Hotel experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic: high-touch versus high-tech

Dori Davari, Saeed Vayghan, Soo Cheong (Shawn) Jang, Mehmet Erdem

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This study aims to gain an understanding of hotel experiences during the pandemic by examining sentiments of guests posted online. Design/methodology/approach: This paper incorporates the balance theory, in a dyadic system to analyze the ways in which guests were motivated to restore a position of balance during the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. Qualitative content analysis was used to detect thematic patterns of hotel experiences based on examining online reviews shared by actual guests of two major hotel brands – one more closely associated with convenience-driven automation (high-tech) and the other known for providing more guest–employee interaction (high-touch). Findings: The analysis of the reviews yielded six main themes: “purpose of visit,” “COVID safety concerns,” “technology adoption,” “COVID limitations,” “exceeded expectation” and “hospitality of staff.” Staff displaying a welcoming attitude was the main factor in creating a convivial experience for guests at both hotel brands, but the technology was not highlighted as much in guests’ reviews. Despite the pandemic, guests of both hotel brands had similar levels of enjoyment regarding their hotel experiences regardless of the high-touch or high-tech nature of the operations. Research limitations/implications: User-generated content often reflects the opinions of those who are very satisfied or not satisfied at all. Different data collection techniques could be used to get a “big picture” view of the balance between high-touch and high-tech experiences. Practical implications: The findings offer support to researchers and practitioners who advocate that high-touch and high-tech can indeed co-exist, and that these distinct service delivery modes do not have to be mutually exclusive. Originality/value: This paper provides new trajectories that can broaden the approaches undertaken by hospitality/tourism scholars and practitioners based on user-generated content. This study is one of the first to adopt the lens of the balance theory, in a dyadic system, to investigate how guests may be psychologically motivated to balance their perceptions and expectations during a time of crisis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1312-1330
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Balance theory
  • COVID-19
  • High-touch high-tech
  • Hotel experience
  • Thematic patterns
  • User-generated content

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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