Service quality management in conference tourism : expectations versus delivery
McCallaghan, Wilhelmina Aletta
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The primary objective of this study was to determine service expectations of conference delegates in relation to the service delivered at Quest Conference Estate. This objective was achieved by firstly analysing service quality in terms of the expectation of service delivery prior to attending a conference and secondly analysing the actual service received whilst attending the conference and the influence thereof on the intention to return. Secondly, a literature study was conducted to review the role of service quality in the tourism industry, to identify and analyse current models that can be used to measure service quality (the SERVQUAL model was found to be the most applicable in the context of this study), to determine the service expectations and service perceptions of conference delegates at the Quest Conference Estate and to analyse the conference industry and the importance of service quality within. Thirdly the empirical results were discussed. Lastly, conclusions were drawn from the research and recommendations were made for the effective management of service delivery in a conference environment and for Quest Conference Estate, as well as for future research. From the literature study, research done by Parasuraman et al. was used as the theoretical framework for this study and the SERVQUAL model used for the exploratory phase. This model has been proven to be a valid and reliable measuring instrument of service quality and it was critical for the empirical research to be accurate and scientifically founded. The questionnaire was adapted to suit the needs of a conference service setting. The objective of the questionnaire was to measure the service quality of Quest Conference Estate. Questionnaires were given to 397 delegates who attended a conference, meeting or seminar at Quest Conference Estate. These delegates were asked to complete a section before the start of the conference on demographic information and what kind of service they expected to receive from Quest Conference Estate. The same delegates were approached after the conference, to indicate in another section of the questionnaire, their perception on the actual service received. The results were then statistically interpreted to determine the possible gap between expected service and actual service delivered. From the responses to the questionnaire an analysis on the expectations of visitors to Quest Conference Estate was done, and according to this, it was clear that the two main expectations from respondents were that the food and beverages service will be hygienic, adequate and sufficient and that the conference equipment will work properly. This was closely followed by the expectation that Quest Conference Estate will provide its guests with a safe and secure environment. It was also determined that most delegates attending a conference at Quest Conference Estate felt that they expected much more from the actual service received, but that they will still attend conferences at Quest Conference Estate in the future and will still recommend the facility to others. These results can be applied to bridge the gap between expected service and perceived service by offering the service that is actually expected from Quest Conference Estate. Most tourism businesses believe that they deliver good service but service delivery should be measured on a regular basis to determine whether it adheres to the needs of the delegates or not. Service delivery should also be offered at a consistent high level as delegates will in future expect the same and higher levels of service delivery as previously experienced.