Exploring the essence of the spa service experience and experience dimensions

Kim , Jennifer Lian Chan and Inoor Azam, (2011) Exploring the essence of the spa service experience and experience dimensions. In: World Research Summit for Tourism and Hospitality (WRSTH, 10-13 December 2011, Hong Kong. (Submitted)

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Abstract

The paper explores key themes that constitute the essence of the spa service experience. The spa experience, just like any tourism experience, is regarded as an individual/subjective evaluation involving affective, cognitive and behavioural aspects of an individual before, during and after the service. Increasingly, tourism suppliers become "experience stagers" they engage customers in a personal and memorable way. Delivery of memorable spa experiences requires an insightful understanding of the key dimensions of the spa service experience consumption. This implies that providing spa experiences require new service experience management perspectives; however there is currently limited understanding in this area. The paper aims to address the gap by exploring the meaning of spa experience, spa service attributes and the experiential dimensions from the users' perspectives within five star resort hotels in Sabah, Malaysia. As the nature of experiences is subjective and involves emotional, physical, spiritual intellectual and highly personal responses to various aspects of the service experience and delivery, the research is underpinned by the sociopsychology perspective. The construct domains for service experiences by Otto and Ritchie (1996), the four realms of experience (Pine and Gilmore, 1999) and key dimensions of Tung and Ritchie (2011) form the basis to direct and guide data collection and analysis. The findings reveal that spa experiences are multidimensional and are attributed to personal and influential realms. Four key spa experience dimensions emerged from the responses, which can be categorised as: perceived feelings/senses/relaxation, treatment, spa natural resources and decoration/environment. These can be further categorised into tangible elements: physical appearance of the spa establishment, the marketing image conveyed via advertisement and brochures and the professional and competent service staff; whilst the intangible elements include the "wholeness" of the establishment -the atmosphere and the emotive aspect of the consumers. The spa experience in resort hotels can be viewed as an "escapist" activity requiring the immersion and active participation of consumers, and also one having aesthetic value (entertainment and passive participation). Spa experience consumption behaviour can be linked to the four realms of experience by Pine and Gilmore (1999), namely entertainment, educational escapist and aesthetic, or a combination of all four. This finding benefits the health/spa service providers in terms of developing appropriate marketing strategies and enhanced spa experiences. The study also appears to confirm that the individual emotive aspects (affect, expectations, consequential and reflection) are significant in memorable experiences, which form prevalent dimensions for a memorable spa experience, and in turn influence revisits and positive word of mouth. The identified dimensions offer a better understanding of consumer behaviour in the spa consumption experience context within the resort hotels. It points out the importance of individual emotive aspects in creating spa memorable experiences; and benefits the spa service providers in term of "staging" their spa experiences and developing differentiation marketing strategies. A major limitation of the paper is due to the nature of the exploratory study, the type of respondent (foreign tourists), the small sample size and the nature of qualitative data which is contextual, limiting the generalisability of the research findings as compared to quantitative research. A comparative research work of resort hotels in different locations and use of the mixed method would prove beneficial for the possible validation of the findings. Keywords: meaning of spa experience, spa attributes, spa experience dimensions, service experience consumption, spa consumption behaviour

Item Type:Conference Paper (UNSPECIFIED)
Subjects:H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
ID Code:9235
Deposited By:IR Admin
Deposited On:09 Jul 2014 09:30
Last Modified:08 Sep 2014 15:16

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