- 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
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
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.