The role of IT and new technologies in promoting hotel services

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1 The role of IT and new technologies in promoting hotel services Konstantinos Marinakos¹, Dimitrios Laloumis 2, Varvaresos Stelios 3 ¹Faculty of Social Sciences, Hellenic Open University, 2 Tourism and Hospitality Management, TEI of Athens, Greece 3 Tourism and Hospitality Management, TEI of Athens, Greece Key words: internet, hotel services, electronic marketing, sales Abstract This article examines the role played by the Internet as a means of promoting and marketing hotel products and services, using the hotels in the Attica region of Greece as a sample area. The benefits that hotel enterprises hope to gain by using the various capabilities offered by the Internet are also examined. According to the results of this survey, websites, , search engines and social media are all tools which the study participants mostly use to promote their hotel enterprise on the Internet, with the aim of marketing their services and increasing sales. Nevertheless, despite the importance that the respondents appear to ascribe to online marketing and the social media, the level of Internet-derived sales is not satisfactory. Consequently, the enterprises must develop relevant online marketing policies in order to convert visits to websites, search engines and social media into sales of the products and services they are promoting. Introduction The rate at which the Internet has gained a leading role in everyday life over the last few decades is impressive. In developed countries, the Internet is now used on a daily basis by all age groups and socio-economic classes (Middleton, et.al 2009). In a period intensely marked by consumerism, and given the ease with which the majority of the population worldwide has direct access to a considerable volume of information, the use of the Internet is essential in all sectors of the economy (Kotler et.al 1998),The field of tourism and hotel services, which is an extremely competitive sector, is most certainly no exception. Literature Review Since the mid 1990s, the Internet has proven to be a particularly useful tool for businesses and the development of their activities (Veisi, et.al, 2007). Initially, the new technologies were used internally to facilitate intra-company communication and information. Their use then expanded to communication between enterprises and their partners and recently, with the proliferation of the Internet, between enterprises and their end-recipients - their customers (Tull & Hawkins, 1993., Silk, et.al 2001). Specific to the tourism sector, the immediate distribution of timely and useful information in real time to the appropriate buyer in the appropriate manner can make a critical difference and improve the competitiveness of the respective tourism enterprise (Booms & Bitner,1981.,Churchill, 1992).

2 The role of IT and new technologies in promoting hotel services The development of the Internet's potential and the demands of Internet users led to the emergence of new forms of online marketing and to the improvement of already existing ones (Barker & Gronne, 1996., Hoffman & Novak 2000., Kotler, & Armstrong 1995., Morrison, 1996). Each form of online marketing (websites, advertising banners, text links, buttons, pop-up ads, ) presents different characteristics and offers differing capabilities with respect to how it approaches the public, its selectivity, its interactivity, its efficiency and its cost. Each one of these, either separately or in combination, can provide an effective promotional plan (Uppgren, 1995., Rowley,.2001.,Lin & Huang, 2006., Bennett, 1988). The use of the Internet now makes "feedback" and "interaction" possible for any enterprise (Zeff & Aronson,1999., Selltiz et.al.1976., Cho, 1999). Users are also able to choose whether and when to be exposed to the advertising message. This means that users are actively engaged at all phases of online advertising (Jones,1996), With regard to the tourism sector, through the wide variety of current information it provides, the Internet has given rise to a new generation of tourists that is not entirely dependent on tourism intermediaries for finding products and services, enterprises and destinations. From the hotel enterprise point of view, the use of the Internet presents capabilities that can benefit it and increase its revenues if they are exploited in effective ways. The Internet provides hotel business owners with unlimited advertising exposure, innovation, measurement of outcomes, successful targeting, international visibility, cost controls, creation of communities and interactive capabilities (Sudman & Seymour,1976., Xing & Lin, 2006). Research Methodology This study seeks to document the status of hotel enterprises with regard to their adoption of new technologies for promotional purposes and for boosting their competitiveness. Emphasis was given to hotels in the Prefecture of Attica, Greece, specifically in Athens, Piraeus and the Rest of Attica, with the aim of collecting valuable information with regard to hotel enterprises turning to online marketing. With the above purpose as the central axis, the research questions posed in this survey are: a) How important is the role of online marketing for hotel enterprises? b) How familiar are hotel enterprises with online marketing? c) What does a hotel enterprise expect to gain through online marketing in terms of effectiveness and benefits? To investigate the research questions, both primary and secondary research was conducted. Secondary research involves drawing data and information through articles, studies and surveys which have been conducted on a national and global level. As regards primary research, a quantitative study was selected, as it was essential to include the largest possible sample in order to obtain results that are as reliable and representative as possible. Additionally, the specific study allows for statistical analysis of the results and control of reliability, which was deemed essential in this case. The survey sample was selected based on certain characteristics, such as location and hotel class. Due to geographical limitations, 142 hotels based in the Prefecture of Attica (Athens, Piraeus and Rest of Attica) were selected, 29 of which were five-star, 45 were four-star and 68 were three-star hotels. The table of collated hotel data was prepared based on information provided on the website of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels.

3 The small research sample is due to the fact that there are only 190 hotels (5*, 4* and 3*) in the Attica Regional Unit, and specifically in Athens, Piraeus and the rest of Attica, 48 of which did not take part in the survey, mainly due to their lacking qualitative specifications and their limited use of new technologies. A structured questionnaire was used as a survey tool, since it offers considerable advantages for quantitative research (1976, 1993). The questionnaire was prepared in two sections and included 12 multiple-choice questions. The first section of the questionnaire comprises seven questions that examine the adoption of Internet-based promotional methods and the use of new technologies by the hotel enterprises in the Attica Regional Unit. The second section, which comprises five questions, examines the variables related to the effectiveness of online marketing. A Likert scale, a semantic differential scale and non-comparative scale were used for these measurements. Of the 142 questionnaires sent, 60 were returned (response rate of 42.3%). As regards the part of the research using descriptive statistics we took into account the following: frequencies distribution, central tendency measurements, standard deviation and standard error. For the hypothesis testing we used: a) cross tabulation using the chi square test (X²), between one dependent variable and many independent variables and b) one way analysis of variance ( one way anova). For all the abovementioned analyses the statistical significant level was fixed at between 1% (P<0.01) and 5% (P<0.05); therefore, if P>0.05 we assume at the significant level that the answers are not statistically different in the two categories, whereas if P<0.05 we assume that a statistically significant difference exists. Research Findings Based on the findings of the primary research, the first survey question indicates that online marketing plays quite an important role for hotel enterprises because it has greatly improved overall and new sales, along with the hotel's relationship with its customers. Nevertheless, although online marketing is quite important, it is notable that the survey indicates that the rate of use correlating to online bookings is low. Moreover, the majority of respondents were of the opinion that in relation to traditional modes of advertising, online marketing brings better results at a lower cost. However, the survey showed that the current online marketing expenditure for most of the respondents remains at a low level. The second survey question found that all of the respondents were familiar with online promotional tools and used these tools to a greater or lesser degree. Most of the respondents use the website as their main advertising tool, a fact that is consistent with the findings of numerous researchers that websites are the most widely used tool for hotel enterprises. This is followed by , search engines and social media, though at a much lower rate than expected. Moreover, more than 50% of the respondents know about and make use of the tools provided by Google. Finally, the last survey question indicates that online marketing has led to an overall increase in hotel bookings and has made a significant contribution to customer service. In addition, it acts positively to strengthen customer loyalty and promote the image of the hotel enterprise through the use of social media, which reduce the cost of promotion while at the same increasing the buying public. Respondents listed increased sales for their business at the top of the list of benefits they hope to realise through online marketing.

4 The role of IT and new technologies in promoting hotel services Conclusions Given the relative decrease in the use of certain online marketing tools, as well as the lower rate of bookings made online, hotel enterprises should fully understand the benefits and potential of online marketing. To this end, it is proposed that: a) hotel staff actively participate in seminars/ongoing training on Internet marketing in order to stay abreast of developments and new methods, and how various methods can be combined, and thus develop a more appropriate attitude and outlook; b) websites be regularly rebuilt and enriched in such a way as to convert visitors into customers; c) verified applications be adopted that will allow transactions to be conducted with the strictest confidence and security; d) new applications and technologies, such as mobile marketing and mobile apps, be introduced to help enterprises set themselves apart from the competition. In conclusion, it would be particularly interesting to extend this study to both a Greekwide and a European-wide level, particularly to countries that are Greece's direct competitors, in order to ascertain whether and to what extent the use of the Internet and social media differs in the respective countries and to determine the degree to which the results vary in comparison to Greece. References Barker, C.& Gronne, P. (1996), Advertising on the World Wide Web. Thesis, Copenhagen Business School, Booms, B.H. & Bitner, M.J. (1981), Marketing strategies and organization structures for service firms. In: Donnelly J., George W.R. (eds), Marketing of Services, Chicago: American Marketing Association Cho, C., (1999), How advertising works on the www: Modified Elaboration Likelihood Model, Journal of Current Issues and Research in Advertising, Vol. 21,No. 1, pp Churchill, G.A. Jr. (1992), Basic Marketing Research, Fort Worth, TX: The Dryden Press. Jones, N. (1996), Marketing on the Internet. Marketing Week, UK, April 26, p.56. Hoffman, D. & Novak, T. (2000), How to acquire customers on the web. Harvard Business Review, Vol. 78, No. 3, pp Lin, Y. & Huang, J. (2006), Internet blogs as a tourism marketing medium: A case study, Journal of Business Research, Vol. 59, No. 10, pp Kotler, P. & Armstrong G. (1995), Principles of Marketing, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Kotler, P., Bowen, J. & Makens, J. (1998), Marketing for Hospitality and tourism, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Bennett, P. (1988), «Glossary of Marketing Terms», Chicago: II: American Marketing Association, pp Middleton, V., Fyall A., Morgan M., Ranchhod A., (2009), Marketing in Travel and Tourism, Oxford. Morrison, A.M. (1996), Hospitality and Travel Marketing,2nd ed. London: Delmar. Rowley, J. (2001), Remodeling marketing communications in an Internet environment, Internet Research, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp Selltiz, C., Wrightsman, L.& Cook, S. (1976), Research Methods in Social Relations, 3rd ed., NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

5 Silk, A., Klein, L.& Berndt, E. (2001), The Emerging Position of Internet as an Advertising Medium, Netnomics, Vol. 3, Νο.2,pp Sudman, Seymour (1976), «Applied Sampling», New York: Academic Press Tull, D.& Hawkins, D. (1993), Marketing Research, 6th ed., NY: MacMillan Publishing Company. Uppgren, J. (1995), Going Interactive? Do the right thing, Brandweek, UK 36,Sept.18. Veisi, H., Rezvanfar, A. & Asadi, A. (2007), Determining components of market orientation In aqua cultural higher education institutes, International Review on Public and Non Profit Marketing, Vol. 4, No. 1/2, pp Xing B., Lin Z., (2006), The Impact of Search Engine Optimization ON Online Advertising Marketing, ICEC 2006: Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Electronic Commerce: The new e-commerce: innovations for conquering currentbarriers, obstacles, and limitations to conducting successful business on the internet, NY: ACM, Zeff, R. & Aronson, B. (1999), Advertising on the internet, Wiley Computer Publishing.

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