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Measuring Service Quality for Islamic Friendly Hotels in Thailand and its Impact on Behavioral Intention
Globalization processes have nurtured the growth of international organizations as they seek to capitalize on business opportunities on other continents. As such, people from diverse countries are seeking to travel abroad either for leisure, business purposes or even seek treatment. Different countries tend to project varying attitudes to other cultures and religions based on distinct national perceptions (Kim, Im & King, 2015). Religion is also considered as a delicate issue, especially with the advent increase in terror attacks all over the world. More specifically, Islam as a religion has come to be perceived as being hostile and as such, Muslim faithful tend to be treated with much caution in non Muslim countries (Ali, Rezaei, Hussain & Ragavan, 2014). It is, however, important to note that in some Muslim countries as well, there is the high likelihood that people from other religions such as the Christians and Jews may not feel comfortable to visit.
Behavioral intentions can be described as an indicator as to whether a particular tourist will positively consider revisiting the very same hotel establishment in the future (Braam, 2006). It also signifies whether the tourist can recommend such an establishment to a fellow Muslim tourist. The growing number of tourists originating from Islamic countries has increased significantly (Kim, Im & King, 2015). Whether Muslim tourists are seeking to further their education in host countries, visit for leisure, business or even for health care services, the hospitality industry is looking to tap into this relatively ignored market (Cohen, 2008). There is therefore an inclination by major players in the industry to compel progressive hoteliers to generate products and services that appeal to the Muslim tourist (Shafaei & Mohamed, 2015). This conceptual paper seeks to examine whether the Muslim themed hotels in Thailand match the innate expectations of Muslim tourists. More so, this paper will examine the degree of service quality needed to influence favorable behavioral intentions among Muslim Tourists in Future.
Despite the fact that cases of religious intolerance are continuously being witnessed all around the world has done little to adversely affect the global tourism industry. Based on the fact that tourism is a great income earner for many countries, both non Muslim and non Christian, governments as well as concerned stakeholders are continuously seeking to improve service quality within the tourism and hospitality industries (Wilson, 2011); (Kim, I’m & King, 2015). A good number of nations where Islam is the main religion have been realizing sustained economic growth and development that has enabled the populations in such countries to afford world travel.
This has compelled progressive nations to integrate Islamic Tourism on a practical as well as on a practical level within their tourism and hospitality industries (Wilson, 2011). As such this relates to religious tourism. Service quality is regarded to as a very significant issue which practitioners within the hospitality industry and more so, researchers studying in the same field are also working on studies on the same agenda. Indeed, such research studies tend to project varying outcomes (Kim, Im & King, 2015). On the same note, dimensions relative to service quality also vary depending on the nature of services offered and the sector’s performance. Similarly, even in instances where researchers delve into the same sector and the nature of service offered, results and conclusions reached tend to differ widely. It is critical to understand that in the measurement of service quality dimensions; there is the need to examine Muslim tourism via a six dimension. This is because Sharia Law tends to have some amenities not consistent with other forms of tourism service quality dimensions (Shafaei & Mohamed, 2015).
The main religion in Thailand is Buddhism. The second most popular religion in this Asian country is Islam. As such, the country can be considered to have a relatively low multicultural mix. According to Eid & El-Gohary (2014), this has, largely because of the government’s endeavor towards a monotheist state. For more than a century, the official government has underscored the need for greater homogeneity among its citizen thus resulting in a nation with a limited multiethnic mix. It is of great significance to point out that this country was once revered for its multi-cultural diversity. At present, there is also a resurgence towards greater ethnic and cultural diversity in the country.
Quality management principles are gaining significance in the modern world. The same is true for the tourism and hospitality industry. As such, tourists are now keener as to the services and products offered in hotels and by extension, the hospitality industry as they seek to ensure they receive the finest quality and value for money (Shafaei & Mohamed, 2015). A number of arising issues have led to the systematic review of quality management principal within the global tourism industry and by extension, the global hospitality industry. These include: unwillingness to provide select services such as those which appeal to the Muslim clientele; growing competition; unfavorable price-performance ratios and poor product standardization practices.
As much as there is a significant Muslim population in Thailand, halal compliance in its tourism and hospitality industry is still relatively new (Wilson & Liu, 2014). As such, hotel establishments in the country should capitalize on acknowledging and filling this void (Shafaei & Mohamed, 2015). More so, the hotel industry bin the country should comprehend that apart from offering halal oriented food services and products, other amenities are also distinct to the Muslim tourist. Muslim architectural buildings such as mosques are integral to the lives of Muslims (Som, Marzuki, Yousefi & AbuKhalifeh, 2012); (Nassar, Mostafa & Reisinger, 2015). Such factors are important to consider when seeking to attract Muslim tourists and more so, acquire the desired behavioral intention.
As Battour, Battor, & Ismail (2012) provides, the significance of Halal foods among devout Muslims has been quoted in many research studies on the hospitality industry. As such, halal foods are prepared in accordance with strict adherence principles outlined in the Quran. The term halal defines that food and drinks that are lawful or allowed under the Sharia Law (Leung, Au & Law, 2015). It is the obligation of every Muslim faithful to only indulge in consuming halal foods and drinks. The hospitality industry and by extension, Muslim friendly hotels seek to appeal to the Muslim tourist by ensuring they prepare foods that are purely halal (Tamwatin, Trimetsoontorn & Fongsuwan, 2015). In an effort to ensure authenticity, halal food products are in most cases conspicuously branded to eliminate any doubt as to what foods are served herein.
Technology acceptance model (TAM) is derived by categorizing a small set of variables and with the help of reasoned action theory. Today, the model remains an important tool for understanding technology consumption behavior (Oghazi, Mostaghel, Hultman & Parida, 2012). Despite the fact that the model was initially designed for application in understanding employees’ behavior and characteristics, newer versions of the model have targeted consumer behavior. This is guided by the notion that consumers have different motivations for adopting technological solutions. The link between intention and perceived usefulness is seen as being particularly strong given that within the settings of the organization, individuals develop intentions towards behaviors that they perceive as capable of increasing performance (Kim & Qu, 2014). The situation is a little more different when applied to consumers given that extrinsic motivations are of little value to the consumer of the service. However, research has proven that this relationship is significant and positive (Oghazi, Mostaghel, Hultman & Parida, 2012).
In their study, Pantano and Di Pietro (2012) sought to synthesis of variables that can be used in the TAM model to explain consumer behavior. According to them, perceived usefulness and ease of use are directly related to consumers’ attitude towards the technology and by extension their behavioral intention. In addition to the two variables, the authors define perceived costs, perceived security, subjective norms, self efficacy and satisfaction as all having an integrated role in defining consumption behavior. Defining perceive costs as the consumer’s belief of the cost associated with the use of the technology, they argue that high cost will create reluctance in regard to effective usage. By extension, if the perceived cost is high, consumer’s intention to use the technology will be negatively affected (Kattara & El-Said, 2013). Perceived security on the other hand revolves around privacy and perceived risks specifically where customers do not have the relevant experience to use the product. Subjective norms relate to the expectations held by other people (Vargo & Lusch, 2004). In this context, subjective norms measures how other people influence an individual intention to use a given technology.
This particular study seeks to establish the items considered for service quality dimension within the hotel industry in Thailand. The items will then be integrated into a conventional Likert type instrument prior to administering this instrument to a random sample populace made up of Muslim tourists. The initial phase involves pinpointing significant items for the service quality dimension. Guided by the literature review, a questionnaire registering these items was drafted. The 30 items itemized herein relate to various aspects of the quality service dimension. The items were drafted as statements and a similar rating was employed in the entire questionnaire. The 7 point Likert type scale which varied from 1 for strongly disagrees and 7 for strongly agree. Data was collected from different Muslim friendly hotels with multistage sampling being used in instances where gender, occupation and race randomized data collection of 100 respondents of which 64.3% completed the questionnaire.
The quality of service dimension concerning halal foods related to Muslim tourists who opted to book into hotels run by Muslims and employed Muslim staff. This dimension also critically addresses as to whether or not the clientele emphasize on keener interest to halal ingredients. Price was also a dimension incorporated into the study, though little emphasis was adhered to. The tangibles dimension was used to determine whether Muslim friendly hotels offered amenities consistent with the Muslim faith, such as separate swimming pools and a distinct site for prayers or close proximity to a mosque.
The study revealed that a good number of Muslim friendly hotels in Thailand failed to comprehensively appreciate the significance of Halal to Muslim clientele. It was, however, also noted that most Muslim friendly hotels continued to do good business despite non compliance to Halal as most clientele are non Muslim. It is however of critical importance for managers and other hotel industry administrators to embrace the aspect of globalization and more so, ethnic and cultural diversity. This doesn’t only entails appealing to Muslim tourists, but employing more Muslim staffs as well. As such, halal compliance should be incorporated into day to day operations within the country’s tourism and hospitality industry. The Muslim tourist sector is growing at a considerable pace and thus, incorporating Sharia Law perspective can work towards ensuring Muslim clients are confident with the dimensions of quality service. Taking note of the distinct feature that appeal to Muslim clients can result in a positive influence on behavioral intention. This will not only improve the competitive advantage of Muslim friendly hotels, but also ensure that diversity as nurtured by the aspect of globalization is adhered to.
Given that hotel staffs are in essence front line managers within the hospitality industry, it is highly recommended that hoteliers and hotel establishment owners desire to acquire, train and retain knowledgeable workers. This is critical towards ensuring that they will be open and receptive to people from other cultures and as such, positively relate with them in the dispensation of assigned duties. Branding can also go the extra mile towards attracting Muslim clients (Hashim, Murphy & Hashim, 2007). The hotel logos for establishing that are Muslim friendly should work towards incorporating the halal logo within the organization’s logo. Such branding should however be authenticated via registration with relevant state and Islamic bodies.
This conceptual paper has sought to investigate and furthermore, present a number of the underlying factors influencing behavioral intention among Muslim tourists in Thailand. Throughout the paper, issues which determine or otherwise measure the preference of Muslim tourists to revisit a hotel establishment after their first visit have been discussed. As such, it is widely accepted not only among other practitioners in the Thai hotel industry but in its tourism industry as well that destination image is critical to successful and sustainable operations. Adhering to halal food codes and designated different amenities unique to Muslim ideals has been proven to be one of the strongest attributes positively impacting on behavioral retention among Muslim tourists.
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