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Essay: Mauritius – level of service quality and customer satisfaction provided by a five-star hotel

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Introduction
Mauritius is a very small island situated in the southwest of the Indian Ocean, approximately 2,400 km off the south east coast of Africa. It beneficiates from a tropical climate and has many natural assets, as it is an isolated island and has developed a unique ecosystem. It is an island full of historic sites, cultural diversity, geographic variation and almost unlimited activities.
The Mauritian economy has been constantly changing and growing during the last decades. For long the Mauritian economy has been dominated by the monoculture of sugarcane, and then by the textile industry, it now positions itself towards boosting sectors such as tourism, new technologies, the finances, and even the residential investments.
The tourism sector of Mauritius has attained a high level of excellence, has acquired international fame and has generated a large supply of foreign currency along with the creation of jobs in relation to the tourism industry.
The construction of luxurious hotels and villas has initiated a new important economic development in terms of foreign investments and an increase in job creation.
Mostly concerned with the ecological and environmental impact brought about new infrastructures, the government has engaged itself in the project ‘Maurice Ile Durable’, a long term and ambitious project to integrate ecologically sustained development in all sectors of the Mauritian economy.
Tourism & Hospitality Industry
The tourism industry represents the world most exciting, progressive and largest industry with revenue of over $500 billion around the globe. Mauritius is very popular in the Indian Ocean and has emerged as a major tourist destination. The tourism industry has faced a drastic growth in the past years. The amount of resorts and hotels has been increasing over the years in order to accommodate the increasing number of tourists visiting the island.
The tourism industry is of a great importance and is considered as a key factor to the economy of small islands or specific regional and local destinations (WTO 2009 Publications).
Gradually, Mauritius is becoming one of the most popular destinations for tourists all over the world looking for a beach destination in a tropical paradise island. Mauritius is mostly appreciated for its natural beauty, and the various man-made attractions, cultural diversity in the Mauritian population that is friendly and welcoming.
With the enormous growth of the tourism industry, due to which has been the opening of hotels in Mauritius in almost every boulevard, near tourist attraction and airports. Luxurious hotels in Mauritius welcome tourists with charming warmth, hospitality and excellent service.
The various hotels throughout the island have a magnificent view on the turquoise water and beaches with their abundance of boutiques, restaurant and various entertainment water sports. Most of the hotels have been accommodated with the latest technology and services for the indulgence of tourists, with their large variety of services. The hospitality industry has been constantly upgrading the quality of accommodation to meet the expectations of international travellers and on the other side to cope with the increased competitive pressures as a consequence of the combined effect of the worldwide economic recession, technological advancement and globalisation.
According to a recent study by the Central Statistics Office of Mauritius, the arrivals of 990,000 tourists were expected, which is an increase of 2.5% compared to 2012 (965,441). Approximately 94% of these visitors came for a holiday, 3.5% on a business trip or to attend conferences and the rest in transit. Tourist arrivals from Europe which is known as the main market, were accounted for 59.7% of overall turnover.
The majority of tourist arrivals were mainly from Europe. We note, moreover, that the Russian market lost 30.3%, with a total of 5,113 tourists.
For the first three months, tourist receipts were amounted to Rs 12.1 billion against Rs 13.8 billion. Despite the 1.5% increase in arrivals recorded for the first quarter 2013, revenues were down.
Problem Statement
The tourism and hospitality industry in Mauritius is developing more rapidly than any other industries. Based on data available on tourist arrivals and information, the forecast of 980,000 tourist arrivals for the year 2013 was reviewed upwards to 1,000,000 tourists, representing an increase of 3.6% over the figure of 965,441 in 2012. The forecasted number of tourists for 2014 is around 1,025,000. Tourist arrivals for the first nine months of 2013 attained were 694,443. It represents an increase of 2.8% over the figure of 675,584 registered for the first nine months of 2012. In today’s world of intense competition, the key to sustainable competitive advantage lies in delivering high quality service that will in turn result in satisfied customers (Shemwell et al, 1998).
Due to high competition, the number of tourists is increasing; the hotel industry is facing an increase in demand for high quality service. In the other hand, it is important to know if the hotel is delivering the high quality service to the clientele, in order to meet customer satisfaction.
This study has been carried out, as in Mauritius the main problem in the hospitality industry nowadays is that there is an increasing demand for high quality service due to competition as the number of tourists is increasing. Due to a declined in agricultural and textile sector, tourism has been viewed as an important part in the Mauritian economy. Thus, it is mandatory to see whether the expected class of services is provided to the tourists at the hotels. By providing high service quality, hotels can therefore enjoy long term profitability and customer satisfaction. Tourism in Mauritius has been facing some challenges as regional tourism destinations, such like Maldives and Seychelles, which are emerging competitors, due to the high class services provided by the hotels.
Aims & Objectives of the study
The purpose of the study is to measure the level of service quality and customer satisfaction provided by the five-star hotel. It is based on the following objectives:

  • To assess service and product quality perceptions of guests
  • Identify features that need attention to meet hotel guests’ expectations
  • To evaluate the level of customer satisfaction at the hotel
  • To measure hotel’s service quality performance from the customer perspective

Hypothesis
Ho: Customer satisfaction is not an important element in the hospitality industry.
H1: Customer satisfaction is an important element in the hospitality industry.
H2: Service quality has a significant impact on customer satisfaction.
H3: Service quality does not have a significant impact on customer satisfaction.
H4: Customer service has an effect on customer perceptions.
H5: Customer service does not have an effect on customer perceptions.
H6: There is a relationship between customer satisfaction and service quality.
H7: There is no relationship between customer satisfaction and service quality.
Outline of Study
Chapter 1 gives a general overview of the hospitality industry in Mauritius. It gives an idea of the objectives that will be analysed in order to measure service quality in a hotel industry.
Chapter 2 reveals all the theory parts of the project. It explores and describes theories about service quality, the relationship between customer expectation and customer perception, and SERVQUAL method.
Chapter 3 outlines the types of data, the sources used and the methods that have been analysed in order to carry this study. It explains how the research has been undertaken and explains the method used for the data collection.
Chapter 4 is about results and discussions. It represents the entire details obtained from the research. It is the most important part of the dissertation. This chapter shows the results of the findings and a discussion based on the results obtained. The results are illustrated with graphs and figures.
Chapter 5 is the conclusion and recommendation. It summarizes the whole study and presents some recommendations. It is a review of the thesis.
Chapter Two: Literature Review
Introduction
Chapter two provides a detailed description about the key concepts in the dissertations topic. Theories related to service quality, customer expectations and customer perceptions are discussed in details.
Nature of services
Services are growing in importance in the world economy and this is mainly due to technological advancement and globalisation. The definition of services are complex than it used to be due to its diversification on the global market and is now considered by many as a complicated phenomenon. It has been deduced that services involve four main characteristics, which are intangibility, inseparability, heterogeneity, and perishability.
A service comprises of a series of processes which makes it complex in nature. Due to this complexity, each customer is different and hence has different perceptions and expectations of the level of service quality provided to them.
Services can also be viewed as including all economic activities whose output is not physical product or construction , is generally consumed at the time it is produced, and provides added value in forms (such as convenience , amusement , timeliness, comfort or health) that are essentially intangible concerns of its first purchaser (Zeithaml and Bitner,2003). Although the process of services may be tied up to physical products, their performances are essentially intangible and do not result in ownership of any kind.
Defining Quality
Most people have difficulties in defining quality, as it is much more complicated than it appears to be; however they know it when they see it. There is no single definition of quality. Quality can be viewed as a standard business, and customer satisfaction and needs.
Quality has been described as ‘the single most important force leading to the economic growth of companies in international markets’ (Feigenbaum, 1982:22).
Quality is made by a customer’s perception of a delivered service. The performance on the level of quality of service is more complex, as there is larger variety of services which are offered to customers.
Fitzsimmons (1994, 189 ) as well indicates quality as being the result of an activity, but in turn states that actual assessment of quality is done during the service delivery process which usually takes place within an encounter between a customer and an employee.
In regards to the above reasons, quality can be understood as the result of being satisfied or not only after having assessed the quality during the service delivery process.
Characteristics of Services
Services have unique characteristics which make them different from that of goods. The four characteristics of services are intangibility, inseparability, perish ability and heterogeneity. The four characteristics are discussed below.
Intangibility
One of the most important characteristics of services is intangibility. Services are unique, as they cannot be seen, tasted, felt, heard or smelled before they are bought.
Intangibility can be reduced by using strong messages in advertising and publicity in order to support a clear position’ (Davies, 1998). The evaluation of services offered to customers depends on its timing prior to delivery. The presentation and physical evidence need to be taken into consideration by the service provider to demonstrate the service quality. A physical setting is set to be place in order by the service provider to project an image that a quick and efficient service is being provided to the customers. In the case of hotel, all staff should be well groomed, be helpful with a smile and be prompt to customer demand.
Inseparability
Production and consumption of services are done simultaneously. The occurrence of service delivery is only significant if there is the presence of its service provider and the buyer. Services cannot be separated from their provider whether they are people or machines (Kotler and Armstrong, 2001). It is highly present in the hotel industry where each service is personalized. There is constant interaction between the customer and the personnel of the hotel. Although inseparability is unique among each service providers, customers and service providers are dependent on one another for the success of service provided (Lawler, 2001).
Heterogeneity
Services are subject to degrees of variability as they are performances that are frequently produced by humans (Zeithaml and Bitner, 2003). The human contact is much more present, in providing and rendering services. For example, in a hotel, there will be a person at the reception to help the customers to hand over the key or show them their room.
Service varies constantly and is difficult to control. It depends on who provides the service as well as when, where and how they are provided. (Kotler et al., 2005)
Perishability
Services are perishable as they cannot be stored for later use. If a service is not used when available, then the service capacity is lost (Edgett and Parkinson, 1993). For example, a hotel room without occupancy for the day could not be saved and does not generate revenue during that particular day. On the other hand, the hotel cannot supply hotel rooms for its customers when it is fully occupied.
For example, if a tourist makes a reservation in a hotel during the peak seasons, and then cancels or does not show up he may or may not be refunded depending on the policy of the hotel.
Service quality
Parasuraman and al (1985) defined service quality as a way to meet customer’s expectations. Hence, it incorporates the concept of meeting and exceeding the customers’ expectation pertaining in the level of service quality offered which impacts positively on the organisation’s performance and competitive positioning.
Lewis and Booms (1983), states that service quality has the tendency to focus on meeting customers’ needs and requirement and how well the service delivered will meet their expectations.
In this highly competitive hospitality industry, service quality has become one of the most important factors for gaining a sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace. Customers view services as a variety of attribute that contribute to their purchase intentions and perceptions of service quality.
Service quality is an important part to academicians because of its relevancy to service companies and therefore many researchers have tried to develop various models to measure it, even though some claim it is hard to measure because of its intangibility which is hard to quantify (Eshghi et al., 2008, p.121, Douglas and Connor, 2003, p.171). This is why as services are intangible in nature, evaluating the customer’s perception of quality can be done through the interaction with the personnel offering services, (Magi and Julander, 1996, p.35). The interaction between the customer and service provider is of vital importance to measure service quality.
Service quality is an important area for practitioners because according to Douglas and Connor, (2003, p.167) and Saravanan and Rao, (2007, p.435), the need for survival and growth in ever increasing competitive markets are main critical factors in the search for providing superior service quality and achieving customer satisfaction. Researchers have proven that providing good service quality to customers retains them, attracts new ones, enhances corporate image, positive word-of-mouth recommendation and above all guarantees survival and profitability. (Negi, 2009; Ladhari,2009).
There is the need for service differentiation from one business to another, in order to remain competitive in the industry. According to Cronin and Taylor, (1992) improvement of service quality has become one of the most important strategies, and thus service provider can use it to differentiate itself from competitors and hence positioning itself more effectively in the market place.
Importance of Service Quality in Hotel Industry
Zimmerman & Enell (1988) advise that careful consultation with the customer and an appraisal of the performance of competitors is needed in order to create any scales or measurements of quality which they place in a narrowed down framework of four quality standards.
Mill (1986) identifies the aim of service quality as being able to ensure a satisfied customer. Service quality involves the balance between the expectations that the customer had and their perceptions of the service received. A high quality is when the customer’s perceptions meet or exceed their expectations.
All service organizations try and provide the best possible and high quality services to their customers but still they often fall short of the customers’ expectations since the customers have become more aware of their requirements and demand higher standards of services.
Delivering quality service will be one of the major challenges facing hospitality managers in the next years. It will be an essential condition for success in the emerging, keenly competitive, global hospitality markets. While the future importance of delivering quality hospitality service is easy to discern and to agree on, doing so presents some difficult and intriguing management issues. In the eyes of our guests, our hospitality businesses will succeed or fail depending on the cumulative impact of the service encounters in which they have participated.
Measuring service quality
Service quality in hotel industry is an important factor for successful business and is important to the study as accurate knowledge of what customers expect is the first and perhaps the most critical step in providing exceptional service quality. The service quality not only is measured according to delivery staff performance but also the appearance of the staff matters. For e.g., if at the reception the guest relation officer is being polite however has dirty clothes, this will have a negative impact on the service. It has been understood that when measuring the service quality many psychological features are very important to be identified.
There is also the need to ensure total quality management of customer care. This calls for combining the satisfaction of customer needs with the achievement of company objectives, thus making it possible for organizational objectives to be met through strategic operations that go to satisfy customer needs.
The 5 dimensions of service quality which are tangible, empathy, assurance, responsiveness and reliability are the latest version of SERVQUAL to measure service quality by using perception and expectation gap of the customer.
Application of service quality and customer satisfaction in the hospitality industry
Service Quality in Hotel Industry
When we talk about hospitality, we must also talk about quality issues to provide a quality hospitality product. Among the service industries tourism is especially significant in terms of its sensitivity to quality issues and in fact, service quality is one of the goal tourism policy issues in the light of the rapid growth of the industry. Valid approaches regarding service quality for the tourism industry is the customer oriented and the value-oriented approach of Garvin`s five definition of quality (Williams et al.,2003) since the specific issue of quality in tourism has not yet been address by management academics and no specific definitions have been attributed to the industry.
The customer-oriented approach views customers as central to the organisation and to all aspects of the operational procedures. This explains the necessity of constantly gathering information on guests` expectations which (Diaz-martin et al., 2000), considers as a segmentation variable in tourism), perceptions and complaints concerning services. Services are delivered according to the needs and wants of customers so as to enhance their holiday experience.
Moreover, the customer must derive value from the hospitality product; the quality in tourism must be both in terms of the physical product (hotel design, room, restaurant, menu items, etc) and the service being offered. According to Horst Schulze, president and chief executive of the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company, (service can only be accomplished by people). The hotel can be very beautiful and the food memorable, but a poor employee can quickly sour the experience).
The service element is crucial in enhancing the quality of the experience of the tourist, who will always be conscious of and even assessing, the attitude, skills and competencies of the host delivering a particular service.
Gronroos (1984), regarded service quality from 2 points of view: technical and functional quality. The technical quality is the actual outcome of the service while the functional quality is all about the process that has been undergone to deliver the outcome. Both are considered equally important owing to their impact on customers and can surely be applied in the tourism context.
The world Tourism Organization (WTO, 2003b) has defined quality in tourism as:

‘… the result of a process which implies the satisfaction of all legitimate product and service needs, requirements and expectations of the customer , at an acceptable price , in conformity with the underlying quality determinants such as safety and security, hygiene , accessibility , transparency , authenticity and harmony of the tourism activity concerned with its human and natural environment.’

In the above definition we can clearly find that elements of both the customer-oriented and value ‘ oriented approach has been considered together with attributes which are directly connected with the tourism concept. Tourism quality is taken from a holistic perspective in this definition.
One universal truth about the hospitality industry is that nothing can make up for poor service. Research provides evidence about the importance of staff, particularly front line ones, in shaping quality of tourism service. To this end, much investment must be made on the selection of hosts and their training to achieve more revenue.

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