Hospitality in Shopping Areas

14 March, 2016
  • 10 min read
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For 71% of tourists, hospitality is a key factor when choosing in which area to shop. The stronger the hospitality experience in shopping areas, the more tourists will spend. These are two remarkable results of a completed study in Barcelona by ESADE Business School. Hospitality in shopping areas is also one of the main focus points of the House of Hospitality. Insight in the experience is important when working on hospitality. Hotelschool The Hague student Sanne den Dekker recently handed in her research paper ‘Measuring the Hospitality Experience in Shopping Areas`, presenting a wonderful example of what a ‘dashboard shopping area experience’ could look like.

Goal of the Research Project

In April 2015, Sanne was given the opportunity to support Dr Karoline Wiegerink, professor Research Group City Hospitality and City Marketing, in the execution of the research project: ‘Hospitality in Shopping Areas’. This project is a collaborative effort of Hotelschool The Hague, Het Haags Retail Punt and Bureau Binnenstad. The aim of the research was to make necessary changes and developments within shopping areas in The Hague, in order to become the most hospitable city in The Netherlands.

Shopping Areas: the Social ‘Heart’ of a City

Shopping areas are often considered to be the social ‘heart’ of a city. Continuously improving and measuring hospitality experience within shopping areas is therefore a stepping-stone towards creating a more welcoming and hospitable environment in the entire city. For this research project, three pilot shopping areas were chosen:

  • Het Belgisch Park, Scheveningen
  • Het Noordeinde, The Hague City Centre
  •  ‘t Hoge Veen, Leidschenveen

Throughout the research project, first steps were made towards the final goal. The following questions were answered throughout the execution of the research:

  1. How is the hospitality experience within Het Belgisch Park, Het Noordeinde, and ‘t Hoge Veen currently perceived by its main visitors?
  2. How can Het Belgisch Park, Het Noordeinde, ’t Hoge Veen and other shopping areas in The Hague continuously measure the hospitality experience within their shopping area?

The Hospitality Experience

The retail industry is rapidly changing, and so are shopping areas. The offline store has decreased in popularity over the past years as the online retail industry is continuously growing. Competition in the retail industry is fierce and shopping areas are struggling more than ever to attract visitors and manage performance. Consumers are no longer interested in ordinary store concepts and regular customer service. They are looking for innovative, unique and personalised experiences. The focus should lie on the individualisation and personalisation of the shopping experience. The welcoming behavior of the shopping area, the friendliness and support of store employees, the opportunity to socialise with other visitors, the ability to touch and feel the products and an inspiring ambiance are all very important. A truly hospitable experience is an experience that cannot be substit uted by online retailers and is therefore a unique characteristic of shopping areas.

Measuring the Hospitality Experience

The hospitality experience is created by a number of touch points. These are the phases where the hospitality provider and the visitor get in touch. Here, the hospitality provider is able to make a difference. For shopping areas, the following touch points can be identified: orientation, travelling at the shopping area, experience at the shopping area, going home and recollection of the experiences.

During these phases, the below elements are shaping and influencing the visitor’s perception of the hospitality:

  • Supply of retail, restaurants, and bars
  • Atmosphere in the shopping area
  • Welcoming behavior of the shopping area

These elements have a direct effect on the visitors’ mood and feelings. The effects on the visitor can be measured in terms of visitor satisfaction and visitor loyalty. All these elements will have to be taken into consideration when successfully measuring the hospitality experience within shopping areas. To get the most accurate results, it is important to identify a target market for the shopping area in terms of a persona.

Findings of the Research

In 2015, 10 hospitality measurement interviews took place in Het Belgisch Park, Het Noordeinde and ‘t Hoge Veen, as well as one mystery visit per area. Also, 60 surveys were conducted per area. The results were presented and discussed in an interactive workshop at Hotelschool The Hague.

The results of the interviews revealed two main visitor profiles for the three pilot shopping areas:

  1. The Run Shopper: shoppers with a specific goal in mind, visit shopping areas mainly for grocery shopping purposes and do not spend leisure time.
  2. The Fun Shopper: shoppers without a specific goal in mind, visit shopping areas for leisure purposes.

Based on the results of the interviews, a detailed persona has been developed and visualised for each of the three pilot shopping areas. These personas are followed throughout their shopping experiences in the three shopping areas.

Het Belgisch Park: The Run Shopper

Persona: Jose Vermeer
Age: 64
Location: Scheveningen
Type: Run Shopper

Characteristics: Run Shopper,  visits shopping areas alone or with partner, enjoys being involved in society, is family oriented, surrounds herself by nature,  avoids places that attract the mass, not tech-savvy.

Hobbies/Interests/Values: spending time with partner, comfort, authenticity, atmosphere and attention to detail, involvement, nature and culture, peace and quiet, interested in the story behind things.

Buying Criteria: convenience; products and services should be easily accessible and quality: price and quality need to be aligned.

Communication: formal, detailed descriptions, informative, communication in Dutch, no English terms, in-depth information, offline communication, familiar tone of voice, needs online support.

 “My husband and I have been living in Scheveningen for almost 25 years now. We have seen the area change throughout the years but I still know many of the shop owners in the local shopping street. The shopping area is located at walking distance form our house, the convenience that this brings is important for us. Unfortunately, we see more and more authentic shops close their doors, therefore we are obliged to visit more mass-oriented shopping areas in Scheveningen to do our daily groceries.”

Shopping area Het Belgisch Park was given an average grade of 7.0 in hospitality experience. 73% of those surveyed found that this shopping area met the expectations and 5% said that the shopping area actually exceeded the expectations. The return rate of visitors to this shopping area is 38%. The friendliness of store employees was graded with a 7.5. 

Het Noordeinde: The Fun Shopper

Persona: Sabrina Conrads
Age: 45
Location: Leiden
Type: Fun Shopper

Characteristics: The Fun Shopper visits shopping areas for leisure purposes, finds information online and via social media, is individualistic, willing to spend high amounts of money on extraordinary activities and luxury.

Hobbies/Interests/Values: inspirational, cultural and sportive activities, the ordinary is not good enough, always on the look for the wow-factor, leisure shopping activities, individualism, the power of social media, luxury and status.

Buying Criteria: quality: products and services should be of high quality and prestige: experiences should be unique and exceptional.

Communication: informal communication, modern and trendy tone of voice, English terms, use of social media, informative and detailed descriptions, emphasis on the experience.

 “I work fulltime. In my spare time I like to get inspired. I am not interested in the ordinary store, those products I can easily buy online via my iPad. I want my shopping experience to be multi-dimensional. I love to explore, discover and learn. Shopping areas that surprise me with unique and extraordinary experiences are the ones that I will return to over and over again. The wow-factor is very important to me.”

Shopping area Het Noordeinde had a score of 75% regarding the return rate of visitors, and was given an average grade in hospitality experience of 8.0. Het Noordeinde also got an 8.0 for the ambiance and 64% of those surveyed said that the shopping area met the expectations and 18% said that Het Noordeinde exceeded the expectations. 

‘t Hoge Veen: The Run Shopper

Persona: Marieke Wanrooij
Age: 44
Location: Leidschenveen
Type: Run Shopper

Characteristics: family oriented and sociable, shares experiences with close friends and family, price sensitive, looking for social activities in local shopping area, not sensitive for new trends and gadgets.

Hobbies/Interests/Values: sociable activities such as a flea market or opportunities to meet others, family activities, spending time with the children, enjoys large events as long as it is not too hectic, social facilities such as pet stores and care facilities.

Buying Criteria: price: affordable prices and discounts and convenience: products and services should be easily accessible.

Communication: informal, timeless and friendly, use of familiar words and terms, tone of voice should be spontaneous and enthusiastic, prefers communication in Dutch, informative and clear.

 “Taking care of a household with three children is a fulltime job. My husband works long hours, so I take care of the daily groceries. We live close to the shopping area so it is easy to get there. Convenience is very important to me. I spend most of my time at home, therefore me and my family like to participate in social activities during the weekends. Fun activities to not have to be expensive. Visiting a local market or going for a high-tea at the local brasserie is what I consider to be enjoyable.”

‘t Hoge Veen received an average grade in hospitality experience of 7.5, and a return rate of 6%. The shopping area was said to meet the expectations by 57% of those surveyed, and 5% said it exceeded the expectations. The friendliness of the store employees was graded with an 8.0 and accessibility with a 7.5.


The dashboards presented in the report form the base of a continuous hospitality experience measurement tool for each of the three pilot shopping areas. In order to continuously measure the performance and make improvements, it is important that measurement is repeated on a quarterly basis. Especially when improvements have been made, it is important to measure the effects of improvement initiatives on a regular basis. For the three shopping areas mentioned in this article, it is highly recommended to plan and schedule future measurements ahead of time.

During the execution of the research project, it became clear that the measurement techniques were relatively labour intensive and time consuming. It is therefore recommended to conduct surveys with visitors in stores, bars or restaurants, for example upon payment. Tablets could take over the role of printed surveys and increase the efficiency of measurement. At a later stage, shopping area Het Noordeinde could adopt an online survey method to boast efficiency and response rates. As visitors of Het Noordeinde are relatively tech savvy, this methods could be far more effective than traditional paper-based surveys, which is the opposite for Het Belgisch Park and ‘t Hoge Veen, where visitors are less comfortable with online tools.

By means of the research project, a process for hospitality experience measurement within shopping areas has been developed. 


About the author

Hotelschool The Hague

Hotelschool The Hague was founded and funded in 1929 by the hospitality industry to create a central place where industry partners could gain and share new insight, skills and knowledge. Since its foundation, the Hotelschool has become an international school specialised in hospitality management offering a 4-year Bachelor's degree in Hotel and Hospitality Management. This degree course is also available as the accelerated International Fast Track programme. Our 13 month Master Hospitality Management programme is designed to deliver the next generation of hospitality innovators.

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