 2006). Such is viable when the research problem is well structured and the researcher’s intention is to investigate the effects or cause relations. The explanatory research on the other hand is used for purposes of identifying the relationships between cause and effect of variables. This form of research explains the effects observed in explanatory researches (Erickson & Wieldersheim-Paul, 1997).
The research methodology adopted for this study seeks to optimally answer the research questions. The methodology further seeks to support or discredit the arguments presented in the hypothesis section. Yin (1994) argues that a researcher can use different research strategies to conduct a survey. However, he /she should be guided by the experiment to be conducted, the archival analysis, the history of the research subject and the survey.
The intention of this study is to analyze the role of internal marketing practices and how it affects elderly tourism on an international level. This study also seeks to find if the hotel owners value the contribution that the elderly make to the hotel industry. The study will measure this by evaluating the internal marketing practices that such hotels have adopted for purposes of ensuring that the elderly tourists are well catered for. In addition, the availability of elderly-related leisure activities will also be used as a measure of how ready a hotel is to receive, accommodate and entertain the elderly guests.
The study was based on a questionnaire whereby, the management of 10 [three, four and five-star rated] hotels in New York City were requested to fill in the questionnaires regarding the internal marketing practices they undertake in order to make their staff more conscious about serving, relating and marketing the hotel services to the elderly. The 10 hotels were also provided with 10 questionnaires for top elderly clientele. The answers provided by the elderly tourists regarding services and activities in the hotels were then used to gauge the success of the respective internal marketing activities adopted by the hotels. Initially, this study hoped to base its findings and analysis on 10 hotel questionnaires and 100 questionnaires administered to the elderly clientele. Unfortunately, one of the hotels did not participate, meaning that the 10 questionnaires meant for its clients could not be administered to the elderly clientele. Of the 9 hotels that participated, none of them registered a 100 percent return of the elderly-client questionnaire. The average return rate was 8 questionnaires, meaning that the research ended up with 72 elderly based questionnaires.
The choice of hotels was made because most such hotels serve international tourists and hence are most likely to provide this research with the appropriate data. More to this, it was observed that since elderly tourists are more likely to stay for longer on holiday, their choice of hotels was more likely to be in 3,4 or 5 star-rated hotels mainly because such promised to give them the comfort and services they would need during the long-vacations.
The internal marketing practices were rated on the perception that they were likely to award the elderly clients with the comfort of the rooms, location, cleanliness, service provision, elderly-sensitive activities and sleep quality.
Validity & Reliability
Yin (1994) defines validity as the exact measurement of what the researcher intended to measure. Reliability on the other hand is defined as the creditworthiness of the research and the sources of data. As such, both reliability and validity affect the credibility and trustworthiness of the research. To increase the validity of this study, the researcher sent questionnaire to carefully selected hotels. The researcher had made contact to the hotels well in advance in order to confirm their willingness to participate in the survey. By doing this, the researcher gave the participating hotels enough time to prepare and answer the different questionnaires accordingly.
Result & Discussion
Internal marketing initiatives
Of all the 9 respondent hotels, all said they recognized that focusing on employee management is the best way of attaining internal marketing strategies for the elderly. All respondent hotels replied to the affirmative on the question that sought to establish whether they believed motivating their employees played a vital role in how the employees would later relate to elderly clients.
7 out of the 9 respondents stated that they encouraged their employees to express their feelings, concerns and issues noted when providing service to the elderly clientele. Notably, the hotels that encouraged the employees to voice their concerns, issues or feelings also sought opinions from the staff on the best way to handle issues that arose when staff was handling the elderly tourists.
The survey revealed that hotels that used internal marketing strategies did so in the hope that motivating and appreciating the staff would lead to better service provision by the same staff members to the elderly tourists. Notably, all the hotels which professed to having adopted internal marketing processes stated that they sought the best talent when recruiting. Notably, the ability of a prospective staff member to relate well with clients from different cultures and background was a pre-requisite of any person who was considered for employment in the 9 respondent hotels. Good communication skills were also another prerequisite in the hiring process.
Effects of the internal marketing initiatives on the elderly clients
In the 72 responses from the elderly tourists from the 9 hotels, 4 questionnaires were deemed not fit for analysis because most of the questions had not been answered. As such, the study was based in 68 questionnaires. Of this, the 20 percent of all respondents rated the service provisions in the respective hotels as excellent; a further 68 percent rated the services as good, while the remaining 12 percent stated that the services in the respective hotels needed improvement. 85 percent of the visitors stated that they would consider staying in the same hotel on a return visit or recommend a family member or a friend to stay in the hotel. Further, the analysis of the surveyed data revealed that 72 percent of all respondents cited the attitude of service provision by the hotel staff as the key reason why they would consider a repeat stay or recommending the hotel to another person. 18 percent of the respondents cited the combination of activities, food and dining, service provision and lodging facilities as the reasons why they would come consider booking into the hotel on a return visit.
Asked whether they perceived age as a factor that merited the treatment they received in the hotel, 54 percent of the respondents replied to the affirmative while 20 percent said they were not sure if age was a factor. The remaining 26 percent stated that age was not a factor in the treatment they received.
All except one hotel stated that the elderly travelers/ tourists make 20 percent of their total visitors annually. The remaining one respondent stated that the elderly clientele made up 25 percent of the total annual bookings. Additionally, all hotels stated that the elderly clientele made longer bookings than any other age-based segment.
Tansuhaj (1988) states that recruitment, training, motivation, communication and employee retention are all factors practiced by service providers to execute their internal marketing strategies. In this study, I focused on gauging the effects of internal marketing strategies on the quality of service provision on the elderly tourists. Based on the above results, it is clear that hotels which trained, motivated and encouraged their staff registered more satisfaction among the elderly clientele. It is also evident that the quality of service provision was also a major consideration among the elderly clientele since quite a significant percentage based their decisions for a repeat visit on the same. The elderly clientele also used the quality of service provision as a major reason why they would recommend the hotels to someone else.
The results of this study are in line with Gounaris (2008) statement which states that service providing organizations need to succeed in their internal marketing before they can appeal to the external market. This means that the tourist hotels targeting the elderly tourism market need not only device packages, activities or accommodation that interest the seniors, but also needs to recruit, train, understand, motivate and retain staff members who can help the hotel provide the necessary services to the elderly tourist market well. According to Gounaris (2008), employees need not only be motivated, but the hotel management needs to provide them with all the necessary information needed to fulfill their tasks to the elderly clientele. The empirical data collected during this study shows that all respondent hotels value the recruitment, training, motivation and communicate processes to their staff members. These findings suggest that Hypothesis 1 in this study is actually correct.
The fact that all hotel respondents stated that the elderly tourist made longer bookings is an indication that the hotels value the elderly clientele despite the fact that elderly tourist form a small percentage of age-based visitors to such hotels. This then approves that hypothesis 2 in this study.
Internal marketing strategies by hotels often times makes the difference between hotel staff merely attending to their jobs as required by their employment contract and hotel staff delivering exceptional service to the guest who frequent the hotel. With the stiff competition experienced in the hotel industry, many hotel owners hope to build customer loyalty through customer satisfaction (Christopher et al., 1991; Jones, 1986). This however can only be attained through good service delivery, which is the responsibility of the hotel staff. Some of the admirable characteristics that hotel managers can encourage the hotel staff to adopt especially when attending to the elderly clientele are cooperation with other staff member and focusing on the needs and interests of the elderly clientele. The elderly are the easiest target to make loyal customers from. This is especially so because they are less adventurous than the youths and are more outspoken about their needs and interests (Arnett et al., 2002; Parasuraman, 1987). This means that hotels can easily attain a loyal market from the elderly by providing them with excellent services and activities that fit their age group well. There is a strong link between customer satisfaction and the employee job satisfaction. As such, the internal marketing practices should be adopted by all hotels hoping to make a good clientele base from the elderly.
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