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Dr. Mohammed Gamil Montasser

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1 Determinants and Impacts of Applying E- Marketing in Muscat Hotels: Current Status and Future Trends
Dr. Mohammed Gamil Montasser Assistant Professor of Hotel Management and Marketing, Oman Tourism College, DIT affiliation, Oman. Dr. Rehab Yassin Zoweil Senior Lecturer of Tourism Management, Arab Academy for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Egypt.

2 Introduction However Electronic Marketing (E-Marketing) is still a relatively new concept, particularly for tourism and hospitality organizations operating in developing countries that have limited resources and infrastructure, fierce competition and cannot afford to make unwise investments or wrong decisions. Therefore, there is a need to have a much clearer understanding of e-marketing implementation, problems as well as its opportunities for such organizations; and how these technologies can be used to carry out the organization marketing activities and processes in a more effective and efficient way rather than reliance on traditional marketing practices.

3 E-marketing includes all electronic data and applications used for the marketing of a firm’s products, such as customer profile and marketing mix information, and their strategic use to increase volume of sales or reduce marketing costs. Due to increasing inbound tourist arrivals and growing regional competition, Muscat hotels’ operators need to adopt and implement creative marketing tools. Therefore, this study explores the role of e-marketing strategies and e-distribution channels in Muscat hotels.

4 Despite the exponential growth of e-marketing, little is still known about its application and effectiveness in Muscat hotels, therefore, this exploratory study aims to fill in this gap. E-marketing can be viewed as a new philosophy and a modern business practice involved with marketing of goods, services, information and ideas via the internet and other electronic means. Website marketing is particularly useful for dealing with intangible nature of the hotel service, and to gain a competitive advantage. The website content allows hotels to engage customers’ interest and participation, to capture information about their preferences, and to use that information to provide personalized services.

5 E-marketing tools have many advantages for tourism and hospitality organizations such as;
providing hospitality operators with an unprecedented ability to communicate directly with customers and the ability for all businesses of all sizes to build competitive advantage, allowing hospitality firms to reach out to potential clients in the quickest and most effective way, increasing worldwide visibility and accessibility, enabling, facilitating, sustain and rewarding interaction between consumers and hoteliers, customers can search and purchase their preferred products and services without any geographical or time constraints,

6 In addition, customers can easily arrange for their own tailor-made products or services, enables the suppliers to better understand their customers’ needs, suppliers can enjoy the benefits of lower distribution costs, a fairer competitive environment for businesses with different backgrounds and it creates a level playing field for hotels where size is no longer apparent better revenues.

7 This research paper examines the adoption of e-marketing by hotels
This research paper examines the adoption of e-marketing by hotels. Issues such as awareness and general policy of e-marketing activities; pre-sale information and communication with online customers; various ways of transactions; post-sale communication and enhancing the hotel’s e-image and the electronic customer relationships; and general image of application of e-marketing were addressed and are reported on. In addition, a review of the literature on e-marketing tools adoption and usage reveals that most of the extant studies limit themselves to only understanding the current nature of e-marketing tools adoption and usage without providing insights into the future usage patterns of e-marketing applications, which is an equally critical issue to help hotels make informed decisions.

8 Research Objectives This empirical study aims to achieve the following objectives: Studying and discussing the objectives, characteristics, components, and approaches of applying e-marketing. Deciding upon the level of application of e-marketing procedures in Muscat hotels. Investigating the relationship between the application of Awareness/General-Policy-related procedures, and the procedures of other phases.

9 Investigating current business-related concerns and obstacles that Muscat hotel’ managers undergo when applying e-marketing, both currently and in the future. Examining the difference between Muscat hotels’ grade; four versus five-star hotels, regarding the application of e-marketing and its relevant determinants. Developing practical implications concerning the most fruitful implementation of e-marketing; identifying areas of improvement and future trends, both achieving marketing and financial success for independent hotels, and attaining mutual welfare for the Omani hospitality industry as a whole.

10 Research Questions What is the current status, and relevant implications, of the level of application of e-marketing procedures in Muscat hotels, across the following phases: a. Awareness and general policy? b. Pre-sale information and communication? c. Customer transaction? d. Post-sale communication and enhancing e-image and e-relationships? What is the relationship between the application of Awareness/ General-Policy-related procedures, and the procedures of other phases? Is there a significant variance between hotels with different grade concerning the level of application of e-marketing procedures? What are the current and future business-related concerns and obstacles that Muscat hotels’ managers undergo when applying e-marketing?

11 The internet had become an integral part of the tourism information system, affecting final purchase decisions by acting as a portal of information for tourism businesses. It is concluded by many authors and practitioners that those hospitality establishments who opted not to use the World Wide Web were likely losing an important competitive advantage. Therefore, the rapid adoption of Internet marketing by hotels has yielded myriad studies of hospitality Internet adoption and its impact on hotel operation . Many studies discussed the current stand of and potential role of internet in marketing and promoting tourism destinations . This progress is also apparent in studies further considering hotel website dimensions and attributes and their effect on the perceptions of online browsers and purchasers. Moreover, other studies intended to analyze the usage of e-marketing applications in the tourism and hospitality industry.

12 Research Methodology After demonstrating, throughout the literature review, different principles and procedures of e-marketing in hotels, it is vital to supplement the theoretical part by conducting the field study. The topic of this research has not been studied before in the GCC region’s destination markets, in addition to the fact that aspects and dimensions of interest have not been scrutinized. Consequently, this study has been determined to be exploratory; namely, investigating current status and future trends of applying e-marketing in Muscat hotels, in the hope to be a launching point for more comprehensive, in-depth studies.

13 This exploratory aim has been attainable by inquiring about e-marketing procedures, derived from the literature review. It was noted that, for e-marketing procedures to be effectively applied, those procedures are better categorized into the aforementioned four main areas or phases. In addition, managers’ further opinions and thoughts have been scrutinized through addressing open-ended question concerning the overall context and perceived barriers of applying e-marketing, both current and future aspects.

14 Research Methodology Moreover, in order to gain the whole image, it was also derived that the profile of the hotel is believed to have relationship to the application of e-marketing procedures. The profile characteristics that were seemed to be the most effective are the hotel grade; four versus five-star hotels; the hotel affiliation, independently versus chain-managed, and the number of rooms.

15 Population Sampling The population frame is all the four and five-star hotels in Muscat. They were chosen since they, unlike lower grades, enjoy a mostly above average occupancy percentage and high business volumes, in addition to having several varieties of sales outlets. This increases the probability that these hotels might be in need for an efficient e-marketing plan, or at least a definite set of procedures.

16 Data collection technique
This assures that the efforts done throughout the field study will not be in vain, and will produce meaningful results in response to research questions. Data have been collected using the survey research, in which a questionnaire has been used to collect data. Data was collected from hotel marketing, sales, and reservation managers.

17 Results discussion and implications
Hotels’ profile characteristics Discussion and implications of descriptive analysis Awareness and general policy Pre-sale information and communication Transaction Post-sale communication and enhancing e-image and e-relationship Discussion and implications of inferential analysis Discussion and implications of contingency analysis Discussion and implication of the general image of e-marketing application

18 Through reviewing the medians, it is clearly noted that those procedures are most frequently applied in 5-star hotels than in 4-star hotels. Additional analysis indicated that all 5-star hotels were chain- affiliated hotels. It is important to note that chain hotels have the privilege of their chain’s accumulated, worldwide experience. They are usually vigilant to recruit the best qualification in the labor market, have their own compact policies and standard operating procedures, own necessary funds, and are thus able to better apply e-marketing procedures.

19 Reviewing listed procedures further supports this inference
Reviewing listed procedures further supports this inference. They are precise procedures that reveals keen follow-up and in-depth interest in e-marketing, which is not usually obtainable unless in 5-star, chain-affiliated hotels. The statistical analysis shows specific e-marketing procedures that were found to bear a significant relationship, along with the values of median of application in 5 and 4 star hotels in Muscat. Through reviewing the median values, it is clearly noted that those procedures are most frequently applied in 5 star hotels than in 4 star hotels. Additional analysis indicated that all 5 star hotels were chain-affiliated hotels.

20 It is important to note that chain hotels have the privilege of their chain’s accumulated, worldwide experience, have their own compact policies and highly standard operating procedures, own necessary funds and are thus able to better apply e-marketing procedures in their properties. Reviewing listed procedures further supports this inference. They are precise procedures that reveal keen follow-up and in-depth interest in e-marketing practices, which is not usually obtainable unless in 5 star, chain affiliated hotels.

21 The most effective tool of e-marketing currently applied in the hotel: Managers’ responses reinforced the previously deduced implications. That is, most managers reported that the most effective tools of e-marketing currently applied in their hotels are just the website, and online channels, such as the GDSs, while a few managers spotted promotional SMSs and s E-marketing tools managers would like to be applied: Moreover, reported as potential e-marketing tools, managers have chosen utilizing online channels, promotional SMSs and s, and using the guest history database as a launching point for customized and personalized e-promotional campaigns..

22 This coincides with the values of the percentages for managers’ responses shown in the attached questionnaire form. Utilizing promotional SMSs and s, in addition to relevant procedures, were the least applied among e-marketing practices. It was also deduced that hotels are satisfied with limited their e-marketing efforts to having a website, and utilizing online channels, such as GDSs. Deciding upon e-marketing vs. traditional marketing as being currently more effective: Eleven, out of sixteen, managers admitted that traditional marketing tools and techniques are currently more effective for their hotels.

23 Surprisingly, only three of them believed that expanding e-marketing can benefit their operations, emphasizing the lack of awareness of its potential role. Barriers preventing current and future expansion of e-marketing application: Barriers were reported to be almost the same. They have been perceived to be lack of awareness of themselves, of owners of independently managed hotels, in addition to of some guests, particularly the segments of corporate business and travel agents, which were reported to prefer personal contact. The findings of this research, when correlated to the review of literature, raised major recommendations that have to be directed to e-marketing practitioners, to further researching efforts, and to the academia.

24 Conclusion and Recommendations
Field study revealed that most e-marketing procedures have not been applied, application of Awareness/General-Policy-related procedures helps better apply procedures in other phases, and that 5-star hotels apply e-marketing partially better than 4-star hotels. Further managers’ opinions and thoughts have been sought, concerning the overall context and perceived barriers of applying e-marketing, both current and future aspects. Finally, best e-marketing practices are identified, and a simplified strategy for developing an effective e-marketing mix is proposed.

25 The following, step-by-step tips should help managers best apply e-marketing; (1) Having a comprehensive e-business plan, involving; identifying the internet market by researching what people are searching for in Muscat on the internet, either locally, or internationally, using offline and online methodologies to determine which factors are bringing visitors to Muscat, following up on customers’ e-satisfaction and deciding on the most appropriate techniques of dissemination of e-marketing related information; (2) Designing a high-quality, rich e-content that addresses the needs of customers, such as unique specials and packages, event-related getaways, seasonal promotions, bundling local attractions and activities as part of hotel packages, and launching other one-to-one marketing initiatives to provide unique value and personalization, whether it is the brand site, the hotel website, GDS, or even SMS and marketing campaigns;

26 3) Supporting the hotels’ e-existence and powerful presence, whereby the hotel is listed wherever customers are going and looking by using online channels, exploiting creative e-advertising tools such as the social media (Facebook and Twitter) and initiating promotional campaigns through and SMSs; (4) Supporting hotels’ websites with attractive, sufficient information and graphics about the hotel’s services and outlets; (5) Tracking the results of all e-marketing efforts and campaigns in order to evaluate the feasibility of e-marketing efforts and costs incurred; (6) Regular checking of the status of the other two parties in business; competitors and guests; Finally, (7) Independent hotels’ owners and top management are advised to take the extra mile, conducting a thorough feasibility study of the potential of e-marketing, and the corresponding costs to be incurred.

27 More research is needed to test more variables, obstacles, and profile characteristics. Further, the present research has drawn responses from managers. Further research attempts should aim at investigating those variables, and others, surveying hotel guests. Researchers are encouraged to attempt to develop a standardized instrument for measuring, and determining interrelated variables, concerning the application of e-marketing. Finally, further research endeavors should be directed to investigating the application of e-marketing for the 3 star and apartment hotels, in response to the growing international trend of preferring economic lodging.

28 Thank you

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