Impact of Hygiene and Sanitation on Hotel Guest Satisfaction in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Ning H and Shin S

Published on: 2022-06-26

Abstract

This study indicated which are the most concerns about hygiene conditions from a hotel customer perspective. 158 questionnaires were collected through convenience and snowball sampling. This study identified the impact of enhanced hygiene measures on hotel customer satisfaction during the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the four key areas that will be in direct contact with customers were tested, including public areas, guestrooms, fitness center, and restaurants in a hotel. The results of this study indicated that implementation of enhanced hygiene measures on a priority basis at major facilities has a significant impact on customer satisfaction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Particularly, this study provided valuable suggestions to hoteliers. First, hotels need to strengthen their hygiene practices not only for eliminating virus transmission but also for enhancing the customers’ experience; second, the study indicated which are the major facilities a hotel manager needs to be careful in terms of the hygiene condition to increase the customer satisfaction; third, the study proposes which hotel management team might need to prioritize for taking anti-virus measure.

Keywords

Hotel satisfaction; COVID-19; Hygiene measures; Hong Kong

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply shocked the hotel industry since its global outbreak in early 2020 [1]. As a result of the pandemic, the global hotel industry market size decreased over 95% in 2020: While it was 1.47 trillion US dollars in 2019, it dropped to 610 billion in 2020 [2]. The international borders closures and travel restrictions have caused postponement or cancellation of travel activities and, subsequently, the hotel industry has suffered a massive decline in demands, occupancy rates, and revenue [3-5]. While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the hotel industry, managers are facing a dilemma that has never been encountered before.

The prolonged pandemic situation leads hotel managers to adapt their operations to a “new normal”, such as intensifying safety protocols, adopting contactless technologies [6-8] or introducing flexible booking policies [9,10]. The pandemic has also changed the way hotel customers think and behave. Specifically, while the facility’s hygiene condition was rarely considered as the first criterion when choosing a hotel before the pandemic, now hotel customers tend to assign the highest value to the attribute [11]. According to the current survey about hotel customers’ expectations, over 90 percent of participants said that how a hotel enforces COVID-19 hygiene policies is extremely important for their choice [12]. Increasing concern over environmental contamination has led hotel customers to be highly sensitive to hotel facilities’ hygiene conditions [13].

Given the increased importance of the hotel facilities’ hygiene conditions, the attribute may affect not only the customer’s choice but also their satisfaction [14]. If it is the case, it would indicate that the hotel’s effort in improving its facility’s hygiene condition needs to be discussed as the strategy for providing a better experience rather than that only for staying in business. In the restaurant context, the potential of the facilities’ hygiene condition to be a satisfaction determinant has been examined. Thus, the attributes’ importance has been explained in relation to customers’ post-visit evaluation beyond its pre-visit perception [15-19].

However, such potential has been rarely investigated in the hotel context because most previous studies focused on the impact of the hygiene attribute on hotel customers’ pre-visit perception, including image [1] or choice of a hotel [13,20]. While a few studies have investigated the impact of the hygiene attribute on hotel customers’ satisfaction, they have primarily focused on a specific area [21] which is a guestroom [22,23], a restaurant [24] and a restroom [25,26]. Despite the increasing importance of the hygiene attribute in the hotel industry in the current pandemic situation [1] how hotel facility’s hygiene condition influences customers’ experience has been partially explained [27]. In other words, the following question has been hardly addressed: How does the hygienic condition of the hotel’s various facilities affect customers’ satisfaction? It is important to generate new knowledge which can be insights to the hotel managers regarding how to revise their operations according to the changing needs and wants of hotel customers due to the pandemic situation [28].

This study aims to confirm the potential of a hotel’s hygiene attribute to be a satisfaction determinant during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, we examine the effect of the hygiene condition of four main facilities of a hotel on customers’ satisfaction under the pandemic situation with a survey-based approach. This research contributes to the literature on hotel customers’ experience by discussing the revised role of the hygiene attribute caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, practically, the findings provide hotel managers with insights into what expected benefit they would get by improving facilities’ hygiene conditions and which facilities need to be prioritized for the improvement.

Research Background And Hypothesis Development

Customer satisfaction refers to “the customer’s subjective evaluation of a consumption experience, based on some relationship between the customer’s perceptions and objective attributes of the product” [28]. Customer satisfaction has been known as the key to success in the hotel industry: it significantly contributes to hotels’ competitiveness and sustainability by increasing customers’ retention and loyalty [30-32]. Reveals that customer satisfaction and quality of service are not only assessed but numerically correlated with customer loyalty, market share, and profitability. Many studies have verified the importance of customer satisfaction in the hotel industry by examining its impact on different post-visit behavior of customers, such as revisiting a hotel [33,34] recommending a hotel to their family or friends [35] or leaving a positive online review [36].

While its consequences have been a major research topic in the literature, another stream of the literature on hotel customers’ satisfaction has focused on its antecedents. Drawing on the value-percept disparity model arguing that customer satisfaction is determined by what customer’s value in a product [37], the literature has identified various hotel attributes that are considered as important by the customers for their evaluation. Specifically, the literature has investigated which hotel attributes have significant effects on customer satisfaction [38,39]. According to the literature review study done by 173 hotel attributes has been identified as the important ones which influence customer satisfaction [40].

Although several hotel attributes have been identified, many researchers have been still studying the phenomenon because attribute importance varies depending on a range of factors. By showing how un- or less important hotel attributes in a certain context become important ones in another, the literature has argued the importance of explaining what are the factors and what changes appear because of them [41]. Investigated customers’ nationality and found that the hotel’s sports facilities are critical to Americans for their evaluation but not to Chineses and Italians. In the research of the impact of the hotel class on the attributes’ contributions to customer satisfaction was examined: room condtion appeared as a significant satisfaction determinant for the customers of luxury hotels but not for those of economy hotels [42-44].

As different individual and hotel-level factors have been explored, those of external environments have been also proposed to be studied [45]. For example, given the hotel industry’s inherent vulnerability to global disease, the potential impact of the outbreak of epidemics on hotel attributes’ contributions to customer satisfaction has been proposed to be examined [46,47]. Focusing on customers’ heightened concerns over the hotel’s hygienic condition during the disease crisis [11] it has been suggested to investigate how the impact of hygiene attributes on customer satisfaction changes due to the outbreak of epidemics. Specifically, the following question has been proposed to be addressed:

Whether hotel’s hygiene attribute turns into a satisfier (i.e., an attribute which is related only to customer satisfaction: Its lower performance does not make customers dissatisfied) during the disease crisis while it is a dissatisfier (i.e., an attribute which is related only to customer dissatisfaction: Its higher performance does not make customers satisfied) in the normal situation?

However, the afore-mentioned research questions have been hardly addressed recently despite the current COVID-19 pandemic situation. Regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on hotel customer decision-making, most of the research has primarily focused on their pre-visit perception [1] or behavior [13,20]. To the best of our knowledge, three studies have examined the impact of hotel hygiene attributes on customer satisfaction under the pandemic situation [22,23,48]. However, only a guestroom has been investigated despite other facilities that constitute the significant parts of hotel services, such as lobby, fitness center, or restaurants [40]. Considering hotel customers have higher safety concerns toward common areas than guestrooms, the former’s hygiene condition might be critical to the customers’ evaluation.

Drawing on the argument of hotel customer satisfaction theories that what the customers value in the product changes during disease crisis, this research hypothesizes the significant effect of different hotel facilities’ hygiene condition condition on customer satisfaction under the COVID-19 pandemic situation. Four facilities of a hotel are selected because they cover over 80% of customer service areas in general: public areas (i.e., the common places and facilitates accessible to in-house guests and non-resident guests, such as entrance, lobby, corridor, and public toilet), guestrooms (i.e., a bedroom or suite room for a hotel guest), fitness center (i.e., a place where in-house guests exercise or relax, such as gymnasium, swimming pool, yoga room, and sauna and steam room), and restaurants (i.e., a place where in-house guests and non-resident guests pay to dine or be served on the premises, such as bars, lounges, and cafes) [49]. Thus, four hypotheses are suggested.

  • Hypothesis 1 (H1): Better hygiene condition of public areas of a hotel increase customer satisfaction.
  • Hypothesis 2 (H2): Better hygiene condition of guestrooms of a hotel increase customer satisfaction.
  • Hypothesis 3 (H3): Better hygiene condition of fitness center of a hotel increase customer satisfaction.

Hypothesis 4 (H4): Better hygiene condition of restaurants of a hotel increase customer satisfaction.

Figure 1: Research model.

Methodology

Sampling and Data Collection

 In total, 158 participants took part in our survey from November 27 to 30, 2021 via online and social media platforms. For the survey, we targeted Hong Kong residents who have stayed at a hotel in Hong Kong at least once during the COVID-19 pandemic situation. We used both convenience and snowball sampling for data collection. Hong Kong is one of the few countries that force all in-bound visitors quarantine in a hotel. It allows Hong Kong hotels to maintain their occupancy rate at a certain level. Given that quite many Hong Kong residents may have had hotel experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the regulation, we have chosen it as a geographic domain for data collection.

Table 1: Demographics of survey participants.

Demographic variables

Frequency

%

Sex

Male

55

34.8

Female

103

65.2

Age

 

 

18 – 30

71

44.9

31 – 45

69

43.7

46 – 60

10

6.3

Over 61

8

5.1

Education

 

 

 

Less than high school degree

0

0

High school graduate

21

13.3

Associate degree in college (2-year)

23

14.6

Bachelor’s degree in college (4-year)

87

55.1

Master’s Degree or above

27

17.1

Employment

 

Employed

134

84.8

Unemployed

6

3.8

Student / Housewife / Retired

18

11.4

Monthly Income

 

Less than $25,000

88

55.7

$25,000 - $45,000

55

34.8

Over $45,000

15

9.5

Total

 

158

100

Instrument

In total, 158 participants took part in our survey from November 27 to 30, 2021 via online and social media platforms. For the survey, we targeted Hong Kong residents who have stayed at a hotel in Hong Kong at least once during the COVID-19 pandemic situation. We used both convenience and snowball sampling for data collection. Hong Kong is one of the few countries that force all in-bound visitors quarantine in a hotel. It allows Hong Kong hotels to maintain their occupancy rate at a certain level. Given that quite many Hong Kong residents may have had hotel experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the regulation, we have chosen it as a geographic domain for data collection. This research conducted a cross-sectional survey. Based on the previous studies, a list of measurement items was generated [1,50,51]. After conducting necessary wording modifications for every item, the questionnaire was consulted by two real hoteliers who have more than ten years of hotel management experience consulted. For each hotel facility, four items were used to measure participants’ evaluation of its hygiene condition. Also, four items were used to measure customer satisfaction. A 5-point Likert scale (1 = “totally disagree”; 5 = “total agree”) was used for all the items (Table 2). Finally, an item was added as a filtering question which enabled to exclude the non-target participants. Two versions of the questionnaire (English and traditional Chinese) were prepared.

As shown in (Table 2), an item of each hotel facility was removed because they loaded on intended variables and three items of customer satisfaction were removed due to low factor loadings (i.e., lower than 0.5). The convergent validity of all the measures was established: Cronbach’s alpha was greater than 0.7; Composite reliability (CR) was greater than 0.7; and Average variance extracted (AVE) was greater than 0.5 [52]. Also, the discriminant validity of all the measures was established: The square root of the AVE of a particular variable needs to be greater than its correlations with other variables (Table 3).

Table 2: Measurement items and validity and reliability test.

Measurement items

Factor loadings

Cronbach’s

Alpha

CR

AVE

 

 

 

 

 

Public areas

 

 

 

 

1. The moment I arrived in the hotel lobby, the hotel provided adequate anti-epidemic measures (such as heat detection equipment, hand-rub, disinfection machine, etc.).

0.738

0.757

0.811

0.665

2. The hotel has provided measures to reduce direct contact between hotel staff and me (such as using apps to replace check-in procedures at the front desk, or replacing traditional key cards with electronic key cards, etc.).

0.765

     

3. The hotel clearly recommends or requires me to observe epidemic prevention measures in public areas of the hotel (such as maintaining social distance or avoiding gathering too many people, etc.).

0.74

     

Guestrooms

       

2. I think the hotel has enough anti-epidemic equipment in the room (such as masks, disinfectant hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, disposable care products, etc.).

0.79

0.754

0.845

0.646

3. I think hotels pay more attention to room hygiene and disinfection (such as cleaning and disinfection) than before the epidemic.

0.72

     

4. I think that when the hotel employee who provides room service enters my room, he/she has taken protective measures as a whole.

0.892

     

Fitness center

       

1. The hotel’s fitness center has provided you with adequate anti-epidemic measures (such as fitness equipment are placed separately, equipment will be thoroughly cleaned after each use, and the time and number of people for each entry are limited; use of the swimming pool requires prior reservations, etc.).

0.897

0.872

0.916

0.785

2. I think the hotel’s fitness center is cleaned and disinfected enough times (such as cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched areas, including fitness equipment and buttons).

0.897

     

3. I think the hotel can make me feel at ease in cleaning and disinfecting its fitness center.

0.863

     

Restaurants

       

1. I think the hotel’s restaurants provide adequate anti-epidemic measures (such as hand-rub, mask covers, wet tissues, etc.).

0.842

0.829

0.895

0.74

2. The hotel has provided measures to reduce direct contact between staff and other guests in restaurants (such as reducing the number of tables and seats, separating them with partitions, and making meals and payments through mobile apps, etc.).

0.847

     

3. The hotel clearly recommends or requires me to comply with epidemic prevention measures in catering facilities or when using catering services (such as using public chopsticks and providing disposable tableware, or maintaining social distance with other guests when picking up meals, or the hotel actively recommends dining in the room or provide food delivery services, etc.).

0.89

     

Hotel customer satisfaction

       

1. Overall, I was satisfied with staying in the hotel.

1

1

1

1

Note: CR=Composite Reliability, AVE=Average Variance Extracted.

Table 3: Correlation analysis between the variables.

 

1

2

3

4

5

VIF

Public areas

0.815

 

 

 

 

1.072

Guestrooms

0.245

0.804

 

 

 

1.785

Fitness center

0.171

0.537

0.886

 

 

1.51

Restaurants

0.211

0.592

0.496

0.86

 

1.662

Customer satisfaction

0.09

0.087

0.16

0.192

1

1.000

Note: The bold numbers are the square root of the AVE for each variable, VIF=Variance Inflation Factor.

Results

We conducted a partial least squares (PLS) regression analysis through Smart PLS. The regression model was estimated based on a bootstrapping technique with a sample size of 500. To assess the estimated model fit, we used the standardized root mean square residual (SRMR). To be accepted, SRMR needs to be lower than 0.080 [53] and our model’s was 0.058. No multicollinearity issue was found in the regression model, as shown in the column of the variance inflation factor (VIF) of (Table 4). The results showed that the impact of hygiene condition of the four facilities of a hotel on customer satisfaction is positively significant: Public areas (β = 0.335, p < 0.01), Guestrooms (β = 0.408, p < 0.001), Fitness center (β = 0.243, p < 0.01), and Restaurants (β = 0.268, p < 0.01) (Figure 2 and Table 4). Thus, all four hypotheses were supported. 

 

Figure 2: Results of PLS regression analysis.

Table 4: Results of hypothesis testing.

Hypotheses

Path

Coefficient

VIF

Results

H1

Public areas

0.335**

1.19

Supported

 

→ Hotel customer satisfaction

-0.161

 

 

H2

Guestrooms

0.408***

1.633

Supported

 

→ Hotel customer satisfaction

-0.12

 

 

H3

Fitness center

0.243**

1.746

Supported

 

→ Hotel customer satisfaction

-0.112

 

 

H4

Restaurants

0.268**

1.795

Supported

 

→ Hotel customer satisfaction

-0.115

 

 

Note: The values in parentheses indicate standard error; * p < 0.1, ** p < 0.05, *** p < 0.001.

Discussion And Implications

This research tests the potential significant impact of a hotel’s hygiene attribute on customer satisfaction under the COVID-19 pandemic situation. By finding the positive impact of the hygiene condition of hotel’s major facilities on customer satisfaction, this research empirically confirms the expected increase in the importance of hotel’s hygiene attribute in customer experience under the pandemic situation.

Theoretical Implications

This research contributes to the hospitality literature on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on tourists’ perception of a hotel. The COVID-10 pandemic situation is expected to lead hotel customers to be excessively sensitive to the hygiene condition of the facility not only for their pre-visit perception or behavior but also for post-visit. However, the expectation has been partially confirmed because the impact of hotel’s hygiene attribute under the pandemic situation has been examined primarily regarding the customers’ pre-visit perception or behavior [1,13,20]. This has hindered our understanding of the role of hygiene attributes in hotel customers’ experience during the pandemic situation. This research extends the previous research by discussing the role of hygiene condition of hotel’s major facilities in customers’ post-visit evaluation.

Second, this research contributes to the literature on hotel customers’ satisfaction in specific and on tourists in general. By arguing that what tourists value in a product or service changes due to various factors, tourists’ satisfaction theories have emphasized the importance of exploring and identifying those factors [41,42,45]. Compared to the individual and hotel-level factors, those related to external environments have been less investigated in the literature even though their potential impact has been suggested to be examined, such as global disease [46,47]. By showing that the COVID-19 pandemic situation affects what hotel customer’s value for their evaluation, this research empirically confirms that the outbreak of epidemics can be a factor affecting what tourist’s value in a hotel product. While this research is about a hotel product, our findings can be a basis for further confirming the external factor’s impact on tourists’ value proposition in other contexts, including restaurants, attractions, and so on.

Third, this research contributes to the literature on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on consumers’ product perception. Many studies have explained how the pandemic affects which product attributes consumers value in different contexts: which hospital attributes become more important to patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic [54] what attributes become crucial evaluation factors of students as the COVID-19 pandemic makes an online class a standard format [55]; whether and how the way online consumers evaluate e-commerce website changes because of the COVID-19 pandemic [56]. However, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on consumers’ satisfaction determinants has been less investigated in the hotel context, excepting a few studies [57,14]. In this regard, this research extends the literature by examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the unexplored context.

Practical Implications

This research provides a practical insight for hotels seeking to further benefit from their effort in improving their facilities’ hygiene condition. Our findings indicate that the hygienic condition of major hotel facilities significantly affects guest satisfaction in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This research suggests that hotels need to strengthen their hygiene practices not simply for dealing with the pandemic situation but also for enhancing their customers’ experience [22,23] . Hotels are recommended to consider reinforcing their hygiene practices as an opportunity to increase customer satisfaction in the COVID-19 situation rather than as an additional cost.

This research also indicates which facilities a hotel manager needs to be careful in terms of the hygiene condition to increase customer satisfaction other than guestrooms: public areas, fitness center, and restaurants. In Hong Kong where this research targets data collection, the three facilities are not fully available to the customers due to the current regulation by the government. However, our findings show that those facilities’ hygiene condition significantly affects customer satisfaction. This research shows whether there are any other facilities where a hotel manager needs to implement or strengthen hygiene practices even though they are not used [58].

Furthermore, this research proposes which facilities a hotel manager might need to prioritize for taking anti-epidemic measures. While it is not the main focus of this research, our results show that the hygiene condition of guestrooms has the highest positive impact on customer satisfaction, followed by that of public areas, restaurants, and fitness centers. Although hotels should focus their efforts on implementing hygiene practices for all facilities, not all hotels can afford to invest additional resources in various facilities. In this case, this research can serve as a guideline to determine which facilities should be prioritized.

Limitations and Future Research Directions

This research has several limitations that can serve as directions for future research. First, our findings are not generalizable because the only specific sample was targeted: Hong Kong residents who have stayed at a hotel in Hong Kong during the COVID-19 pandemic situation. The increasing importance of hygiene attributes in customer experience was confirmed only within a certain business and geographical domain. While the potential impact of hygiene attributes on customers’ post-consumption perception is expected across countries and business areas, our findings cannot be applied to those contexts. Future research can make the findings more generalizable by considering various contexts. Second, other than the demographics of the sample and geographical setting, hotel-level characteristics were not been considered in this research. While the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is universal, it can be different depending on the hotel’s grade (e.g., budget or luxury), customer base (e.g., family- or business-oriented), location (e.g., urban or rural), and so on. Future research can consider including different hotel-level characteristics as control or moderating variables. Lastly, this research focused on a specific moment even though the COVID-19 pandemic continues and, accordingly, the government-driven hygiene policies are still changing. As such, future research can conduct a longitudinal study to further understand the change in the importance of hygiene attributes on hotel customer satisfaction.

Disclosure Statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

Data Availability Statement

Raw data were generated at School of Hotel and Tourism Management. Derived data supporting the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author Han Ning on request.

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