This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Impact of the Physical Environment in the Hospitality Industry




Nanu, Luana

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management

Restriction Status


Restriction Type


Date Available



The physical environment is amongst the few tangible cues available for customers when it comes to hospitality services and is meant to draw the customers into space and create a visual narrative that they can remember long after their experience. Considering the simultaneous production and intangibility, as you may not touch or feel a hospitality service before you experience it, the physical environment plays a vital role in impacting customers’ moods, expectations, and emotions as well as in assessing the quality of the service provider. Consequently, the physical environment is observed to have a pivotal role in influencing customer intentions and behavior towards service providers in various facets of the hospitality industry. The objectives of this dissertation are to understand the current state of physical environment research in the hospitality field and to identify the major gaps. Moreover, this dissertation also aims to explore the use of theories of cognitive psychology in conjunction with upper-midscale hotels and trending designs such as biophilic design. To achieve these objectives, the dissertation takes the form of three independent articles which answer 3 research questions and explores 12 hypotheses via both qualitative and quantitative methods. The overall arching theme of the 3 independent articles is the physical environment. The first article is a systematic literature review within the hospitality context in the last 20 years. This article identified all hospitality-related research as published in the top 5 research journals listed in the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI). The scope of this literature review is to understand what has been done in the past in the field of hospitality physical environment research, what are potential gaps and saturated areas, and what should be explored in the future. The second article draws from the gaps that were identified in the systematic literature review, mainly the lack of studies on the interior design of midscale hotels and the multi-dimensional attributes of the physical environment, the perceiver, and the context. This study also applied design-specific models and theory in a hospitality context, which have also proven to be a gap in the systematic literature review. The scope of this article is to understand how consumer process the physical environment and how does it lead to behavioral intentions. The results indicated that the booking intentions were higher for the upper midscale hotel room and bathroom scenario that followed the MAYA principle compared to any other combination. Moreover, travel expertise and travel goals moderated the relationship between the design type and booking intentions. The scenario designed on the MAYA principal led to higher booking intentions for the experienced traveler as well as for the utilitarian goal of traveling. This study also pointed out that consumer pleasure and interest mediated the effects of typicality and innovativeness on booking intentions. However, fluency and disfluency did not mediate the effects of typicality and innovativeness on pleasure and interest. The third article analyzed the influence of biophilic design in a major public place of the hotel, the lobby, and its influence on the emotional experiences of hotel guests. The public spaces of hotels and biophilic design have been scarce in the last 20 years of research in the hospitality field. Moreover, this study will also investigate the moderating effect of health consciousness, peace of mind, and willingness to pay. The results showed that the biophilic environment positively and significantly affected pleasure and arousal. Moreover, the arousal state significantly and positively influenced the pleasure state. Pleasure and arousal also mediated the effects of the biophilic lobby on willingness to pay more. Similarly, pleasure and arousal mediated the effects of biophilic design on peace of mind. When customers experienced peace of mind it also led to a positive and significant effect of wiliness to pay more. Lastly, health consciousness strengthens the relationship between the biophilic design scenario and peace of mind however, it did not render significant for willingness to pay more.