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First impressions of the interiors of hotel lobbies as influences on perceptions of hotels Public Deposited

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  • The purpose of this study was to examine whether participants can form impressions and make inferences about a hotel based only on the physical environment or design of the hotel lobby. The study investigated how the interior arrangement, furnishings and other aspects of hotel lobbies influenced participants' first impressions and their inferences about the hotel as a whole. The lobby was selected because this is the first area inside the hotel that consumers see and therefore it is important for creating impressions. The specific objectives of this study were: to determine if the physical environment of the hotel lobbies could influence participants' overall perception of the hotels, to investigate what holistic perception participants reported about the hotels based on the design of their lobbies, and to investigate whether the physical environment of hotel lobbies is important in impression formation and in communicating the image of the hotels. In the present study, impression formation theory provided a theoretical framework for understanding how impressions were formed and how extended inferences were made. The theory provided the basis of understanding how people use physical environment cues to form impressions and make inferences about their environment. The participants of the study consisted of eight (8) males and 43 female undergraduate students enrolled during Spring Term, 2002, at Oregon State University. Instead of experiencing the real situation, participants were shown four (4) pictures of actual hotel lobbies and asked to form their impressions and make their extended inferences about the whole hotels based on the lobbies. The pictures selected showed variation in the interior space and components of the hotel lobbies, such as lighting, ceiling, floor, walls, architectural style, and furniture arrangement. The participants were shown one picture at a time projected on a screen in the front of the room. The order in which the participants saw the pictures was varied with each group to account for order effect. The pictures were shown in the following order; ABCD, DCBA, CADB and BDAC, one group at a time. Each picture was shown for approximately three minutes. After explaining the procedure to the participants, the researcher asked them to record their first impressions and make extended inferences about the hotel by responding to open-ended questions. They wrote statements about the first things that came to their minds when seeing the pictures of the hotel lobbies. Data collection took about 10-15 minutes for each session. The responses from the open-ended questionnaire were content analyzed according to themes that emerged from the responses for each slide. The emergent themes were reported and discussed based on the objectives of the study. Most of the impressions formed were shared by the participants regardless of their class standing, number of times they had stayed in a hotel recently, and their current major. Even though gender comparison was not made due to few male participants, the researcher observed that the males' impressions were more physical, whereas female's impressions were more emotional. That is, the males looked more at the design, available amenities and facilities, whereas females also commented on the friendliness, warmth and coziness of the hotel. When asked to, participants were able to form impressions about the entire hotels based on ambient factors in the lobbies such as lighting and cleanliness, and on design factors such as style and layout, space, color, architecture and other factors. Impressions were also made with regard to social factors, such as clientele and service personnel. Responses about the characteristics of the clientele ranged from families to business people, rich people and others. Participants were able to make inferences about the general atmosphere, cleanliness, type of customer service, available amenities and facilities, price of hotel rooms, possible location of the hotel, clientele, the size and decor of the guest rooms, and comfort and spaciousness, based only on their impressions of the hotel lobbies when prompted. They were also able to attach emotional, economic and physical feelings to their impressions. The findings of the study indicated that the environment of the hotel lobby might be rich in cues that are important in communicating image and suggesting impressions of the hotel. The study concluded that the design of the lobby might very well determine the approach or avoidance behavior of guests and potential guests. The quality of the environmental cues may also be important in communicating the quality and nature of service the hotel offers and the image it intends to portray. Therefore, in order to increase business, the environments of hotel lobbies should be designed to elicit approach behavior from guests or potential guests.
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