Changing dynamics of hospitality and tourism experiences and servicescapes in the 'new normal'



The servicescape is traditionally understood as the physical environment where the service is assembled. The servicescape has also been  referred to as non-human elements of the environment where the service operator and customer interact. The environmental factors of the servicescape consist of exterior (landscape, architecture, parking etc.), interior (design, equipment, furniture, layout) and ambience (temperature, lighting, air quality) that facilitate the performance or communication of the service (Booms & Bitner, 1981). The servicescape has a great impact on customers’ satisfaction with the service provider (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2009), and later studies have also established the value of the servicescape on customer experiences by promoting positive customer behaviour (Mei, Hågensen, & Kristiansen, 2020). Services marketing research has also explored the impact of the servicescape on customers’ appraisals of their service interactions (e.g., Kumar et al., 2020; Sundbo and Dixit, 2020). Scholars from hospitality and tourism have emphasised how the physical setting (or specific aspects of that environment) impacts individuals and groups (Lyu et al., 2017; Somayyeh et al., 2021).

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed lives and the servicescapes of the modern business arena, including in the field of hospitality and tourism services. A lack of predictability due to government restrictions and lockdowns, various actions of infection control and safety measures, closed international borders and limiting hospitality and tourism operations are forcing hospitality and tourism businesses to think out of the box and adapt to the ‘new normal’. This consists, for instance, of adapting new technology and innovation such as mobile apps and online food ordering services and deliveries, alternative payment options and business operations that promote contactless touchpoints and limited physical contact between employees and customers, as well as the social distance between customers. Many servicescapes are thus ‘changed’ to become social distant servicescapes (Taylor, 2020). Such changes also affect the customer experiences in hospitality and tourism altogether.

The researchers have also explored how digital technologies and other servicescape adaptations in hospitality and tourism impacts customer experiences during the ‘new normal’. The pandemic has further accelerated the significance of e-servicescape (electronic servicescape), which consists of websites and other online platforms (Wu, Quyen, & Rivas, 2017) and m-servicescape (mobile servicescape), focusing on mobile apps (Lee, 2018) in constructing memorable and extraordinary hospitality and tourism customer experiences. This moves the traditional physical understanding of the servicescape to the online environment, while the commonalities across all servicescape variants emphasise the importance of visual appeal, pleasing characteristics and the potential to incite all human senses (Roy, Singh, Hope, Nguyen, & Harrigan, 2019) and thereby positively impact hospitality and tourism customer experiences. Thus, servicescape and hospitality and tourism customer experiences related research constructs, models, and frameworks need to be re-evaluated and re-investigated (Klaus & Manthiou, 2020). As a result of changing servicescapes, the nature of the interaction between the employees and customers is also changed along with the interaction between customers themselves. Additionally, innovative technical solutions require customers’ involvement to create their own experiences. Thus, indicating the importance of value co-creation in the alternative variants of e- and m-servicescapes.

The existing body of research to date has focused on the impact of the pandemic in shifting consumer behaviour and customer preferences in the physical servicescape, such as table partitions (Taylor, 2020). There is scant attention on the determinants of customer experience in the co-creation process in the technology-mediated servicescapes (e- and m-servicescapes), as well as the interaction between the many variants of servicescapes in the tourism and hospitality sector. In addition to high-end and luxury hotels and other well-established hospitality and tourism operators (Bonfanti, Vigolo, & Yfantidou, 2021), more studies are needed to explore SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) that have experienced the severe impact of COVID-19 restrictions, their resilience during the pandemic and how such businesses have managed to change their servicescape and enhance customer experiences such as robot room deliveries or lobby scrubbers, smartphone-operated lifts with restrictions on numbers, facial recognition, motion sensors, and ‘contactless’ routes for staff and guests. Furthermore, more studies on servicescape designs from business operators’ perspectives are necessary, particularly within the context of a health emergency (Bonfanti et al., 2021).

Therefore, the special issue aims to promote new theoretical and empirical perspectives on the changing dynamics in hospitality and tourism servicescape in view of the ‘new normal’ and how such changes impact customer experiences. An investigation of the many variants of servicescapes and how they complement (or detract) each other in affecting hospitality and tourism customer experience and promoting positive visitor behaviours is of interest. We welcome quantitative (including experiments, modelling approaches), qualitative (observations, case studies) and mixed methods studies focusing on changing servicescapes and customer experiences in the ‘new normal’. Submissions for the special issue will include the following partial and indicative listing of research themes (with multidisciplinary orientations), but are not limited to:

  • Reimagining customer experiences and servicescapes in the ‘new normal’ : tourists, entrepreneurs and destinations´ perspectives.
  • Tourism and hospitality apps’ impact on customers’ experience of the e-servicescape.
  • Effects of servicescape changes on hospitality and tourism human resources  (motivation,  mindset, career perspectives and so on).
  • Tourists behavioural changes in demand and use of the servicescape in the ‘new normal’.
  • Effects of servicescape changing dynamics in the employee-customer interactions during and after the pandemic.
  • Physical servicescapes, e-servicescapes and m-servicescape, how do they complement each other?
  • Co-creating smart experiences with customers in the era of social distant servicescape
  • The role of the physical environment in hedonic service consumption post-COVID-19
  • Smart cities/urban life and the tourists´ experiences Post - COVID-19
  • Investigating various creative measures adopted by tourism and hospitality operators to ensure customer and worker safety to promote satisfaction and experience.
  • Tourism and hospitaltiy operators’/owners’ perspectives of COVID-19 restrictions, their innovation and their resilience ability to revise the servicescape to sustain their business operations.


Saurabh Kumar Dixit, North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong, Meghalaya, India ([email protected])

Xiang Ying Mei, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Norway ([email protected])

Sandhiya Goolaup, Department of Business Administration and Textile Management, University of Borås, Sweden ([email protected])


Authors willing to contribute to this special issue can contact the guest editors regarding topics of interest or any questions/suggestions regarding the special issue.  An abstract of up to 750 words should be e-mailed as an MS word attachment file by October 31, 2021, to [email protected], [email protected], and [email protected]. The guest editors will provide initial feedback to contributors on submitted abstracts by November 15, 2021. Author guidelines for the International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research can be found here.



  • Abstract Submission Deadline: October 31, 2021
  • Feedback on the abstract by the editors: November 15, 2021
  • Opening of submission window: November 15, 2021
  • Submission deadline: April 15, 2022
  • Revisions and decisions: October 15, 2022
  • Online Publication Date: 2022
  • Printed Publication date: 2023



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