A recent study conducted by RIT Croatia’s hospitality instructor Domagoj Nikolić and graduating student Andrea Mitrović checked to what extent upscale Dubrovnik hotels delight their guests and whether guest delight affects their rates. In a theoretical nutshell, guest delight is about exceeding expectations and equals the personalization of standard services. It thus depends on the empowerment of staff and their soft skills.
Fifteen hotels in Dubrovnik were checked through data mining of TripAdvisor reviews which were subsequently analyzed with sophisticated statistical tools. The findings show that overall guest delight, on a scale from 1 (“neutral”) and 2 (“absolutely delighted”), is around 1.20 implying that upscale hotels in Dubrovnik are good in providing guest satisfaction, but they rarely make an extra effort to delight their guests. The factors corresponding with staff professionalism and empathy are rated the highest (1.50 – moderately delighted), but problem-solving and surprise attributes are the lowest and literally non-existing (1.00 – no delight), which shows that Dubrovnik hotel staff have the necessary soft skills, but are not empowered. In other words, this is a management, not a staffing problem.
Since there isn’t much going on in terms of guest delight in upscale Dubrovnik hotels, it is not surprising that the statistical analysis showed that guest delight did not affect Dubrovnik hotel rates before COVID-19, nor it does now. This all leads to a conclusion that Dubrovnik upmarket hotels cannot qualify as luxury, because in the luxury segment, service without delight is literally nothing from the point of view of extractable value. On the other hand, guest delight ensures repeat business and higher rates, which in Dubrovnik, as high as they may seem for Croatia, are not luxury, with a few notable exceptions.
At the least, the findings imply that reasons why guests come to Dubrovnik are not related to hotel experiences, but should be sought in other attractors, such as natural beauty, cultural heritage, fair infrastructure, etc. It would seem that the lacking guest delight negatively affects the hotels’ ability to charge, costs, guest loyalty, and year-round occupancy, because the outside attractors fade outside of the season. This seems particularly important in the present COVID-19 crisis because many hotels try to compensate for the failing occupancy with lower rates which can put them into a tailspin.
The said research was rated the best at the recent MakeLearn international conference and will be published in a prestigious scientific journal, which serves as another encouragement to the management to pay closer attention to guest delight. A delightful destination, such as Dubrovnik, deserves delighted guests who deserve to be delighted, too.
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