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ANALYZING HOTEL PRACTICES EMPLOYED TO ENCOURAGE AND MANAGE ONLINE GUEST REVIEWS

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  • The Higher Institute of Tourism and Hotels in Alexandria (EGOTH)

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57
International Journal of Tourism & Hotel Business Management
(IJTHBM)
2019
SciTech Central Inc., USA
Vol. 1 (1)
57-80
80
ANALYZING HOTEL PRACTICES EMPLOYED
TO ENCOURAGE AND MANAGE ONLINE
GUEST REVIEWS
Karam M Ghazi 1
The High Institute of Tourism and Hotels, Alexandria (Egoth), Egypt
Received 24 December 2018; Accepted 25 January 2019; Published 30 January 2019
ABSTRACT
As online reviews grow constantly and influence both consumers’ purchase decisions
and hospitality companies’ possibilities. It is therefore important for hotel operators to know how to
manage and deal with online guest reviews. However, there is a research gap concerning how to
encourage and how to manage online guest reviews in the tourism industry in general and in the
hotel industry in particular from hospitality companies’ perspective. Using IPA method, this study
investigates the practices used by hotel marketers to encourage and manage online guest reviews
through assessing the importance level and usage level of practices and testing the gap between
these two levels. 186 self-administrated e-mail questionnaires were distributed to the marketing
managers at the 5-star hotels in Egypt. The results indicated a statistically significant negative gap
between the level of importance managers assigned to each practice and the usage level of that
practice for both encouragement and management practices. Overall, the usage level of practices is
lower than the importance level. This finding implied that the hotels and managers did not do a
good job in matching practices’ importance with practices’ usage. Hence, there are opportunities
for changes and improvement in the Egyptian 5-star hotels. This study provides hotels with valuable
implications for improving and developing their online marketing strategies and practices.
Keywords: e-WOM, Online Review, Encouraging, Managing, Online
Communities, IPA.
INTRODUCTION
Online reviews or recommendations—a form of e-WOMhave become
increasingly important due to its strong influence on customers’ final purchasing
decisions. This is particularly in the hospitality and tourism domain whose its
intangible offerings are difficult to evaluate prior to their consumption and thus
greatly dependent on the perceived image and reputation. Online reviews provide
customers a more independent and therefore more reliable and up-to-date source of
information to decide where to go and what to buy. It helps customers to evaluate
alternatives, reduce uncertainty in purchase situations, increase product awareness,
provide ideas on travelling; help others to avoid places; help to imagine what a
place will be like, and improve the probability of consumers to consider making a
booking. Thus, online reviews have become an integral part of the decision making
process and the major source of information for consumers (Cox et al., 2009; Gu et
1 Correspondence to: Karam M Ghazi, The High Institute of Tourism and Hotels, Alexandria (Egoth),
Egypt, E-mail: dr.karam.ghazi@gmail.com
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58
al., 2009; Zhang et al., 2010; O’Connor, 2010; Murphy et al., 2010; Jeong & Jang,
2011; Ye et al., 2011; Litvin & Hoffman, 2012; Wilson et al., 2012; Ekiz et al.,
2012; Hernandez-Mendez et al., 2013; Gonzalez et al., 2013; EU, 2014; Cantallops
& Salvi, 2014; Zarrad & Debabi, 2015; Tuten & Solomon, 2015; Molinillo et al.,
2016).
Furthermore, online reviews also give tourism and hospitality companies
the possibility to: shape customers’ awareness, expectations and perceptions, reach
out and gain more customers at low cost, predict and affect sales or revenues,
effectively improve and develop the new and current products or services, audit
company’s image and reputation on the internet, build relationships with customers
and facilitate consumer centric marketing, follow up service failures and solve the
problems of former visitors, define networking agents, profile customers,
understand behavioral patterns and catch up on negative reviews before widely
spread, improve customers’ satisfaction from addressing customers’ feedback and
provide staff feedback (congratulate and reward after positive review or train after
negative review) (Buhalis & Laws, 2008; Gretzel & Yoo, 2008; Vermeulen &
Seegers, 2009; Gu et al., 2009; Cakim, 2010; O’Connor, 2010; Zhang et al., 2010;
Litvin & Hoffman, 2012; Wilson et al., 2012; Ekiz et al., 2012; Cantallops & Salvi,
2014; Simonson & Rosen, 2014; Zeng & Gerritsen, 2014; Jeong & Jang, 2011;
Anderson, 2012; TripAdvisor, 2013; EU, 2014; Kim et al., 2015; Molinillo et al.,
2016).
Moreover, statistics showed that there has been a rapid increase in the
uptake and use of online reviews in tourism and hotel sector (Anderson, 2012;
TripAdvisor, 2013; EU, 2014; Molinillo et al., 2016). An industry survey pointed
that review websites are considered the most trusted and useful information sources
when researching and planning trips and the vast majority of travellers (93%)
indicated that other people’s evaluations on travel review websites influence their
travel plans. It also showed that 8 out of 10 consumers tend to trust online reviews
as much as personal recommendations. Indeed, nearly all businesses (96%)
consider online travel reviews to be of upmost importance in generating bookings
and about 80% of them are concerned about the potential impact of negative
reviews (TripAdvisor, 2013).
As online reviews grow constantly and influence consumers’ purchase
decisions and hospitality companies’ possibilities. It is therefore important for hotel
operators to know how to manage and deal with online guest reviews. However,
there is a lack of research concerning how to encourage and how to manage online
guest reviews in the tourism industry in general and in the hotel industry in
particular (know-how) from companies’ perspective (Grönroos, 2007; Litvin et al.,
2008; Buhalis & Laws, 2008; Vermeulen & Seegers, 2009; Gu et al., 2009;
O’Connor, 2010; Bonner & De Hoog, 2011; Jalilvand et al., 2011; Cantallops &
Salvi, 2014; Zeng & Gerritsen, 2014; EU, 2014; Lee et al., 2009; Kim et al., 2015;
Molinillo et al., 2016). Consequently, the aim of this study was to investigate the
practices used by hotel marketers in Egypt to encourage and manage online guest
reviews in order to both benefit from positive reviews and contain harmful negative
comments. The results could provide hotels with valuable implications for
improving or developing their online marketing strategies and practices.
International Journal of Tourism & Hotel Business Management, 1 (1)
59
Research Rational and Gap
Although online review research has been growing, there is a lack of
empirical studies that investigate the strategies and practices that managers employ
to encourage and manage online guest review in the tourism industry in general and
in the hotels industry in particular (Grönroos, 2007; Litvin et al., 2008; Buhalis &
Laws, 2008; Vermeulen & Seegers, 2009; Gu et al., 2009; O’Connor, 2010; Bonner
& De Hoog, 2011; Jalilvand et al., 2011; Cantallops & Salvi, 2014; Zeng &
Gerritsen, 2014; EU, 2014; Lee et al., 2009; Kim et al., 2015; Molinillo et al.,
2016). In particular, the following research gaps are identified in literature:
1. There is a lack of research (research gap) concerning how to encourage and how to
manage online guest reviews in the tourism industry in general and in the hotel industry in
particular (know-how). There is a need for studying the marketing strategies and practices for
encouraging and managing guest reviews in electronic environments. Most previous research
has been conducted in different industries other than tourism industry.
2. Most previous e-WOM or online review research focused on customers’ perspective
(online behaviors) rather than companies’ perspective. This study analyzes online reviews from
company’s perspective and more precisely from the hotel marketers’ viewpoint in Egypt.
3. Most E-WOM and online review studies focus on developed countries rather than
developing countries. This study is one of the first studies investigating how to encourage and
manage online guest reviews in developing countries like Egypt.
4. There is a lack of studies on managing online positive reviews. Most prior studies
focused on managing negative online reviews. However, the importance of positive reviews in
attracting customers, the empirical research indicated that positive online reviews are not active
implemented to the hotel web pages and are not active in e-marketing efforts in general.
5. There are no studies that used IPA method for assessing the gap between importance and
usage of practices to encourage & manage online guest reviews from marketers’ viewpoint.
6. The empirical research has shown that most hotels still considered online reviews as an
information source (information channel), rather than a strategic marketing possibility
(marketing channel). Most hotels does not have a specific e-WOM marketing strategy and do
not include strategic implications to their general marketing strategy. Most hotels still focus on
satisfying the needs of their guests during the service encounter or real experience.
7. Tourism and service providers face challenges when managing e-WOM or online
reviews. a) Difficult to control the big amount and fast diffusion of online reviews being
published by consumers. This will probably require a lot of resources, staff knowledge and time
consuming to monitor them. b) Difficult to manage the multitude of contents broadcasted by
customers through different online communities. c) Difficult to respond to customers’
comments regarding company’s products and services. d) Difficult to target the appropriate
online communities and customers when they convey a message represent a serious matter for
these companies, and. f) risk of online reviews being dishonest. It is easy to change identities on
the Internet and the recommendations can be misleading or out of context. However, these
challenges, e-WOM (online review) can be managed and should not be ignored. Hotels need to
see it as a possibility and incorporate it into its marketing strategy.
These gaps and challenges put increasing pressures on hotels and hotel
marketers to find the marketing strategies and practices to encourage and manage
online guest reviews in order to both take advantage of positive reviews and
mitigate harmful outcomes of negative reviews and, subsequently, gain competitive
advantage. The current study fills these research gaps by investigating the practices
used by Egyptian hotel marketers to encourage and manage online guest reviews,
through assessing both the importance and usage of these strategies and practices in
the Egyptian hotel context.
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AIM, OBJECTIVES AND QUESTIONS
The aim of this study is to investigate the marketing practices used to
encourage the spread of positive online guest reviews as well as manage positive
and negative online guest reviews in the 5-star hotels in Egypt in order to earn from
positive recommendations and minimize harmful results of negative
recommendations. The study measures two related factors from hotel marketer’s
viewpoint: 1) The level of importance of practices to encourage and manage online
reviews; 2) The level of performance (actual usage) of these practices. It evaluates
if managers know what practices they have to use in encouraging and managing
online reviews and if they act accordingly and use these practices. In particular, this
study aims to achieve four specific objectives as follows:
1) Assess the importance and usage level of the practices used by hotel marketers to
encourage the spread of positive online guest reviews.
2) Assess the importance and usage level of the practices used by hotel marketers to
manage the positive and negative online guest reviews.
3) Gauge the Gap between importance and usage of practices that employed to encourage
and manage online guest reviews.
In relation to these objectives, the research questions are:
1) How hotel marketers in Egypt encourage the spread of positive online guest reviews?
2) How hotel marketers in Egypt manage positive and negative online guest reviews ?
LITERATURE REVIEW
Word-of-Mouth (WOM)
WOM, abbreviated from “Words of Mouth”, is defined as an “informal
person-to-person communication between a perceived non-commercial
communicator and receiver regarding a brand, a product, an organization or a
service” (Harrison-Walker, 2001, p. 63). WOM is “the process of consumers
providing information and opinions that can effect consumer’s ultimate purchasing
decision and direct a consumer toward or away from a specific product or service”
(Zhou et al., 2013, p. 168). WOM is an offline setting where marketing messages
are transferred through personal mediums, circulating from person to person. The
influence of WOM is greater than other marketing methods, such as individual
selling, printed advertisements, and radio. The key characteristic of WOM is that
the sources are independent from commercial influence. It is especially relevant
when the product is characterized by experiences due to people search for
recommendations to reduce their perceptions of risk. This is very essential in the
hotel and tourism industry since the product is being bought prior to consumption
and experiences are intangible (Litvin et al., 2008; Gu et al., 2009).
Electronic Word-of-Mouth (e-WOM)
Electronic word of mouth, also known as Online WOM or e-WOM is
defined as “any positive or negative statement made by potential, actual or former
customers about a product or company, which is made available to a multitude of
people and institutions via the Internet” (Hennig-Thurau, et al., 2004, p. 39). These
online customers’ statements prove to be higher in credibility, empathy and
relevance for customers than firms’ marketing information (Jalilvand et al., 2011).
International Journal of Tourism & Hotel Business Management, 1 (1)
61
E-WOM can also be defined as “informal communication between consumers
through the internet where information about goods, services and sellers are
posted” (Litvin et al., 2008, p. 461). Traditional WOM communication only had the
potential to reach individuals in a consumer’s proximity, whereas e-WOM
information can reach individuals all over the world because of the extensive use of
the internet all over the world. e-WOM communication can therefore be a powerful
information source and be used within a consumer’s pre-purchase information
search process and thus have an impact on consumer’s final purchasing decision
(Hennig-Thurau et al., 2004; Litvin et al., 2008; Jalilvand et al., 2011).
Sometimes e-WOM is called user generated content (UGC). UGC refer to
opinions, referrals, recommendations and rating stated without company influence
(Moe & Schweidel, 2012; Wilson et al., 2012). UGC contains a slight alteration
from the broader scope of e-WOM. While, e-WOM is all communication posted
online by both consumers and companies, UGC consists of e-WOM generated only
by the consumer. UGC regards the actual creation of new content, whereas e-WOM
is content that is conveyed by users (Cheong & Morrison, 2008). UGC is free from
company-elicited messages and solely dependent upon online users to engage in
transcribing experiences regarding a variety of products (Kozinets et al., 2010).
Prior to experiencing a tourist activity, tourists can seek and consume e-WOM
through the use UGC sites. UGC sites are websites where consumers can access
communication crafted by other consumers or where they would like to create
content. As communication venues are open to consumers to contribute both
positive and negative experiences without the usual positive input provided by
companies, consumers of written eWOM have built an increased trust level on the
content provided by those whom they have never met (Brown et al., 2007).
Online Review
Online review or recommendation is one type of information channel
which is described as a product or service evaluation posted on a website (Litvin et
al., 2008; Banerjee & Chua, 2014; Tuten & Solomon, 2015). Online review is often
described as the most accessible and frequently used form of e-WOM and UGC
(Jalilvand et al., 2011; Cantallops & Salvi, 2014). It encompasses the act of write as
well as the act of assimilates information provided by others (Hennig-Thurau et al.,
2004). It consists of positive or negative statements made by consumers about a
product or service (Jalilvand et al., 2011). Online review could be considered peer-
generated purchase experiences (Mudambi & Schuff, 2010). With regard to hotel
and travel, statistics show that there has been a rapid increase in the uptake and use
of online reviews in the hotels and tourism sector. Thus, online reviews have
become an integral part of the decision making process and the major source of
information for consumers (Anderson, 2012; EU, 2014; Molinillo et al., 2016).
Online Communities
Online community—also known as a virtual community, is “a group of
people who may or may not meet one another face to face, and who exchange
words and ideas through the mediation of computer bulletin boards and networks.
Like any other community, it is also a collection of people who adhere to a certain
(loose) social contract, and who share certain (electric) interests” (Rheingold,
2008). Online communities enable customers to share and comment their previous
experiences and give some advice and feedback to others. This information
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exchange among customers—traditionally called electronic-Word-of-Mouth (e-
WOM)also named User-generated Content (UGC) (Litvin et al., 2008).
There are several types of e-WOM media channels and each possesses
different characteristics, as depicted below in Figure 1 (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2004;
Litvin et al., 2008; Yoo & Gretzel, 2008). In tourism and hospitality industry, there
are various websites of online reviews where consumers can obtain and share
online information and reviews regarding products or services. These include: hotel
review websites, hotel booking websites, travel and travel agencies websites, social
networking websites, blogs, etc. (Luo et al., 2015; Tuten & Solomon, 2015). Yoo &
Cretzel (2011) postulated that consumer generated media (CGM)a form of
UGCwithin the travel industry could consist of reviews, blogs, posting pictures
or videos and contributing to travel-related wikis.
Figure 1. e-WOM channels.
Source: Litvin et al., 2008
The four main types of UGC sites that have been utilized by tourists can
be categorized into the following types: social networking sites (i.e., Facebook),
review sites (i.e., TripAdvisor), supplier sites (i.e., hotel websites, tourism
organizations) and visual content sharing sites (i.e., Flickr, YouTube) (Murphy et
al., 2010; Wilson et al., 2012). Theses websites provide consumers with positive as
International Journal of Tourism & Hotel Business Management, 1 (1)
63
well as negative information about products or services, which can help consumers,
make a final purchasing. On guest review websites, customers can actively
influence opinions by posting comments online; on the other hand, they may
passively consume information posted by others in order to develop their own
purchasing decisions (EU, 2014; Molinillo et al., 2016). It also provides service
providers with a feedback tool to monitor guest’s reactions and experiences, as well
as needed improvements. Consequently, positive or negative online reviews have
the power to benefit hotels or damage their image and reputation (Jeong & Jang,
2011). These comments can help companies to understand the needs of their
customers and to undertake actions accordingly (Buhalis & Laws, 2008; Litvin et
al., 2008; Molinillo et al., 2016). Statistics also reveal that review websites are
considered the most trusted and useful sources of information when researching
and planning trips. Indeed, the vast majority of travellers indicate that other
people’s evaluations on travel review websites influence their travel plans (EU,
2014).
METHODOLOGY
Theoretical Model and Hypotheses
Based on a literature review and in response to research questions, the
following framework and hypotheses have been formed (Figure 2). The 10
dimensions and its 47 practices are assumed to be the most appropriate strategy to
encourage and manage online guest reviews.
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Figure 2. The practices model of encouraging & managing online guest reviews.
Source: The Researcher
Hypothesis of this study is to test the gap between the importance level
and usage level of practices used to encourage and manage online guest reviews,
from hotel marketers’ viewpoint. It tests whether the usage level of practices are
falling, meeting or exceeding the importance level of these practices. Hence, the
null and alternate of Hypothesis are:
H0: There is no significant difference between the importance level and the usage level
assigned to each practice (A necessity condition for rational and coherent management).
H1: There is a significant difference between the importance level and the usage level of
assigned to each practice.
This hypothesis tested by Paired T-test Analysis: H0: μ1=μ0 versus H1:
μ1 ≠ μ0
International Journal of Tourism & Hotel Business Management, 1 (1)
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Definition of Key Terms
Online review is guest recommendation or evaluation of hotel services
and products on online communities.
Encouraging is encouraging hotel guests to largely and quickly spread
their positive reviews and recommendations on online communities.
Managing is responding and dealing with positive and negative reviews
or comments on online communities.
Online communities or virtual communities- are groups of individuals
who share interests and interact with one another through the mediation of
computer bulletin boards and networks. It enables customers to share and
comment their previous experiences and give some advice and feedback to
others. The following categories can be distinguished:
1. Social networks sites (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.)
2. Pictures/videos sharing platforms sites (Pinterest, Flicker, Instagram, YouTube,
Dailymotion, etc.)
3. Commercial review websites (TripAdvisor, eKomi, Yelp, etc…)
4. Supplier Websites (site of your hotel, a third-party company, competitors, an
independent user, tourism organization, Blogs and discussion forums, etc.).
Research Type and Approach
This study is primarily a descriptive-analytical study with qualitative and
quantitative approaches. Furthermore, this study used deductive approach, since it
explains casual relationships, develops a theory and hypotheses and then designs a
research strategy to test the validity of hypotheses against the data. If the data are
consistent with the hypothesis then the hypothesis is accepted; if not it is rejected. It
is moving works from the more general to the more specific (this call a top-down
approach) (Saunders et al., 2015).
This study used two main approaches to data collection namely; desk
survey and field survey. The desk survey (literature review) forms an essential
aspect of the research since it sets the foundation for the development of field
survey instruments using questionnaire and interview. Secondary sources of
information were identified and collected in books, articles, and professional
periodicals, journals and databases on the subject of the study. The field survey is
involved with the collection of primary empirical data. Using IPA methodology,
this study adopted a self-administrated e-mail questionnaire as the primary method
of quantitative data collection to investigate hotel marketers’ practices to encourage
and manage online guest reviews through assessing the importance and usage level
of practices. The researcher used survey method because it is the most convenient
way to obtain relatively highest participation within a limited time frame. Also, the
need for generalization in the findings influenced the choice of questionnaire
survey. More specifically, the reason for choosing e-mail questionnaire is mainly
due to numerous benefits such as reducing geographical limitations and speeding
getting answers. In addition, Email questionnaire do also allow the respondents to
write down the answers themselves. The researcher has time to reflect on the
answers and keep continuous contact when questions arise (Sekaran & Bougie,
2013; Saunders et al., 2015). The mixed data collection methods provides a way to
gain in depth insights and adequately reliable statistics.
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Importance-Performance Analysis (IPA) Method
IPA was developed by Martilla & James (1977) as a popular managerial
tool to facilitate prioritization of improvements and resource allocation. IPA
assesses the convergence between the importance of specific attributes and how
well a service provider is supplying those identified attributes. The main argument
of the IPA model is that matching importance and performance (usage) is the basis
of effective management. It assumes that managers through their actions pursue the
practices that they perceive to be important. The decision to use the IPA structure
and terminology was due to its powerful evaluation to find out attributes that are
doing well and attributes that need to be improved. In particular, there are two
explicit advantages for hotel managers in applying IPA to their management know-
how. First, IPA displayed graphically on a two-dimensional grid that explicitly
shows the strengths and weaknesses of the hotel practices being studied. Second,
IPA provides useful recommendations for hotel managers or policy makers for
developing strategies and practices in the future. This is a useful and effective way
for management to identify what problems exist, and why. Typically, IPA involves
a 3-step process:
1. Identification of management-influenced attributes associated with a concept. It is
usually accomplished via consultation with experts, focus groups or other qualitative
techniques.
2. Analysis of attributes based on user data that rates attribute importance and performance.
3. Graphical presentation of the results on a two dimensional grid and four quadrants.
Data Collection Instrument
The questionnaire was built based on IPA method and the conceptual
framework drawn from the extant literature. In particular, the final data-collection
instrument consisted of 2 parts:
The first part investigates encouragement practices. It measures the
importance level hotel marketers assigned to each practice using a Likert scale
of 1-least important to 5-most important. Moreover, this part measured the
usage level for each of the same practice using a Likert scale ranging from 1-
rarely used to 5-extensively used. It consists of 23 practices representing five
dimensions.
The second part investigates management practices. It measures the
importance level hotel marketers assigned to each practice using a Likert scale
of 1-least important to 5-most important. Moreover, this part measured the
usage level for each of the same practice using a Likert scale ranging from 1-
rarely used to 5-extensively used. It consists of 24 practices representing five
dimensions.
Questionnaire Reliability, Validity and Objectivity
Validity, reliability and objectivity can be seen as three dimensions of a
study’s credibility. Validity is the extent to which it actually measures what it
intended to be measured from the beginning. Reliability is the degree of trust and if
the result remains the same when being repeated. Objectivity is about the values of
a researcher and how much it affects the results (Sekaran & Bougie , 2013;
International Journal of Tourism & Hotel Business Management, 1 (1)
67
Saunders et al., 2015). The questionnaire were rationing before distribution to the
study sample to ensure the validity and reliability of paragraphs:
1. To Verify Content Validity (Believe arbitrators): The first version of survey
questionnaire was judged by a group of arbitrators. Interviews with 5 experts in the field of
hotel marketing were done. Revisions to the questionnaire were made based on feedback from
the arbitrators. The researcher responded to the views of the jury and performed the necessary
delete and modify in. Factors or questions with 80% approval and higher were only considered.
The result was a revised version of the questionnaire with a smaller set of items. The changes
made the statements more specific and easier to understand.
2. To Verify Construct Validity: There are two types of analysis for determining construct
validity: (1) Correlational analysis, and (2) Factor analysis (Sekaran & Bougie, 2013). This
study calculates the construct validity of the attributes of the questionnaire by surveying it to
the initial sample size of 15 respondents of the total members of the study population and it
calculates the correlation coefficients between each attribute of the questionnaire and the total
score for the domain dimension that belongs to him that attribute. The results showed that the
value of the correlation coefficients of practices is ranged between 0.65 and 0.55 and is
statistically significant at the level of significance (0.05). Hence, the attributes of each
dimension are considered honest and valid to measure its role in posting reviews.
3. To Verify Reliability: The most popular test of inter-item consistency reliability is
Cronbach’s coefficient alpha. The higher the coefficient, the better the measuring instrument
(Sekaran & Bougie, 2013). The researcher conducted reliability steps on the same initial sample
using Cronbach's alpha coefficient. The results illustrated that the high reliability coefficients
for questionnaire attributes which ranged from 0.61 to 0.69, indicating satisfactory internal
consistency. The strong internal consistency reliability for the revised scales indicated that the
retained items measure the same constructs, suggesting the possibility of the stability of the
results that can result from the tool. Thus, the questionnaire became valid and reliable in its
final form for application to the basic study sample.
For ethical considerations, each participant received a cover letter that
emphasized the significance of the issue under investigation but also stressed that
participation in the study was voluntary. The respondents were advised that the data
collected would be used solely for the purpose to address the research topic. There
were no anticipated risks to the respondents who participated in the study. The
removal of any personal identifying information or data was the means to maintain
confidentiality.
Sampling Procedures
The target population of this study was the marketing managers at five-
star hotels in Egypt. Comprehensive sample was chosen as the most appropriate
sampling technique to get a big sample and thus ensure that the results are
significant and generalizable. The reason for choosing only 5-star hotels as the
empirical research has shown that only the big or chain hotels have the resources to
properly implement e-WOM campaigns and strategies. Also, chain hotels are being
marketed, online, by their head offices. Smaller hotels that are not well-known
globally might not have the resources to control all information being published
(Litvin et al., 2008; Vermeulen & Seegers, 2009).
A total of 186 self-administrated e-mail questionnaires were distributed to
186 marketing managers in 186 five star hotels in Egypt, in December 2016. 138
questionnaires were returned, resulting in a 74% response rate. Fifteen
questionnaires were not included because of incompleteness. The valid number of
questionnaires for analysis was 123 with response rate was 66%.
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DATA ANALYSIS
Analysis of the gathered data used the software SPSS 19.0 and Microsoft
Excel 2010. The study used Paired T-test analysis to measure the gap between the
importance and usage level of practices employed to encourage and manage online
guest reviews. Objectives 1 and 2 were achieved by Mean Analysis and IPA
matrix. Objective 3 and study hypothesis were achieved by Paired T-test Analysis.
Finally, interpretation of the results was done at 5% level of significance; where the
value of p<0.05 was considered as significant and p < 0.01 was considered as
highly significant.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Table 1 indicates the practices’ importance and usage analysis as well as
the gap analysis.
Table 1. Practices: Importance and usage analysis.
Online Review Encouragement Practices
Importance (I)
Usage (U)
Gap (U-I)
Meana
Rank
Meanb
Rank
Gap c
Rank
grid
1. Join and Use Online Communities
(4.04)
(4)
(3.74)
(1)
(-0.30**)
(4)
Up)
P1
Join/use social networks (Facebook, twitter,
Google+)
4.10
10
3.79
2
-0.31**
17
Up
P2
Join/use blogs and forums (corporate -
independent)
3.99
19
3.67
5
-0.32**
16
Up
P3
Join/use video/picture sharing platforms
(YouTube, Pinterest)
4.02
17
3.72
3
-0.30**
18
Up
P4
Joining and using the hotel website more actively
4.15
8
3.87
1
-0.28**
20
Up
P5
Participate as members of third party online
communities
3.99
20
3.66
6
-0.33**
15
Up
P6
Publish diverse/attractive contents on online
communities
4.01
18
3.71
4
-0.30**
19
Up
2. Remind and Reward Reviewers
(4.15)
(2)
(3.36)
(2)
(-0.79**)
(2)
rate)
P7
Send out regular mass mailings, e-newsletters with
links
4.09
12
3.37
9
-.72**
12
rate
P8
Placed cards in rooms to remind sharing guests’
views
4.22
3
3.32
17
-.90**
1
rate
P9
Send online satisfaction surveys to prevent e-
complaints
4.06
15
3.39
7
-.67**
14
rate
P10
Build in WOM attributes-testimonials over hotel
4.10
11
3.38
8
-.72**
13
International Journal of Tourism & Hotel Business Management, 1 (1)
69
webpage
P11
Offer rewards for guests spreading positive
opinions
4.22
1
3.34
10
-.88**
4
rate
P12
Arrange contests with benefits to diffuse positive
views
4.20
5
3.33
14
-.87**
5
rate
3. Sponsor Opinion Leaders
(4.20)
(1)
(3.34)
(3)
(-0.86**)
(1)
rate)
P13
Encourage loyal guests to become brand advocates
4.22
2
3.34
13
-.89**
2
rate
P14
Sponsor opinion leaders who gain significant
visibility
4.19
7
3.34
12
-.86**
6
rate
P15
Use product seeding campaign (familiarization
trip)
4.20
6
3.33
15
-.85**
7
rate
4. Use Online Stealth marketing
(3.41)
(5)
(3.30)
(5)
(-0.11**)
(5)
Priority)
P16
Use employees to pretend online as satisfied
consumers
3.40
23
3.29
23
-.11**
22
Priority
P17
Using employees to post negative reviews to
competitors
3.42
21
3.31
19
-.11**
21
Priority
P18
market by creating and spreading ‘buzz’ in an
obtuse manner
3.41
22
3.30
22
-.11**
23
Priority
5. Use e-WOM CcommunicationCampaign
(4.11)
(3)
(3.32)
(4)
(-0.79**)
(3)
rate)
P19
Use e-WOM campaign for guiding guests to
purchse, react
4.20
4
3.31
20
-.89**
3
rate
P20
Approve the e-WOM campaign by senior
management
4.05
16
3.33
16
-.72**
11
rate
P21
Regularly review/update the e-WOM campaign
(annually)
4.09
13
3.31
21
-.78**
9
rate
P22
Set aside yearly budget for financing e-WOM
campaign
4.07
14
3.32
18
-.75**
10
rate
P23
Well inform employees about e-WOM campaign
resources
4.15
9
3.34
11
-.81**
8
rate
Total
(3.98)
-
(3.41)
-
(-0.57)
-
Online Review Management Practices
Importance (I)
Usage (U)
Gap (U-I)
Mean a
Ran
k
Mean b
Ran
k
Gap c
Rank
grid
6. Monitor and Track Online Review
(4.11)
(1)
(3.42)
(2)
(-0.69**)
(1)
ate)
P24
Assign employees to continuously monitor online
4.21
2
3.43
9
-0.78**
2
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70
reviews
P25
Regularly train employees to monitor (drills,
workshops)
4.15
4
3.42
10
-0.73**
3
rate
P26
Monitor what is being related to hotel and the
reviews tone
4.00
9
3.44
8
-0.56**
6
rate
P27
See/define patterns in complaints and also positive
reviews
4.00
8
3.42
11
-0.58**
5
rate
P28
Use tracking programs/tools (twitter, google alerts,
RSS)
4.22
1
3.39
17
-0.83**
1
rate
P29
Monitor competitors’ reviews to know or inspired
by them
4.10
6
3.41
13
-0.69**
4
rate
7. Respond to negative reviews
(4.01)
(2)
(3.89)
(1)
(-0.12**)
(4)
Up)
P30
Thank the guest by name and take the conversation
offline
4.10
7
3.88
4
-0.22**
13
Up
P31
Accommodate by apologize and highlight any
changes
4.14
5
3.88
3
-0.26**
12
Up
P32
Use accommodative attitude by compensation
4.20
3
3.86
6
-0.34**
11
Up
P33
Justify by considering problem and ask more
explanations
3.94
11
3.93
1
-0.01**
22
Up
P34
Justify by reframing negatives& reminding
positive records
3.95
10
3.93
2
-0.02**
21
Up
P35
Use defensive attitude by denying responsibility
3.88
15
3.87
5
-0.01**
24
Up
P36
Use negative comments to improve customer
relationships
3.86
16
3.85
7
-0.01**
23
Up
8. Respond to positive reviews
(3.89)
(3)
(3.41)
(3)
(-0.48**)
(2)
rate)
P37
Appreciate by publicity thanking, liking, sharing,
retweet
3.93
12
3.42
12
-0.51**
8
rate
P38
Publish positive review in guestbook on website,
newsletters
3.93
13
3.41
14
-0.52**
7
rate
P39
Contact with customers provide or like positve
comments
3.90
14
3.40
16
-0.50**
9
rate
P40
Turn positve reviewers into promoters to tell their
friends
3.81
17
3.40
15
-0.41**
10
rate
9. Respond to mixed reviews
(3.45)
(5)
(3.35)
(5)
(-0.10**)
(5)
Priority)
International Journal of Tourism & Hotel Business Management, 1 (1)
71
P41
Thank the guest by name and highlight positive
comment
3.45
23
3.35
22
-0.1**
19
Priority
P42
Apologize/highlight changes has made or intends
to make
3.47
22
3.36
21
-0.11**
18
Priority
P43
Surround negative comments with positive
statements
3.43
24
3.34
24
-0.09**
20
Priority
10. Quick initial response
(3.56)
(4)
(3.37)
(4)
(-0.19**)
(3)
Priority)
P44
Provide quick initial response to tell story within
24 h
3.57
18
3.36
20
-0.21**
15
Priority
P45
Respond with clear and visible hotel’s identity
3.56
20
3.38
18
-0.18**
16
Priority
P46
Provide accurate data by checking all facts of what
happened
3.55
21
3.38
19
-0.17**
17
Priority
P47
Invite reviewers to return to reminds you value
your guests
3.57
19
3.35
23
-0.22**
14
Priority
Total
(3.80)
-
(3.49)
-
(-0.31**)
-
a Mean scale: 1—least important to 5—most important
b Mean scale: 1rarely used to 1—extensively used
c Significant Difference: *p ≤ 0.05; **p 0.01
Practices’ Importance and Usage Analysis
When evaluating the encouragement practices, the importance mean
scores of the 23 practices varied from 4.22 (the highest) to 3.40 (the lowest) out of
a possible range of 1.0 to 5.0, with 1.0 indicating least important and 5.0 indicating
most important. However, there was a distinction between the 23 practices and a
priority of importance was evident. Overall, the average importance mean of
practices was 3.98. It should be noted that twenty practices were perceived as
important with a mean greater than or equal to 3.98 (M ≥ 3.98). These practices are
related to four dimensions; “sponsor opinion leaders, remind/reward reviewers, use
e-WOM campaign and join/use online communities”. This finding implied that
marketing managers focus on these practices as the number one of priority. Hotel
marketers believed that these practices play a significant role in encouraging online
guest reviews. Hence, hotel operators should put in more effort and attention to
improve these practices when encouraging online guest reviews. Moreover, it
should be noted that only three practices were perceived as moderately important
with a mean less than 3.98 (3.98˃M). These practices are related to one dimension;
“use online stealth marketing” dimension”. This finding implied that hotel
marketers focus on these practices as the number two of priority. It should be
noted, however, that these practices were also deemed significant, but to a lesser
extent and shouldn't be disregarded when encouraging online reviews.
Meanwhile, the usage mean scores of the 23 practices varied from 3.87
(the highest) to 3.29 (the lowest) out of a possible range of 1.0 to 5.0, with 1.0
indicating rarely used and 5.0 indicating extensively used. However, there was a
distinction between the 23 practices and a priority of usage was evident. Overall,
the average usage mean of practices was 3.41. It should be noted that six practices
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72
were perceived as quite used with a mean greater than or equal to 3.41 (M ≥ 3.41).
It should be noted that these practices are related to one dimensions; “join/use
online communities”. Hotel marketers perceived these practice as the widely used
action in encouraging online reviews. It is the number one of usage priority. This
finding implied that hotels’ performance in applying these particular practices is
strong. Thus, hotel managers ought to take them into consideration and continue to
maintain good standard and shouldn't be ignored. Moreover, it should be noted that
17 practices were perceived as moderately used with a mean less than 3.41
(3.41˃M). It should be noted that these practices are related to four dimensions;
“remind/reward reviewers, sponsor opinion leaders, use e-WOM campaign and use
stealth marketing”. Hotel marketers perceived these practices as the number two of
usage priority. This finding implied that hotels’ performance in applying these
particular practices is moderate. Hence, hotel managers should concentrate on these
practices and more resources, effort and attention should be spent on improving
performance of these practices.
Overall, the rankings in descending order of the importance mean scores
of encouragement dimensions were as follow: sponsor opinion leaders (4.20),
remind/reward reviewers (4.15), use e-WOM campaign (4.11), join/use online
communities (4.04) and use stealth marketing (3.41). Meanwhile, the rankings in
descending order of the usage mean of encouragement dimensions were as follow:
join/use online communities (3.74), remind/reward reviewers (3.36), sponsor
opinion leaders (3.34), use e-WOM campaign (3.32) and use stealth marketing
(3.30).
When evaluating the management practices, the importance mean scores
of the 24 practices varied from 4.22 (the highest) to 3.43 (the lowest) out of a
possible range of 1.0 to 5.0, with 1.0 indicating least important and 5.0 indicating
most important. However, there was a distinction between the 24 practices and a
priority of importance was evident. Overall, the average importance mean of
practices was 3.80. It should be noted that seventeen practices were perceived as
important with a mean greater than or equal to 3.80 (M ≥ 3.80). These practices are
related to three dimensions; “monitor/track online reviews, respond to negative
reviews and respond to positive reviews”. This finding implied that managers focus
on these practices as the number one of priority. Hotel marketers believed that
these practices play a significant role in influencing their online review
management. Hence, hotel operators should focus on these practices and put in
more effort and attention to improve these practices when managing online
reviews. Moreover, it should be noted that seven practices were perceived as
moderately important with a mean less than 3.80 (3.80˃M). These practices are
related to two dimensions; “initial quick response and respond to mixed reviews”.
This finding implied that hotel marketers focus on these practices as the number
two of priority. It should be noted, however, that these practices were also deemed
significant, but to a lesser extent and shouldn't be disregarded when managing
online reviews.
Meanwhile, the usage mean scores of the 24 practices varied from 3.93
(the highest) to 3.34 (the lowest) out of a possible range of 1.0 to 5.0, with 1.0
indicating rarely used and 5.0 indicating extensively used. However, there was a
distinction between the 24 practices and a priority of practices usage was evident.
International Journal of Tourism & Hotel Business Management, 1 (1)
73
Overall, the average usage mean of practices was 3.49. It should be noted that
seven practices were perceived as quite used with a mean greater than or equal to
3.49 (M ≥ 3.49). These practices are related to one dimension; “respond to negative
reviews”. Hotel marketers perceived these practice as the widely used action in
managing online reviews. It perceived as the number one of usage priority. This
finding implied that hotels’ performance in applying these particular practices is
strong. Thus, hotel managers ought to take them into consideration and continue to
maintain good standard and shouldn’t be ignored. Moreover, it should be noted that
17 practices were perceived as moderately used with a mean less than 3.49
(3.49˃M). These practices are related to four dimensions; “monitor/track online
reviews, respond to positive reviews, initial quick response, and respond to mixed
reviews”. Hotel marketers perceived these practices as the number two of usage
priority. This finding implied that hotels’ performance in applying these particular
measures is moderate. Hence, hotel managers should concentrate on these practices
and more resources, effort and attention should be spent on improving performance
of these practices.
Overall, the rankings in descending order of the importance mean of
management dimensions were as follow: monitor/track online reviews (4.11),
respond to negative reviews, (4.01), respond to positive reviews (3.89), initial quick
response (3.56) and respond to mixed reviews (3.45). Meanwhile, the rankings in
descending order of the usage mean of management dimensions were as follow:
respond to negative reviews (3.89), monitor/track online reviews (3.42), respond to
positive reviews (3.41), initial quick response (3.37) and respond to mixed reviews
(3.35).
The Gap Analysis between the Importance and Usage Level of Practices
When evaluating encouragement practices, the mean gap scores for the 23
encouragement practices varied from -0.90** (the highest gap) to 0.11** (the
lowest gap). Nevertheless, each practice showed differences with respect to the size
and direction of gap score. The mean gap scores for the 23 practices are all
statistically significant and negative (at p<0.01). Overall, the average mean gap
score was -0.57**. The average usage level of practices (3.41) is lower than the
average importance level (3.98). It should be noted that fourteen practices were
perceived as the highest gap with a difference greater than or equal to -0.57. It
should be noted that these practices are related to three dimensions; “sponsor
opinion leaders, remind/reward reviewers, use e-WOM campaign”. This finding
implied that these practices are the highest shortfalls in online review
encouragement. Hotel marketers should focus on these practices as the number one
of priority. Hence, hotel operators should concentrate on these practices and should
put in more effort and attention to improve these practices when encouraging
online reviews. Moreover, it should be noted that only nine practices were
perceived as smallest gap with a difference less than -0.57. These practices are
related to two dimensions; “join/use online communities, and use stealth
marketing”. This finding implied that these practices represent the lowest shortfalls
in encouraging online reviews. Hence, hotel managers should also focus on these
dimensions as the number two of priority when managing online reviews.
Meanwhile, when evaluating management practices, the mean gap scores
for the 24 management practices varied from -0.83** (the highest gap) to -0.01**
(the lowest gap). Nevertheless, each practice showed differences with respect to the
Ghazi
74
size and direction of gap score. The mean gap scores for the 24 practices are all
statistically significant and negative (at p<0.01). Overall, the average mean gap
score was -0.31**. The average usage level of practices (3.49) is lower than the
average importance level (3.80). It should be noted that eleven practices were
perceived as the highest gap with a difference greater than or equal to -0.31. It
should be noted that these practices are related to two dimensions; “monitor/track
online reviews, respond to positive reviews, as well as one practice from “respond
to negative reviews” dimension. This finding implied that these practices are the
highest shortfalls in online review management. Hotel marketers should focus on
these practices as the number one of priority. Hence, hotel operators should put in
more effort and attention to improve these practices when managing online
reviews. Moreover, it should be noted that thirteen practices were perceived as
smallest gap with a difference less than -0.31. These practices are related to three
dimensions; “quick initial response, “respond to negative reviews (except one
practice)” and “respond to mixed reviews”. This finding implied that these
practices represent the lowest shortfalls in managing online reviews. Hence hotel
marketers should also focus on these dimensions as the number two of priority
when managing online reviews.
Overall, the rankings in descending order of the gap mean scores of
encouragement dimensions were as follow: sponsor opinion leaders (-0.86),
remind/reward reviewers (-0.79), use e-WOM campaign (-0.79), join/use online
communities (-0.30), and use stealth marketing (-0.11). Meanwhile, the rankings in
descending order of the gap mean of management dimensions were as follow:
monitor/track online reviews (-0.69), respond to positive reviews (-0.48), initial
quick response (-0.19), respond to negative reviews (-0.12) and respond to mixed
reviews (-0.10).
As noted in Figures 3 and 4, IPA assesses the convergence between the
importances of specific attributes and how well a service provider is supplying
those identified attributes.
Figure 3. Importance-performance analysis (IPA).
Source: Martilla & James, 1977
International Journal of Tourism & Hotel Business Management, 1 (1)
75
Figure 4. Applying Importance-Performance Grid for online review encouragement practices.
Using IPA method, this study measures online review encouragement and
management practices from hotel marketers’ viewpoint, through assessing the
importance and usage level of practices and testing the gap between the two levels.
The results of the paired t-test indicated a statistically significant and negative
difference (gap) (p 0.01) between the level of importance mangers assigned to
each practice and the level of usage of that practice for both encouragement and
management practices. The average usage level of practices is lower than the
average importance level. Overall, the average mean gap score of encouragement
practices was -0.57** and the average mean gap score of management practices
was -0.31**. Hence, the null hypothesis 1 which proposed an absence of difference
Ghazi
76
was therefore rejected. Meanwhile, the alternate hypothesis 1 which proposed an
existence of difference was therefore accepted. There are two observations. First, it
should be noted that gaps are all significant, which suggests that at a basic level,
there is considerable difference between the practices’ importance and usage. This
finding implied that the hotels and marketers did not do a good job in matching
practices’ importance with practices’ usage. Hence, there are opportunities for
changes and improvement in studied hotels. The existence of significant gaps
clearly showed that there is a room for improvement in studied hotels. These gaps
were the shortfalls and require the most attention by hotel marketers in their efforts
to make some improvement. By understanding and investigating those gaps, it is
easier for management to control and take corrective action to reduce the difference
between the importance and usage level of practices. Second, it should be noted
that all gaps are negative; the usage level is lower than the importance level. A
negative score indicated practices which should command more attention and that
need to be improved. This finding implied that further improvement resources and
efforts should concentrate here. The main argument of the IPA model is that
matching importance and usage is the basis of effective management.
The results of IPA matrix provide useful recommendations for hotel
marketers or policy makers for improving and developing the strategies and
practices of encouraging and managing online guest reviews. It provides insight for
future management recommendations for each practice based on its position in one
of the four quadrants. Each quadrant implies a different management strategy:
1. The evaluating hotels and marketers should command more attention and improvement
efforts to 14 encouragement-practices and 10 management-practices in the “concentrate here
quadrant (High Importance/Low Performance). These practices represents 3 encouragement
dimensions (remind/reward reviewers, sponsor opinion leaders, and use e-WOM campaign) and
two management dimensions (monitor/track online reviews, and respond to positive reviews).
These dimensions and its practices are major weaknesses and require immediate attention for
improvement. It represents key areas that need to be improved with top priority. The
management scheme for this quadrant is “concentrate here”.
2. The evaluating hotels and marketers should maintain efforts and resources to 6
encouragement-practices and 7 management-practices in the “keep up the good work” quadrant
(High Importance/High Performance). These practices represents one encouragement
dimensions; join/use online communities and one management dimension; respond to negative
reviews. These dimensions and its practices are major strengths and opportunities for achieving
competitive advantage. Thus, hotel managers should keep up the good work. The management
scheme is “keep up the good work.”
3. The evaluating hotels and marketers should not deserving remedial actions to 3
encouragement-practices and 7 management-practices in the “low priority” quadrant (Low
Importance/Low Performance). These practices represents one encouragement dimension; use
stealth marketing and two management dimensions; respond to mixed reviews and initial quick
response. These practices are minor weaknesses and do not require additional effort. Marketers
should expend limited resources and efforts on these practices. The management scheme for
this quadrant is “low priority.”
CONTRIBUTIONS
This research study contributes to the existing online review literature by
adding to the knowledge a theoretical practices model for encouraging and
managing online guest reviews from company’s perspective. This model enables
hotel marketers and practitioners to better know and understand how to encourage
and manage online reviews to better then influence the customers’ choice during
International Journal of Tourism & Hotel Business Management, 1 (1)
77
their purchase decision making. Hotels and marketers can actively incorporate
these practices in their future online marketing strategy. Considering these practices
enable hotels to more efficiency encourage and manage online guest reviews.
Additionally this study is one of the first studies investigating how to encourage
and manage online guest reviews in the Egyptian context.
But more importantly it also contributes to the hotel practice by adding to
the knowledge a practical methodology by which hotel marketers and practitioners
can assess and improve their level of online review encouragement and
management practices. This study enables hotels and marketers to analyses online
review from company’s perspective and more precisely from hotel marketers’
viewpoint. It provides priorities for online review encouragement and management
practices to utilize recourses efficiently and direct needed interest to the most
fruitful aspects of operation. Hoteliers can easily understand the areas where
changes and improvements are needed. It would enable hotels and managers to
investigate which practices should require more attention and which may be
consuming too many resources on achieving competiveness and effectiveness as a
significant way for managing online guest reviews. Additionally, an effective
management enables hotels to then improve their online marketing and
communication strategy and consequently satisfy customers.
LIMITATIONS AND FUTURE RESEARCH
The focus of this research is limited to the 5-star hotels in Egypt. Future
studies might therefore focus on extending the same examination to other countries,
other hotel categories (e.g. 4-star hotels, 3-star hotels) and other service types (e.g.
airline, restaurant industries) to improve the robustness of the findings. Research is
needed on the relationship between the levels of encouragement or management
practices and hotel’s size, star rating, branding or nationality.
This study used the primary online quantitative questionnaire. It would be
interesting future studies to use qualitative approach (i.e., face-to-face interviews)
to deeply investigate the participants about the practices used to encourage and
manage online guest reviews.
The practices of online review encouragement and management used in this
study do not represent all possible practices that may be taken. The study practices
are only suggestions that might be useful when working with online reviews. It is
just a guideline—hotel and marketers responses should still be personalized to each
review. Not all suggested practices will be relevant or applicable at any specific
facility because of the wide variety in the types, sizes, and locations of hotels. The
ideal number and structure of practices and dimensions could be different
depending on the type of industry, the service firm, the type of online community,
or the circumstances under which studies are rendered. To measure the variability
among the items (practices) a factor analysis can be used to analyze the relationship
between the items and to decide what items can measure the same latent factors.
Further research can conclude how cultural differences play a role in
encouraging and managing online reviews. Further studies may compare practices
between different cultures.
It can be expanded to include a broader application of IPA for a comparison
of encouragement and management practices for independent versus chain hotels
and 4-star versus 5-star hotels.
Ghazi
78
Future research should identify and assess the primary motivators and
barriers for encouraging and managing online reviews from hotels’ perspective.
Future studies focus on how to deal with fake or misleading reviews.
Additional research should focus on these limitations to assure the most
precise results.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
I thank Allah for granting me the guidance, patience, health and
determination to successfully accomplish this work. I would like to consider online
review in more depth in a forthcoming special issue and would welcome any
comments on how this might best be structured.
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