Guest Interactions and the Formation of Memorable Experiences: An Ethnography
Purpose: For most customers, the vacation experience is enjoyed in the company of others; thus, studying customer-to-customer interactions becomes critical. This research aims to explore customer-to-customer interactions and their impact on the guest experience.
Design/methodology/approach: An ethnographic approach was taken to study a tour group over the course of two weeks. The author was a covert researcher and a member of the touring group.
Findings: Individuals gained social status both among fellow travelers and also among friends and family by virtue of their travels, the stories told, pictures shared and social media postings. The group became highly cohesive in a short time span, which led to an “in” and “out” group dynamic. Informants were more prone to take risks, owing to both their status as travelers and the group dynamics. The consumption of alcohol was observed along with its positive and negative effects. It was also noted that group members influenced one another during the process of assigning gratuities to the tour guide.
Practical implications: The marketing of hospitality and tourism services can stress benefits that go beyond one single vacation. Companies can engage in more vigorous efforts to facilitate positive customer-to-customer interactions to enhance the guest experience. Finally, given the speed of group processes and formation of a cohesive environment, organizations should be vigilant of how both employees and customers interact in the early stages of group development.
Originality/value: Even though mature travelers have been the subject of much research attention, the interactions, habits and influence of young travelers in the literature is underrepresented. Furthermore, the present research challenges the previously held assumption that services are simultaneously produced and consumed. Using pictures, social media posting and stories, informants recall and continue to experience benefits from their vacation.