chapter  16
31 Pages

Group decision making

ByAlain Decrop

Many hospitality and tourism decisions involve a group of individuals who will elaborate plans together, who will try to influence lodging or eating choices and, of course, who will participate in the consumption experience itself. Investigating how those travel parties make their decisions is worthwhile both from a research and an industry point of view. However, group decision-making (DM) has often been neglected in the hospitality and tourism literature. In many books and papers, the individual focus still prevails over a social perspective as it will be discussed below. In the same way, travel agencies as well as hotels, restaurants and tour operators often consider their customers on a oneto-one basis rather than developing strong one-to-many relationships. For example, when browsing travel brochures, individual packages and prices are easier to find than family or group offerings. Of course, some operators target niche segments such as school groups or singleparent families, but this is rather the exception than the rule. Most travel parties include more than one person. In the United States, couple/family leisure travel accounted for 69% of all domestic trips in 2004 and 31% of those travel parties included children (see Table 16.1;

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TIA, 2005). In Europe, families and groups represent up to 75% of the customers of Center Parks resorts which offer home-like cottages with multiple indoor and outdoor activities that are likely to satisfy group needs and make each family member happy. This chapter focuses on issues related to social influences and group

processes in hospitality and tourism DM. The major aspects that characterize group decisions may be found in Corfman’s (1987) definition: ‘a group decision is a decision made by two or more individuals who have the inclination and ability to influence the outcome and who are subject to a constraint or constraints preventing them from making independent decisions’ (pp. 229-230). The fact that more people are involved in the process leads to a range of issues. Kirchler (1999) suggests three major aspects that are worthwhile investigating when analyzing decision-making processes (DMPs) in everyday life situations: the conceptualization of interactions among household members, the categorization of decision types, and the examination of the DMP itself. Ellis and Fisher (1994) further extend this list to include the following issues:

• Social and task dimensions (cohesiveness and productivity); • Group structuration (networking); • Communication and interaction processes within the group; • Behavioral standards-roles and norms; • Power and influence issues (e.g., leadership); • Conflict and deviance (including the emergence of conflict situations and influence tactics that are used to resolve them).