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This section details on the results that were obtained from the preliminary secondary research that was conducted through the use various database key among them EBSCO and ABI/INFORM (ProQuest). This section offers an overview of trends in the hospitality industry, the emerging trend of sleep hotels, business justification for sleep hotels, and the suitability of Whitbread Plc. in regards to the new trend of sleep hotels.
Dahiya and Duggal (2014, p.31) conducted a study on trends and practices within the tourism and hospitality industry, which had been published on international journals. In their findings they established hotel guest have become cognizant on issues relating to environment and environmental preservation, as consequence they consider the surrounding environment of a hotel when making a choice. This means hotels have to go an extra mile to ensure their surrounding environment is welcoming and conducive for stay, and this could entail cleaning up the adjacent areas and curtailing noise and air pollution. The other pertinent finding is that there is a direct correlation between customer satisfaction and quality of service, which means by enhancing the quality of service delivered, hotels are sure of referrals from the satisfied customers. According to Dominici and Guzzo (2010, p.6), the quality of services is determined through the reception service, transfer service, restaurant service, entertainment, trips and excursions service, and room quality. Ergo, if all these determinants are perfected, a hotel is likely to receive positive feedback from its guest owing to high level of satisfaction.
The other futuristic trend that is happening in the hospitality industry is the consolidation of service providers, which in a way stifles small and independent hotels that are unable to match the generic services that are offered by the industry leaders. Additionally, hotels are moving towards the standardisation of their services in order to meet customer expectations. As for marketing, hotels are slowly drifting away from network agent marketers to direct online marketing where they maintain virtual interaction with their target customers (Sigala and Baum, 2003, p.374).
Based on the findings presented by Rao and Pradesh (2014, p.3-4), some of the emerging trends within the hospitality industry were noted to be the creation of a hotel environment that promote wellness, which is also credited with the emergence of health camps/ fitness centres within hotels and tourist resorts. Whilst on the pursuit of promoting wellness, room quality, and overall customer experience, a new trend has emerged, which is providing customers with a good quality sleep that makes their stay enjoyable.
According to Mass and Feldmanhall (2003, p.37) insomnia emerged as a common problem affecting nearly 63% of adults and those who are mostly affected include travellers who for various reasons are subjected to sleepless nights often because of jet lag, strange sleeping environments, and the strenuous process of making connections. The authors were of the opinion that the only way to satisfy these type of client (sleep deprived) is to accord him/her an opportunity to have a restful and quality sleep. They added that travellers by virtue merely go to hotels to rest, which means the critical determinants of their level of satisfaction in hotels would be the quality of their rooms, entertainment offered in order to relax, and the restaurant (food service). It is important to note that among the three, the quality of the room remains to be the most important because the guests have the prerogative to go elsewhere for entertainment and food services.
According Zeidler (2013, p.1), the trend of sleep hotels was motivated by the fact that pressures of life has made sleep sound like a luxury and if indeed a good sleep is a luxury then hotels that offer sleep services are strategically positioned to profit from this new trend. As a response to this trend, hotels are responding by converting some rooms to be specifically designated for sleep by removing digital clocks inside such rooms, replacing regular lights with dimming lights, offering a variety of pillows, sleep meditation, as well as relaxation massages.
To guarantee guest a quality sleep, Meltzer, M. (2016) stated that hotels such as the Corinthia Hotel, Swisssotel Berlin, Canyon Ranch, and Four Seasons Resort Maldives have developed sleep rooms that have blackout curtains, walls that are soundproof, comfortable beds with goose-down duvets and pillows. In addition, the sleep package can also include the service of a sleep therapist to aid in the sleeping process mostly for people suffering from insomnia. In addition, sleep hotels also offer specialised menu that has nutritional packages that promote quality sleep.
To assess the viability of the sleep hotel trend it is important to evaluate whether in the first place there is a sleep problem of which hotels can step in as an alternative location where people can have quality sleep if it is not in their own bedroom.
In a research study conducted to establish factors that affect the productivity of workers, it was noted that sleep was the predominant factor followed by the working environment. This means that lack of quality sleep by the workforce of an organization can contribute to poor performance. Ergo, for business travellers, or those travelling for non-leisure activities, lack of quality sleep can interfere with their efficacy on the assignments they are conducting away from home if they are unable to get quality sleep at their hotel rooms (Tavares and Kamimura, 2014, p. 420-421). This particular clientele represent a viable business opportunity for sleep hotels since they will prefer to have quality sleep to be able to carry out their work/business related activities during their stay.
The studies by Sandberg et al. (2012, p.271) were aimed at drawing a correlation between the quality of housing and sleep quality, the research findings noted that proper ventilation/ air conditioning and comfortable sleeping place resulted in quality sleep for the occupants, which contributed to good health and satisfactory performance at work. This finding further validates the viability of sleep hotel trends because it has been established through valid data that quality sleep positively affects one’s health and productivity.
Whitbread Plc. is a conglomerate that is made up of three divisions that comprise of chain of hotels, coffee shops, and restaurants. The hotel division is the biggest and it trades under the name ‘Premier Inn’, which is considered the largest hotel brand in the United Kingdom owing to the fact that there are approximately 650 Premier Inn hotels (Connell, 1997, p.1).
In order to retain its position as the largest hotel brand in the UK, Premier Inn through Whitbread Plc. needs to continually innovate and adapt to market trends in order to retain a competitive position within the market. Raghunathan and Sarkar (2016) wrote that this competitive advantage is gained by having access to the right information, at the right time and through proper utilisation of the acquired business information. Ability to forecast on the business environment is a competitive advantage on itself since business organisations can rely on the forecast data to align their business practices and offering in such a manner that it is guaranteed of sustainable future growth. So far, literature search has established that there is a new trend of sleep hotel, whereby hotels are creating rooms that are specifically meant to offer quality sleep.
These new trend is suitable for Whitbread Plc. considering it has more than 650 hotels in different locations and over 50,000 rooms across its entire network. Ergo, it has the flexibility to convert a few rooms within some of its hotels to be sleep rooms, especially those located within congested urban areas that are noisy. This will give the company a competitive advantage since their guests will be able to enjoy quality sleep whereas guest in other hotels that are located in congested and noisy areas will be struggling to get quality sleep because of the noise pollution. Moreover, sleep rooms will ensure Whitbread Plc. is still a preferred choice for customers who are concerned with a hotel’s surrounding environment.
Considering the Premier Inn Hotels are budget hotels it means they are mostly located in shared compounds i.e. they do not occupy vast parcels of land to qualify for exclusion from other building blocks, streets or roads. Therefore, most of the rooms are likely to be affected by noise pollution originating from the surrounding environment. As such it is warranted for the hotel to introduce sleep rooms that can guarantee guest quality sleep despite of noise emanating from the external environment. One of the basic requirements to convert some rooms to sleep room is to install soundproof walls that can block external noises and use of blackout curtains to block external light from entering into the room (Buckland, 2014). Such an on offering should be promoted as a new package targeting those who want to have a quality sleep at the hotels and the offering can be customised to allow customers request for things such as special duvets and pillows as well as meals that they are sure can make them sleep better. In addition, a sleep therapist should be on standby to serve guests who suffer from insomnia.
One of the competitive strengths of Whitbread Plc. is strong financial performance meaning it also has the financial capability to easily roll out/implement this new trend across numerous branches within its network (Marketline, 2016). Moreover, Zeidler (2013, p.1) suggested the use of sleep concierge to help guest who have sleeping disorder; this will meaning an extra operating cost but Whitbread Plc. is best suited to incur such an additional cost owing to its financial capabilities.
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