A DECISION SUPPORT SYSTEM FOR HOTEL SELECTION USING THE AHP

METHOD



developed under the Final Year Work or Project of the 5th year of the Electrical
and Computer Engineering graduation course in collaboration with Adaptive IDE
Lda.


July 2005


Supervisor/Orientating Professor:
Professor José Soeiro Ferreira (FEUP)

ADAPTIVE’s Project Partner:
Eng. Hugo Caldeira


Project developed by
Filipe Alexandre Camacho ee99191@fe.up.pt
Frederico Vilas Boas ee99136@fe.up.pt
João Bernardo Câmara ee99220@fe.up.pt





FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 2

INDEX
1.Motivation.......................................................................................6
2.Introduction ....................................................................................6
3.Case Study ................................................................................. .. 10
3.1 Evolution of the initial case study ................................................11
4.E-Tourism: Current scenario and trends............................................. 11
5.Theory ......................................................................................... 12
5.1 Decision Support Systems...........................................................13
5.1.1 The scope of DSS in e-commerce............................... 13
5.1.2 History of DSS implementation in the Tourism industry..... 14
5.1.3 Taxonomies of a Decision Support System .................... 16
5.1.4 Taxonomy of the proposed DSS .................................. 18
5.1.5 Evaluation features for our DSS ..................................... 18
5.2 AHP – what is it all about? ..........................................................19
5.3 The reason behind choosing AHP..................................................25
5.4 Information Systems Technologies ...............................................27
6.Design of the AHP model .................................................................. 29
6.1 Individual Travel Selection....................................................... 30
6.2 Group Travel Selection ..............................................................32
6.3 Proposed Procedure / Hierarchical Structure ...................................34
6.4 AHP applied to GDSS: How to do it? ...............................................35
7.Implementation.............................................................................. 37
7.1 Introduction...........................................................................38
7.2 Description of the search engine..................................................44
7.3 Individual Travel Selection: implementation ...................................45
7.3.1 Construction of the judgement matrixes ....................... 47
8.Testing......................................................................................... 50
9.Conclusions ................................................................................... 52
10.Annex......................................................................................... 55
11.References .................................................................................. 58











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Acronyms and Symbol Listing

EIS - Executive Information Systems
GDSS - Group Decision Support Systems
ODSS - Organizational Decision Support Systems
OLAP - On-Line Analytical Processing
AHP - Analytic Hierarchical Process
HTML – HyperText Mark-up Language
CSS - Cascading Style Sheets
PHP – Hypertext Pre-processor
SQL – Structured Query Language
B2C – Business to Customer
ACM - Association for Computing Machinery
AJAX - Asynchronous JavaScript and XML
EVM – Eigenvalue Method
ANSI –American National Standards Institute
ISO – International Organization for Standardization
WAMM - Weighted Arithmetic Mean Method




























FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 4

Picture index



Fig.1 – A brief history of DSS ................................................................... 8

Fig.2 - The five distinct components of a DSS .............................................. 9

Fig.3 - Operating structure for the DSS: sequence of events ...........................10

Fig.4 – A typical AHP structure ...............................................................20

Fig.5 – AHP structure for the individual travel selection ................................31

Fig.6 – The AHP structure adopted in Jablonsky et Lauber..............................33

Fig.7 - Proposed Hierarchical Structure for Group Travel phase .......................35

Fig.8 – Aggregation of the individual judgments into the group’s judgment
matrixes for group decision .......................................................37

Fig.9 – Database’s E/R model ................................................................43

Fig.10 – Use of the PHP and SQL in the DSS ................................................43

Fig.11 – Selection boxes for attribute insertion ...........................................44

Fig.12 – Search engine with selection boxes and hotel listing ..........................45

Fig.13 – Pair-wise comparison of criteria...................................................46

Fig.14 - Testing our implementation using the Expert Choice: ranking of
alternatives ............................................................................51

Fig.15 – Ranking of alternatives obtained by the application...........................51

Fig.16 – Example’s hierarchical structure ..................................................55


















FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 5

Table index



Table 1 – AHP’s 1-9 scale ......................................................................21

Table 2 and 3 - Example of the two types of matrixes, criteria matrix and
alternatives matrix: pair-wise comparison and local weights ..............22

Table 4 – Average random consistency......................................................25

Tables 5 to 15 – Database Entities and their description................................41

Table 16 to 21 – Database associations and their description ..........................42

Table 22 – Conversion between the 0-10 scale and the AHP scale.....................48

Table 23 – Comparison of consistency ratios: Expert Choice vs. Application ........52

Table 24 – Example’s criteria pair-wise comparison......................................55

Table 25 – Normalized and respective local weights .....................................56

Table 26 to 29 – Pairwise comparison of alternatives with respect to criteria......56

Table 30 – Example’s Normalized Judgement Matrixes ..................................56

















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1. Motivation

The origin of this project dates to late February, early March, after
ADAPTIVE, an entrepreneurial company based on Funchal requested an application
for its tourism contents webpage. The idea behind the requested application was a
client-support system for assisting webpage’s visitors in finding the hotel/resort or
other type of tourism lodging that best suited their interests. Such relevant
interests were pointed out like the price tag, facilities available, services and
others. Besides this application should target an individual user that wishes to
select a hotel.
After a first phase of exchanging information between the Final Year Report
students and the company, a proposal for implementing the web application was
made to the Project orientator. Before the acceptance of the proposal, a road-map
was proposed for achieving all the goals listed in the proposal.





















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2. Introduction

Have you ever wanted to book the best place in your favourite holiday’s
destination that fitted the exact bill for your perfect vacation? That resort or hotel
that has all the services in the perfect spot for assuring the perfect time, all this
while still fitting in your desired price tag?
And what about if you wish to travel in a group that may hold different ideas
concerning their perfect holidays…it’s all about finding the place that can offer the
best solution for all the members. Surely no one expects the impossible, or a
“heaven” sent compromise between all members which may be well out of reach.
But a solution that could approximate all members’ choices is possible and
desirable.
The big problem is that this type of decision is usually disregarded of any
analytic base: of course it’s hard to say to someone who is planning his/hers
holidays to grab a piece of paper and a pencil, and get “analytical” with some kind
of mathematic algorithm.
Rather the challenge is to incorporate this mathematical analysis and create
a proper interface in order for it to be user-friendly and sufficiently accessible to
all kinds of people, computer educated or not.
This is the scenario for which our project was guided, namely a web
application that supported decision making by a user or a group of users. In this
point, research through literature (papers, online documents and major tourism
boards’ web pages) indicated no similar implementations of the same nature,
which gave the green light for further studying of the scenario.
After some studying, it was found that the baseline theory associated with
this project lies on Decision Science, an increasingly important field of Operations
Research, with applications in so many different environments that range from
biotechnologies, medicine, informatics, logistics and management…in fact the
scope of Decision Sciences can be found in almost every sector of global economy.
In our case the implementation will be of course based on information
systems technologies. Such type of system is commonly known as a Decision
Support System (DSS), defined by Sprague and Carlson
1
as an ‘interactive
computer-based systems that help decision makers utilize data and models to




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 8

solve unstructured problems’ although many other definitions are available in a
more or less complete way.
Its origins date back to 1965 and treads closely with the evolution of
computers and information systems. Also it is considered that the concept of DSS
became an area of research of its own in the middle of the 1970s, before gaining
intensity during the 1980s.
In the middle and late 1980s, Executive Information Systems (EIS), Group
Decision Support Systems (GDSS), and Organizational Decision Support Systems
(ODSS) evolved from the single user and model oriented DSS.
Beginning in about 1990, data warehousing and On-Line Analytical Processing
(OLAP) began broadening the realm of DSS. As the millennium approached, new
Web-based analytical applications were introduced (Figure 1).


Fig.1 – A brief history of DSS


There are many different types of classifications used by many different
authors, regarding a DSS. Also different models exist for a DSS although the
differences between them aren’t as significant as one may suggest.
Building upon the much different architectures Marakas
2
proposed a general
architecture made out of five parts:




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 9



Fig.2 - The five distinct components of a DSS

KE – knowledge engine - contains the mathematic models, working databases.
DBMS – Data Base Management System
MBMS - the model-base management system

The knowledge engine is the one that comprises the mathematical
structuring of the decision making problem using an appropriate model to
accomplish this.

This was the main concern in the documentation phase of our project,
finding a mathematical model that effectively introduced decision making for
scenario in hand, firstly considering only an individual and finally for the group
travel selection .
The mathematical model used for this phase of our project was the Analytic
Hierarchical Process (AHP) a popular multiple-criteria decision making tool based
on hierarchical structure. Some of its attracting features, among others, are the
capability of synthesizing qualitative, as well as quantitative info into the decision
making process. More on AHP and its implementation this will be the subject of a
more detailed explanation later on.
The final stage of the project is the implementation phase, the construction
of the DSS using information systems technologies, such as HTML, CSS and PHP4.
These are popular tools in database programming nowadays.





FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 10


Fig.3 - Operating structure for the DSS: sequence of events




















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3. Case Study
3.1 Evolution of the initial case study
In a bid to attract more visitors and to transform ADAPTIVE’s tourism
contents web page a new web application was proposed. The company wanted an
application that supported a search engine through its hotel database, but that also
supported customer support in the form of optimizing customer’s personal
preferences, for example amount of money willing to spend, type of hotel wanted,
services, location, facilities etc…This application shouldn’t be directed only for the
individual but also for group travel. Finally it should present to user a
recommendation based on customer’s inputs.
The scenario presented to us at the beginning of the project involved, at
first, only a theory baseline for the proposed client-support travel selection system
with emphasis on a searching and adapting an optimization model that could
implement the described system. This was to be followed by testing for result
analysis, using appropriate software for this matter.
After the documentation phase the goals of the project broadened to include
the implementation, which replaced the previous phase of testing by mean of
already developed software available. This new step in fact brought into the scene
information systems technologies, like database programming languages, like PHP,
SQL and HTML.

In brief…
The goals: build a model that effectively implemented decision support making to
the user. The requirements for the implementation, other than the interface, were
to take the theory model built for an individual and “translate” it into a web
application. An appropriate interface should also be put in place.








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4. E-Tourism: Current scenario and trends

The Internet has made possible numerous products that have enhanced the
tourism industry, coming from the typical online brochure of a hotel/tourist
destination to incorporate multimedia and online services in its contents opening
the way for new profit/services possibilities.
In fact, owing to their intangible and digital characteristics, tourism
products may no longer be needed because tourists will communicate directly with
hotels and airlines electronically. Or meaning the tendency to avoid intermediaries
in the process. Despite this only a marginal part of the tourism profit is generated
online.
For e-commerce this means that tourism business activities will have to go
beyond the already present online reservation and offer the customers other value-
added services, if the need of intermediaries is to be reduced. Clearly this will
require innovation and sheer entrepreneurship.
In fact, the slow adaptation to e-commerce innovations leads to high
product similarities and severe price competitions among web site operators, as
well as low total tourism market share, as already stated. Also it has been signified
that a more consumer-oriented web-based tourism information system to support
users in travel-related information search, product bundling, and travel planning,
and so on is strongly desired. This is clearly the next step in e-tourism
3
.
Another important factor in designing this client customized services passes
also in gaining the trust of the customer and the creation of sufficient incentives
for stimulating the curiosity of customers in the business proposition (Nysveen and
Lexhagen
3
).









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5. Theory

In this part we will give some insight into the theory behind our project,
concerning all the subjects mentioned in the introduction.
Firstly we have to make additional remarks to our DSS and also to situate it
into the actual scenario of e-commerce and e-tourism. Also we will devote some
space to the theory behind AHP, since it will be one of the cornerstones of this
project.
This will be dealt in the form of exposing the algorithm and then
consequently show the way in which the AHP theory was incorporated into our case
study problem.

5.1 Decision Support Systems
5.1.1 The scope of DSS in e-commerce
4


The rapid advancement of Internet and Web technologies and the fast
growth of e-commerce applications in recent years have brought strong impacts on
the strategies and processes of business conductions. Many innovative business
models have emerged in the e-commerce environment such as market-oriented e-
Shop, e-Procurement, e-Auction, e-Mall, Third Party Marketplace, Virtual
Communities, Value Chain Service Provider, Value Chain Integrator, Collaboration
Platforms, Information Brokers, and Trust Service Provider.
Major identified e-commerce characteristics include global markets, virtual
organizations, 24/7 operations quick responses, competitive pricing, secure
transactions, multimedia and hypermedia documents, interactive processes,
personalized and customized services, value-added information, innovative
products and services, etc.
The growing Business-to-Consumer (B2C) applications and increasing market
competition have stimulated the needs for more information-intensive and
decision-oriented online consumer-support systems and services that could
incorporate personalized needs and interests in all searching, deciding, and
purchasing processes. As stated previously, in e-tourism the current trend is for




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 14

tourism information systems to offer extended decision-making support in tourist
travel planning.
It is obvious that the desired e-commerce-oriented consumer decision and
transaction process is relatively more complex than the traditional buying process,
since it may contain online activities such as product search and discovery, product
and vendor evaluation, price and contract negotiation, transaction and payments,
post-purchase services and dispute resolution.
Moreover, when planning and transaction services for consumer groups or
communities are concerned, extended group decision support capabilities should
be developed and provided.
Therefore, how to apply innovative e-commerce related models and
technologies to facilitate the web-based consumer decision and transaction process
that supports individual and group decision making with expert-level qualities
becomes critical for sustaining e-business competitiveness. As a result, more
sophisticated concepts and advanced technologies for designing the consumer-
oriented intelligent decision support system need to be developed to meet the
increasing market demands.
An intelligent consumer-oriented DSS can be generally identified as a web-
based DSS that provides generic and specific application functions, information
resources, model and knowledge computing mechanisms, as well as communication
facilities to efficiently and effectively assist consumers in making personalized and
group decisions through all phases of the decision and transaction process.
Potential business applications of the consumer-oriented DSS range from
online customized shopping, personalized insurance planning, personal financial
and investment portfolio management, to individual or group travel planning.

5.1.2 History of DSS implementation in the Tourism industry
4


Since the very beginning of this project, a thorough search was made via
internet to position our proposed project and confront it with already developed
products in the DSS area.
The search involved mainly online libraries and other scientific database
warehouses, like ScienceDirect.com also the online ACM Portal (Association for




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 15

Computing Machinery). Also the search complemented several tourism portals, like
Opodo (www.opodo.com, a large travel portal for reservations and flights owned by
the main European airliners), Expedia (www.expedia.com, a U.S based tourism
portal with more or less the same scope as Opodo), and Kayak (www.kayak.com, a
U.S online travel search engine). The objective with visiting these previous sites
was to get a feedback on the type of technologies besides the already omni-present
search engine.
Most of these sites indeed already incorporated many up-to-date
technologies, like AJAX, which is an intelligent way to save channel bandwidth by
only refreshing the desired part(s) of a webpage and also CSS, which provides for
some stunning interfaces and easier manipulation of styles inside a web page.
As for examples of web applications tourism focused DSS’s, these were few
and far between. One of the most relevant was A Web-Based Consumer-Oriented
Intelligent Decision Support System for Personalized E-Services
4
, which dealt
with presenting an integrated framework for developing web based consumer-
oriented intelligent decision support systems to facilitate all phases of consumer
decision-making process in business-to-consumer e-services applications,
culminating with an example given for e-tourism. This paper, in the literature
review part, indicates that in commercial websites, currently exists ‘some efforts
to assist customers in searching and selecting products and services have been
reported’, or in other words, client-support for decision aiding.

The paper goes on to state some examples, like General Electric Plastics
(www.geplastics.com) which provides datasheets, engineering calculator, and
material selection tools on the company web site to help customers in analyzing
product needs and getting an effective material solution. It concludes this
literature review by stating that ‘although the needs to offer more powerful
capabilities for consumer decision support on the web sites are widely recognized,
the facilities already provided to the consumers are still limited to specific
products and tasks and thus unable to support full-stage and high-quality decisions.
The other part of special interest is the application of the proposed
integrated framework in the e-tourism web application. Several prototype systems
were developed for both the e-tourism and e-investment applications using the
proposed framework and design methodologies, using as background the tourism in
New Zealand. In one of the these there is a system for evaluating package tours in
which consumers select their preferences and weights about destination region,




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 16

trip length, price, accommodation rank, departure date, and features, as well as
specify the level of matching. Users can then submit the request to get a list of
matched tour packages for their inspection.
Another interesting application is a page for designing personalized tour plan
in which consumers can design their own trip plan by selecting and bundling
destinations, hotels, and restaurants in daily basis.
Other page is aimed at group travel: community voting that allows
community members to vote on original and alternative trip plans. Before they
make the vote, users can check the content of each trip plan. After inserting a new
vote by someone, new vote counts of all trip plans appear on the ‘number of votes’
column.
Even another great example of value-added online service: the page has a
tour plan bidding session that allows travel agencies to bid on posted group trip
plans. The time interval for submitting a bid, the current lowest bid, and the name
of the associated bidder are also shown in this page.

Finally another application illustrates a continuing recommended personal
insurance portfolio plan in which insurance types, principal, duration, and premium
are shown in response to a consumer’s need and preferences.
A final note is required to say that these described systems are only
prototype at the moment, after we tried to retrieve more information in the net
for better understanding of features and technologies

5.1.3 Taxonomies of a Decision Support System
5


After a basic introduction to DSS, we need to explain in more detail the
architecture exposed in the introduction. But in a first glance there is firstly a need
for classify our DSS, in light of current types of DSS available nowadays.

Work on the taxonomy of DSS has been conducted since the development of
DSS. As with the definition, there is no all-inclusive taxonomy of DSS either.
Different authors propose different classifications. This classification is in
general done at three levels:
• user level, the level of interaction between user and system,




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 17

• conceptual level refers to the goal for which the DSS was designed,
type of operation, data manipulation…
• technical level, if the system is based in one single computer or
distributed around a large organization

At the user-level, the paper differentiates passive, active and cooperative
DSS: a passive DSS is a system that aids the process of decision making, but that
cannot bring out explicit decision suggestions or solutions, while an active DSS can
bring out such decision suggestions or solutions. A cooperative DSS allows the
decision maker (or its advisor) to modify, complete, or refine the decision
suggestions provided by the system, before sending them back to the system for
validation. The system again improves, completes, and refines the suggestions of
the decision maker and sends them back to her for validation.
The whole process then starts again, until a consolidated solution is
generated.
At the conceptual level, it differentiates Communication-Driven DSS, Data-
Driven DSS, Document-Driven DSS, Knowledge-Driven DSS, and Model-Driven DSS.
A Model-Driven DSS emphasizes access to and manipulation of a statistical,
financial, optimization, or simulation model. Model-Driven DSS use data and
parameters provided by DSS users to aid decision makers in analyzing a situation,
but they are not necessarily data intensive.
A Communication-Driven DSS supports more than one person working on a
shared task: examples include integrated tools like Microsoft’s NetMeeting.
Data-Driven DSS or Data-oriented DSS emphasize access to and manipulation
of a time-series of internal company data and, sometimes, external data.
Document-Driven DSS manage, retrieve and manipulate unstructured
information in a variety of electronic formats.
Finally, Knowledge-Driven DSS provide specialized problem-solving expertise
stored as facts, rules, procedures, or in similar structures.
At the technical level, the paper differentiates between enterprise-wide DSS and
desktop DSS.
Enterprise-wide DSS are linked to large data warehouses and serve many
managers in a company. Desktop, single-user DSS are small systems that reside on
an individual manager’s PC.




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5.1.4 Taxonomy of the proposed DSS

We are now in a position to classify our DSS according to the taxonomy
shown:
So at user-level we can see that since our DSS can classified as active since the
system will deliver a recommendation of the hotels that best suit the user/users
preferences, from the initial input of desired characteristics/features of the ideal
hotel (like price, location, services available etc…).
It cannot though be considered cooperative since the system doesn’t refine
the optimization: the only possibility for the user is to start again and choose new
parameter inputs for the consequent optimization, as the AHP method as we will
see later on, doesn’t allow for changes during its implementation.
Also we can say that the DSS is model-driven since it will optimize the
alternatives according to the AHP algorithm.
Finally and looking at the system from the technical level we can point out
that the DSS will be of desktop type since the DSS will be run always from a single
PC although this single workstation will permit decision making for a group.

5.1.5 Evaluation features for our DSS
In this part, we need to clearly specify the aspects or features that will be
used for assessing DSS performance.
One element for further improving/upgrading this project is to put in place a
common framework that will allow for the use of this application (of course with
some differences in its implementation) in other tourism destinations.
This means that the system must have some flexibility in order to adapt to
contrasting destinations, like for example a skiing destination. If we look to the
available literature dealing with DSS’s, one can see that the main drawbacks in its
design are:
• Poor maintainability, that illustrates that a decision-maker
sometimes has to leave the focus on decision making and has to spend
some time and attention in maintenance of the DSS.




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• Poor flexibility, which means that DSS’s are often too much
application-specific, with difficulties in updating/upgrading

In fact and given the nature of our proposed DSS, we can consider flexibility
for different tourism destinations as the main factor in evaluating our application.

5.2 AHP – what is it all about?
For the present problem there is a need to address the way in which users
will express their preferences/wishes and evolve from there to a ranked
prioritization of alternatives according to the expressed characteristics.
The Analytic Hierarchical Process (AHP), created by Thomas Saaty
13
in the
1970’s, is an excellent tool for optimization procedure in multi-criteria
environment, when several alternatives are presented to the user.
It allows as we already stated the capacity to synthesize both quantitative
and qualitative information into a hierarchical model, by means of pair-wise
comparisons of alternatives of criteria and then of alternatives to the criteria
proposed in the decision problem. The method is comprised of the following steps:

1. Structure a problem in the form of a hierarchy with objectives,
criteria and alternatives.
2. Asks for judgments regarding a decision-maker’s relative preferences
for criteria and alternatives and represent those judgments with
numbers.
3. Use the numbers to calculate the priorities of the criteria and
alternatives in the hierarchy.
4. Complete the synthesis of these results to determine the ‘best’
alternative.

Step 1 – Structuring of the decision problem into a hierarchical model

It includes decomposition of the decision problem into elements according to
their common characteristics and the forming of a hierarchical model having
different levels.




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The simplest AHP model has only three levels, namely Objective, Criteria
and Alternatives. This phase is a fairly important part of the method so as to
represent the decision making problem faithfully. Saaty
13
recommends care in
designing the model so that the structure effectively represents the problem in
hands.



Fig.4 – A typical AHP structure

Step 2 – Making pair-wise comparisons and obtaining the judgment matrix.

Next, the decision-maker expresses his/her opinion regarding the relative
importance of the criteria and preferences among the alternatives by making pair-
wise comparisons using a nine-point system ranging from 1 (the two choice options
are equally preferred) to 9 (one choice option is extremely preferred over the
other).
If, however, one criterion is preferred less than the comparison criterion,
the reciprocal of the preference score is assigned. The use of reciprocals yields the
property such that (ai,j).(aj,i)= 1, where ai,j, the preference score of criterion i to
criterion j, aj,i, preference score of criterion j to criterion i and aj,i=1/ai,j .
The AHP scoring system is a ratio scale where the ratios between values
indicate the degree of preference. The nine-point scale has been the standard
rating system used for the AHP. Its use is based upon research by psychologist
George Miller, which indicated that decision makers were unable to consistently
repeat their expressed gradations of preference finer than ‘seven plus or minus
two.’




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Intensity of
importance

Definition

Explanation


1


3



5



7




9

Equal importance of both elements


Moderate importance of one
element over another


Strong importance of one element
over another


Very Strong importance of one
element over another



Extreme importance of one element
over another

Two elements contribute equally to
the property

Experience and judgement slightly
favour one element over another


Experience and judgement strongly
favour one element over another


An element is strongly favoured and
its dominance is demonstrated in
practice


The evidence favouring one element
over another is of the highest
possible order of affirmation

Table 1 – AHP’s 1-9 scale


Step 3 – Local weights

In this step, local weights of the elements are calculated from the judgment
matrices using the eigenvector method (EVM).
The normalized eigenvector corresponding to the principal eigenvalue of the
(judgment) matrix provides the local weights of the corresponding elements.
To do so, there is the need to define the comparison matrixes which makes
the pair-wise comparisons between each criterion of the decision model.
After knowing the preferences of the user by an interface used to capture
the more preferable criterion, these are represented in a matrix which compares
the criteria with respect to the main goal (Fig:4 Table A), calculating the local
weights of each criterion has to the user.




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 22

Secondly, the need of comparing each alternative with respect to each
criterion (criterion 1…, criterion n), will give respectively the local weights of each
alternative
However other comparisons must be made in order to capture the relation of
preference between possible alternatives. For that reason other matrixes are
needed in order to calculate the local weights, there are built n+ 1 matrix as n,
number of criterion.

A: Comparison of criteria with respect to goal
Criteria C1 C2 C3 Local weights
C1 1 5 4 0.400
C2 3 1 5 0.394
C3 1/4 1/5 3 0.128

B: Comparison of alternatives with respect to Criteria 1

Criteria 1 A1 A2 A3 Local weights
A1 1 1/3 5 0.279
A2 3 1 7 0.649
A3 1/5 1/7 1 0.072


Table 2 and 3 – Example of the two types of matrixes, criteria matrix and alternatives matrix: pair-wise comparison and
local weights



Step 4 – Aggregation of weights across various levels to obtain the final weights
of alternatives.

Once the local weights of elements of different levels are obtained as
outlined in Step 3, they are aggregated to obtain final weights of the decision
alternatives (elements at the lowest level).
For example, the final weight of alternative A1 is computed using the following
hierarchical (arithmetic) aggregation rule in traditional AHP:

Final Weight of A
1
=

i
(Local weight of A
1
with respect of Criterion C
j
) ×(Local weight of C
j
)





FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 23

The final weights are calculated using the local weights of each alternative
regarding each criterion and the local weights of each criterion as shown in the
expression above.
This expression will calculate the priorities which each alternative.
Notice that the sum of all final weights must be equal to a unit (1). This will prove
that the method used is being well followed as well as confirming all the steps
made before.
The final values reached (estimate weights) inform (to contemplate explicit
or implicit knowledge) about the possible alternatives and the way they are used to
satisfy the selected criterion, as well as the importance of these criterion in order
to reach the goal of the better alternative to choose from.
Taking this into regard we have reached a result where we can affirm which
alternative is more preferable from the user point of view.

Step 5 - Inconsistency and Sensitivity Analysis

In making a sequence of pair-wise comparisons, especially for systems that
have five or more criteria and/or alternatives, we would expect that the estimates
of the unknown weights, as reflected by the weight estimates (ratios) given in
answer to the pair-wise comparison questions, need not be exact or consistent.
The AHP measures inconsistency by comparing the DM’s data to a set of
random results that assumes, for the same size matrix, that the estimates were
random. Saaty developed a measure of inconsistency, called the inconsistency ratio
(IR) that is based on fundamental theoretical results on the size of the largest
eigenvalue for the matrices in question.
This ratio measures transitivity of preference for the person doing the pair-
wise comparisons. To illustrate the meaning of transitivity of preference, if a
person prefers choice A over B, and B over C, then do they in consistent fashion
prefer A over C?
This index provides a useful check because the AHP method does not
inherently prevent the expression of intransitivity of preferences when ratings are
being performed.
The AHP consistency index compares a person’s informed preferences ratings
to those generated by a random preference expression process:




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 24

An arbitrary but generally-accepted as tolerable level of inconsistent
preference scoring with the AHP is less than or equal to 10% of the total number of
judgments.

Calculation of the Inconsistency Ratio (IC)

The process of acquiring the values so we can reach the final result is
divided into 4 steps:
1. Synthesizing the pair-wise comparison matrix
2. Calculating the priority vector for a criterion
3. Calculating the consistency ratio
4. Selecting appropriate value of the random consistency ratio


1
st
. Calculate the weights with respect to the initial matrix of criterion and its local
weights (criteria weights).


2
nd
. Calculate the inconsistency index with respect to the criterion weights and the
weights driven in Step 1:



=
=
n
i
weights criteria
step of vector final
n
1
max
_
1 _ _ _ 1
λ

n: degree of the matrix


3
rd
. Calculate the Inconsistency ratio: IC


1
max


=
n
n
IC
λ



4
th
. Compare the IC ratio with the random index (RI) with respect to the
corresponding n.

RI
IC











FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 25






Table 4 – Average random consistency


In order to get a better understanding of the various steps described in this
part we have included an example of AHP application in annex. This example will
give the reader a better insight into the methodology of the AHP as well as a more
intuitive feel for it.
5.3 The reason behind choosing AHP
At the phase of documentation, it became apparent that AHP has a wide
application scope, being regarded as a powerful tool for multi-criteria decision
making for both individual and group. The method was firstly designed for a single
user but the capabilities of the algorithm were extended to achieve group decision
making. Its robustness, flexibility and the fact that it synthesizes the final results
vertically according to the structure followed for the decision making problem.
Another fact is that AHP copes well associated with other tools, like linear
programming, fuzzy logic and other methodologies (Machado
6
).
Disadvantages found with AHP relate to the following according to
Goodman
7
:

• Verbal to numeric scale conversion – decision agents that use the AHP’s
verbal comparison mode have their judgements automatically converted to
the 1-9 numeric scale, but the correspondence between the two scales is
based on non-tested theory base. For example if A é judged to be weakly
more important than B, the AHP assumes that A is 3 times more important
than B, which may not be the case at all. There is some argumentation that
factor 5 is too strong to denote the notion of strong preference.

• Inconsistencies imposed by the 1-9 scale – in some cases the pair-wise
comparisons under the 1-9 scale may lead the decision agent to commit
several inconsistencies. For example, if A is considered to be 5 times than B

Size of
matrix, n
1

2

3 4 5 6 7 8

9

10

Random
consistency

0

0

0,58

0.9

1.12

1.24

1.32

1.41

1.45

1.49




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 26

and B is 5 times more important than C that should make A 25 times more
important than C; but that is not possible, due to the fact that the scale
goes from 1 to 9.

• Significance of responses to the questions – the weights are obtained
without any reference to the scales in which the attributes are measured,
which may mean that the questions are interpreted differently, and possibly
wrong, by the each of the decision makers.

• Rank Reversal – this can be easily understood by the following example: if a
company had to choose a city for establishing a new sales office, and that
the method gave the following global ranking of alternatives: 1
st

Albuquerque, 2
nd
Boston, and 3
rd
Chicago. However if a new city, Denver,
was proposed to the already existing set of alternatives and if we repeated
the application of the method in order to accommodate the new alternative.
Even if the relative importance of the attributes remains the same, the new
analysis gives this ranking: 1
st
Boston, 2
nd
Albuquerque, 3
rd
Denver and 4
th

Chicago reversing the ranking of the Boston and Albuquerque. This comes
from the characteristic that all weights are normalized to give a total sum of
1.

• The number of comparisons can be large – while the existing redundancy
inside the AHP method can be interpreted as a technical advantage of the
method (because it allows the verification of the previously made
comparison), it can, on another way, require a large amount of judgements
by the decision maker. For example a seven alternative problem with 7
attributes will take 168 pair-wise comparisons, which puts difficulties on the
application of the method. In our implementation, however, this won’t be a
reason for concern since the AHP will be mostly based on database lists.

Even with these drawbacks, the method has great intrinsic value due to the
hierarchical structuring of a problem and the facilitation of the dialogue between
decision makers. In this fashion, the AHP is perfectly adapted as long as its
limitations are taken into account. A good example of this, is the large number of
DSS applications that incorporate AHP as a decision making tool.




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 27

Turning our attention to group decision, many refer to AHP ‘as well suited
for this task due to its role as a synthesizing mechanism by means of its capability
to accommodate both tangible and intangible characteristic, individual values and
shared values’ (Lai
8
). Also it can help structure a group decision so that the
discussion centres on objectives rather than on alternatives.

5.4 Information Systems Technologies
The project will use information systems methodologies in order to achieve
the task of ‘translating’ the model built on the AHP algorithm, for the two
possibilities listed (individual or group travel).
We will use PHP to implement the database scripting and SQL to develop the
necessary queries between application and database. A brief description of both
these technologies follows:


PHP

PHP stands for a recursive acronym of Hypertext Pre-processor and is
defined by its creators as [9] ‘an open-source server-side scripting language for
creating dynamic Web pages for e-commerce and other Web applications’.
PHP is described as an interpreted language that has absorbed a mixture of
features from procedural languages like C, object oriented languages like Java,
shell languages like Bash, a similar multi-parented language Perl, and various other
languages.
It is intended for writing small portions of code that are embedded in HTML.
The PHP code is run on the server, and is used to generate the dynamic portion of
the HTML, that depends on the values entered into forms by users of web browsers,
and the content of databases on the server. It is concise, and has many powerful
library functions. However, features such as the lack of declarations and type
checking make it a poor general purpose language for writing large programs.
Nowadays, its implementation at a global scale is a testimonial to its
capacity of providing [9] ‘simple and universal solution for easy-to-program




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 28

dynamic Web pages’ as well as to an intuitive syntax which facilitates learning to
anyone with basic programming skills.
Also because it is an open-source product, allows the support of a large
group of open-source developers worldwide. This provides users with excellent
technical support and bugs are found and repaired quickly.
Other feature is the excellent connectivity to most of the common databases
(including Oracle, Sybase, mySQL, ODBC and many others), and its integration with
various external libraries, which allows the developer to do anything from
generating PDF documents to parsing XML and other.
Another key advantage of PHP, when compared to other scripting languages
such as ASP or ColdFusion, is that it is open-source and cross-platform, suitable for
today's heterogeneous network environments.
Given this and according to [9], PHP is accounted ‘as today's fastest-growing
technology for dynamic web pages’ and according to a specialized internet
technology survey (conducted by Netcraft, www.netcraft.com/survey/ ) ‘PHP can
now be found on more that 6 million domains, and is growing at a rate of up to
15% each month’.

SQL
10


Structured Query Language (SQL) is the most popular computer language
used to create, modify and retrieve data from relational database management
systems.
The language has evolved beyond its original purpose to support object-
relational database management systems. It is an ANSI/ISO standard.
SQL allows the specification of queries in a high-level, declarative manner.
For example, to select rows from a database, the user need only specify the
criteria that they want to search by; the details of performing the search operation
efficiently is left up to the database system, and is invisible to the user.
SQL standard was first introduced in 1986 although its beginnings date to the
70’s. As the name implies, SQL is designed for a specific, limited purpose —
querying data contained in a relational database. As such, it is a set-based,
declarative computer language rather than an imperative language such as C or




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 29

BASIC which, being programming languages, are designed to solve a much broader
set of problems
Compared to general-purpose programming languages, this structure allows
the user/programmer to be less familiar with the technical details of the data and
how they are stored, and relatively more familiar with the information contained in
the data. This blurs the line between user and programmer, appealing to
individuals who fall more into the 'business' or 'research' area and less in the
information technology area.
The original vision for SQL was to allow non-technical users to write their
own database queries. While this has been realized to some extent, the complexity
of querying an advanced database system using SQL can still require a significant
learning curve.
Although SQL is defined by both ANSI and ISO, there are many extensions to
and variations on the version of the language defined by these standards bodies.
Many of these extensions are of a proprietary nature, such as Oracle
Corporation's PL/SQL or Sybase and Microsoft's Transact-SQL.
It is also not uncommon for commercial implementations to omit support for
basic features of the standard, such as the DATE or TIME data types, preferring some
variant of their own. As a result, in contrast to ANSI C or ANSI Fortran, which can
usually be ported from platform to platform without major structural changes, SQL
code can rarely be ported between database systems without major modifications.
There are several reasons for this lack of portability between database systems
such as:
• The complexity and size of the SQL standard means that most
databases do not implement the entire standard.
• Many database vendors have large existing customer bases; where the
SQL standard conflicts with the prior behaviour of the vendor's
database, the vendor may be unwilling to break backward
compatibility.








FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 30

6. Design of the AHP model

After a thorough description of the AHP method, it’s time to create the AHP
structures that will carry translate the scenarios exposed for the individual & group
travel selection.
We will derive a model for each of the two cases using the already exposed theory.

6.1 Individual Travel Selection

In interpreting the individual travel selection one should first identify clearly
the elements that we will want to integrate into our structure. From the case study
presented it’s obvious that the alternatives will be hotels or other kind of tourist
lodging. This was made clear when the goals were exposed.
Secondly and since the decision making resides only in an individual, the
goal is to optimize the client’s input preferences for his/hers desired vacation
lodging. The final part is to identify the criteria for which we wish the customer to
do the pair-wise comparison in the 1-9 scale. The issue is identifying the right
parameters that will describe completely our scenario.
This part was carefully accompanied with responsible of ADAPTIVE, through
swapping of views and ideas about the subject: after some discussion, three
criteria items were selected:

• Location of the hotel
The location determines the type of vacation available; for example a hotel
located near the mountains will be more suited for hiking and other mountain
terrain activities, although it doesn’t exclude the possibility of doing beach
activities. Another example is if the individual is looking for a typical beach
vacations a resort located with direct access to the sea will be the obvious choice.
Each hotel has a classification in terms of the types of locations at our
disposal (Sea, Mountain and Centre). We will use the 1-9 scale for facilitating the
conversion for the AHP method.






FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 31

• Price
The price range is an obvious criterion in travel/hotel selection problem.

• Quality of Accommodation
This was the criteria that raised more doubts about its existence. In fact one
can say that price is directly related to the quality of the accommodation and thus
the parameter being useless. This is because the AHP method recommends care on
the selection of criteria based on mutual exclusion of criteria.
However, and after some research around the hotels of Madeira in general,
one can see that for example there were quite a few hotels of 3 stars that had a
very similar price compared to 4 star ones. This was also the case with some 4 and
5 star hotels although in a less significant manner. For this reason and because the
number of stars in a hotel determines certain quality parameters of services and
infrastructures, we decide to include the quality of accommodation in our
structure. The star rating will serve as guarantee of services for the user.

The next step is to define the hierarchical structure, based on the previous:



Fig.5 – AHP structure for the individual travel selection

As we see the structure is a very simple AHP structure with 3 levels. One
final note is about the number of alternatives at our disposal: in the scheme
presented the alternatives are supposedly as many as the user wants.





FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 32

Let’s not forget that before the optimization procedure there is a search
engine that will limit the alternatives according to the preferences of services,
infrastructures, nearby facilities and/or services etc…the search engine will be
properly detailed in the implementation phase.
6.2 Group Travel Selection
The Individual Travel Selection didn’t pose much work on the documentation
due to the fact that it is a classic application of the AHP method, as seen in
numerous books/papers on the subject.
For the Group Travel Selection we wanted to continue to use AHP as it would
permit considerable savings in the implementation of the web application. So the
emphasis was in finding adequate literature that dealt with Group Decision Support
System (GDSS) in a multi-criteria environment preferably in theory for the purpose
of orientating our work in this stage of the project. The first task involved
consulting papers and/or other types of information (web sites, etc…) that
employed some kind of a Group Decision Support System (GDSS).
After this stage several papers were considered, but we decided to base our
implementation of the Group Travel stage on two papers, namely Group Decision
Making and Hierarchical Modelling
11
, by Jablonsky and Lauber, Group Decision
Making in Multiple Criteria Environment: A case using the AHP in software
selection
8
by Vincent S. Lai, Bo K. Wong and Waiman Cheung and finally
Aggregation of analytic hierarchy process models based on similarities in
decision makers' preferences
12
by N.Bolloju.

Analysis of the documentation fetched

The structure of a Group Decision Support System (GDSS) adopted in
Jablonsky et Lauber
11
used, as already mentioned, AHP as the main core of the
decision making structure:





FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 33



Fig.6 – The AHP structure adopted in Jablonsky et Lauber

The proposed hierarchy presented here suggests a set of levels for which we
will give a brief description. The article assumes that there is an inherent conflict
in the decision making process, so it proposes that the Level 1 (or goal of the
problem) must be an apparent compromise between the members of group (that
may have different weights in the final decision). The paper later goes on to
quantify this “compromise” into an index.
For our case however the goal of looking for a compromise between all is not
important, so the analytical study presented in the paper on how to reach a
compromise between the members wasn’t considered. So for this matter our goal is
to find the alternative, given each member’s weight in the decision process that
best suits the group’s wishes with no special care for conflict resolution (we
assume that the AHP already considers this implicitly in its implementation for
group decision).
The remaining levels are relatively straightforward: Level 2 represents each
member’s view of the perfect location for their holidays (or Party to the Conflict in
the original structure), Level 3 the criteria (the same as in the individual Travel
Selection) and finally in Level 4 the alternatives available to choose from.

The relations between levels derived from the hierarchy can be converted
into a numerical form and interpreted as follows:





FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 34

• Level 2 - evaluation of the importance of the parties to the conflict with
respect to the given decision problem - weights of the parties to the
conflict

• Level 3 - evaluation of the importance of the criteria with respect to the
individual parties to the conflict - weights of the criteria

• Level 4 - evaluation of the scenarios - local priorities (with respect to the
given criterion and the given decision maker) and global priorities
(synthesized from the local preferences) are the direct basis for the final
decision (finding the consensus, ordering of the scenarios, etc.).


The priorities of the scenarios/alternatives lead apparently in the typical
case to the different results when the parties to the conflict are taking into
account individually.
That is the basic aim of the conflict resolution is to find such approach that
will make it possible, e.g. based on an interactive procedure, getting from the
local priorities of the parties to the conflict to global priorities.

6.3 Proposed Procedure / Hierarchical Structure
In this step we will show the hierarchical structure for the Group Travel
Selection, according to the remarks made in previous step:






FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 35


Fig.7 - Proposed Hierarchical Structure for Group Travel phase

6.4 AHP applied to GDSS: How to do it?

As stated before, the AHP algorithm is applied to our problem in very similar
conditions comparing to the individual travel selection: firstly the AHP is applied
individually to each individual.
Secondly, the weight in the decision making process (again for each
member) as well as the aggregation of the individual preferences are introduced
into the problem following the Weighted Arithmetic Mean Method, as shown in
Bolloju
12
.
From this document that describes methods for synthesizing a group
decision, two different methods are presented: the geometric mean method (GMM)
and the Weighted Arithmetic Mean Method (WAMM).
The reason why WAMM was chosen is because the several members of the
group may have radical differences in their judgment about the most suitable
alternative. The subject of the aggregation procedure will be detailed below:

• STEP 1: INPUT DATA

In first notice, each one of the group’s members must fill in a text box, with
personal data as well as his/hers preferred location (remember that it can be a




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 36

beach resort or a country cottage for example) for their proposed vacations. Then
each member designates its importance in the group decision (from 0 to 1, meaning
1 the total decision for the group and that the sum of importances cannot be
higher than 1). The data is stored in database tables
Finally a listing of all hotels that comply with the alternatives chosen by all
users is displayed. The users can eventually discuss the alternatives and remove
any of them if they wish so. The remaining alternatives enter the individual AHP.


• STEP 2: INDIVIDUAL AHP

After this is done, the AHP is implemented in roughly the same way as in the
individual choice. For each comparison matrix the user makes the pair-wise
comparisons between for the three selected criteria. The criteria remain the same:
PRICE, QUALITY and LOCATION.
The only difference is in the matrix that relates the LOCATION criteria with
the alternatives offered. In this case, the matrix follows the type of LOCATION
chosen by this individual alone.
After the insertion of data into the 4 tables per member, prioritization of
alternatives is made for each member. The next step will aggregate the individual
results.

• STEP 3: PASSING FROM INDIVIDUAL PRIORITIES TO GLOBAL
PRIORITIES

After the prioritizing of the alternatives is computed, we use the Weighted
Arithmetic Mean Method for achieving the prioritized group alternatives. This is
done by aggregating the corresponding matrix for each of the group members. For
example, and imagining that the group is composed of three elements, there will
be 4 aggregating matrixes: each matrix is built in following manner:





FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 37

Pairwise comparison matrix
Member 1
Pairwise comparison matrix
Member 2
Pairwise comparison matrix
Member 3
Aggregated comparison
Matrix Group

Fig.8 – Aggregation of the individual judgments into the group’s judgment matrixes for group decision


in that each member of the aggregate group matrix,

=
=
n
k
k ij k aggregated ij
a w a
1
, ,
. ,

with k depicting the k
th
member of the group, i the line of matrix and j the column
of the aggregate group matrix.

This process is followed for the other matrixes which results in the 4
predicted ones.
After these matrixes are computed, we simply derive the local weights and
the final weights in the same manner as in the individual case.













FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 38

7. Implementation

7.1 Introduction
In this part we will detail the implementation of our DSS, following the
derived models for the knowledge engine already described in the previous parts.
The 1
st
stage in the implementation is to build an entity-association model for
describing our database. The E/A model must not though to be considered
definitive since it may not describe all the perceived restrictions, due to its
subjective nature but it will, nonetheless, establish a design approach to our
database.
In the E/A model, the scenario we wish to depict is illustrated by means of
entities and its relations between them. The relations between them are pretty
much straightforward so description of it is relatively scarce.
Also before designing a fully functional search engine we have to consider
the entities/attributes that we will use to describe a hotel or other kind of tourism
lodging. Considering all the possible information about tourism lodging we selected
the following entities (bold) and its respective attributes (underlined):

• Chain of hotels: name of chain.
• Unit info: name of hotel, the type of hotel, phones, e-mail, star
rating, website, prices for each kind of available room. Other
important feature is the classification in a 0 – 10 scale of the 3 types
of location, Sea, Centre and Mountain. This was made by measuring
the distance of each hotel to the nearest sea access, to the city
centre (in our case the historical centre of Funchal) and mountain
access, respectively.
• Services made available by the hotel: these include paid or free and
include for example internet access, parking, or organized trips
(whether it may refer to land or sea).
• Location, with street and postal address, and most importantly the
type of accesses that the hotel possesses: for example if a hotel has
direct access to the ocean, or in case of a mountain lodging to hiking
trails or to other leisure activities grounds. Also descriptions of the




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 39

views from the hotel are available. Finally there is a classification of
the hotel according to the accesses and location: beach, rural,
mountain and city (called nearby). This classification is not limited to
one single choice: a hotel can be classified as beach and city for
example.
• Types of rooms available: description of rooms and their number
• Food, describes if type of meals (half-board, full board) or the
customer has facilities for self catering.
• Facilities, describes the facilities available in the hotel (for example,
tennis courts, swimming pools etc…)

Entities

Chain
Fields Type Null? Links for Commentaries
namechain varchar(30) No Name of the hotel chain

Facility

Field Type Null? Links for Commentaries
namefacil varchar(20) No type of facility

Food
Field Type Null? Links for Commentaries
namefood varchar(20) No type of food

Location
Field Type Null? Links for Commentaries
access varchar(15) Yes
Type of access that an
hotel or hotels gots
views varchar(10) Yes
Type of view that an
hotel or hotels gots
nearby varchar(15) Yes
If it nearby or close
from a place
street varchar(50) Yes
The address of a
certain hotel
zip1 varchar(4) Yes
Postal code. The first
four digits.
zip2 char(3) Yes
Postal code. The last
three digits.




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 40

municipally varchar(20) Yes
Municipally –>
name
Municipality

Municipally
Field Type Null? Links for Commentaries
name varchar(30) No Name of the municipality
Roomtype
Field Type Null?
Links
for
Commentaries
nametype varchar(25) No
Name of the type of
room
Service
Field Type Null? Links for Commentaries
nameserv varchar(20) No Name of a service

Typeserv
Field Type Null?
Links
for
Commentaries
name varchar(10) No
If it is paid of free the
service

Unit
Field Type Null? Links for Commentaries
nameunit varchar(30) No Name of the unit
numstar int(11) Yes Number of stars
type varchar(10) No Type of unit
phone1 varchar(21) No
phone2 varchar(21) Yes
fax varchar(21) Yes
website varchar(60) Yes
email varchar(40) Yes
pricemin int(30) Yes
Minimum Price that
hotel can offer
pricemax int(30) Yes
Maximum Price that
hotel can offer
namechainu varchar(30) No
chain ->
namechain
Name of the chain that
a hotel belongs
streetunit varchar(30) No
location ->
street
The address of the unit
sea int(11) No
Ranking 0 to 10 for the
implementation of AHP
concerning Location
mountain int(11) No
Ranking 0 to 10 for the
implementation of AHP




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 41

concerning Location
center int(11) No
Ranking 0 to 10 for the
implementation of AHP
concerning Location

User
Field Type Null?
Links
for
Commentaries
ticket int(6) No
The user will have a certain
ticket that will be used for
identifying all users at will be
grouped on Group Decision
Making

Tables 5 to 15 – Database Entities and their description

Associations

Choose

This table was created to keep the hotels that were chosen on Hotel Search and all
the ranking values that were used for the AHP method.

Field Type Null? Links for Remarks
nameunitch varchar(30) No
unit ->
nameunit
Name of unit of the
chosen ones
priceminch int(30) Yes
Ranking values of
Minimum Price
numstarch int(10) No
Ranking values of
Maximum Price
seach int(11) No
Ranking values of
Location (sea)
mountainch int(11) No
Ranking values of
Location (mountain)
centerch int(11) No
Ranking values of
Location (centre)

Chooses
A ticket is going to be attributed for every user that will associate with the
unit he has chosen.

Field Type Null? Links for Commentaries
nameunitcho varchar(16) Não unit -> nameunit




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 42

ticket int(6) Não user -> ticket

got
Field Type Null? Links for Commentaries
Nameunitgot varchar(16) No unit -> nameunit
Nameservgot varchar(20) No
service ->
nameserv

typeserv varchar(5) Yes

gotan
Field Type Null Links for Commentaries
nameunitgotan varchar(16) No unit -> nameunit
nametypegotan varchar(25) No
roomtype ->
nametype


gots
Field Type Null? Links for Commentaries
nameunitgots varchar(16) No unit -> nameunit
namefoodgots varchar(15) No food -> namefood
pricefood decimal(5,2) Yes

offers


Table 16 to 21 – Database associations and their description


Field Type Null? Links for Commentaries
nameunitoffers varchar(16) No unit -> nameunit
namefacil varchar(20) No
facility ->
namefacil





FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 43


Fig.9 – Database’s E/R model

The database technologies used were SQL, PHP 4.0. One idea already
present for future upgrading this DSS is to use new technologies like AJAX and
SQLite which will provide better usage of resources as well and better
interface/usability from the user’s point of view. Other powerful tool for upgrading
the interface is RICO, an open source JavaScript library for creating rich internet
applications, compatible with AJAX.

Fig.10 – Use of the PHP and SQL in the DSS





FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 44

7.2 Description of the search engine
The user when accessing the web application will encounter an interface
which will be divided on two important sections:
1. Selection of attributes
2. Display of hotel units (according to selected attributes).

Fig.11 – Selection boxes for attribute insertion

Description of the search selection boxes

In the top-left one can find the price scroll bar: the user will use it to define
the upper limit for the price tag in the hotel search.
The user can also choose hotels of a particular star rating: this selection is
made on the following text box right below the price scroll bar. One might wonder
if this will affect the AHP method since one of the criteria is the Quality. In fact if
a selection of hotels that has the same star rating enters the attribute comparison
all the derived local weights in the pair-wise comparison for Quality for each hotel
are the same, not influencing in pervious manner the derived global priorities (for
the Quality criteria) that will then follow to the final solutions.




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 45

The other selection boxes follow from our description of the database
entities and attributes indicated earlier such as the access, municipality of the
desired hotel, desired facilities and services, views from the hotel or type of food
services offered by the hotel.
The initial step is to illustrate all the hotels from the database; the next step
is when an attribute is chosen by the user a new request will be asked to the
database by filtering a new search.
After the display of the hotels, the user has an option of eliminating any of
listed hotels on the page. In any case the user must select the alternatives that he
wishes to go ahead using the AHP.


Fig.12 – Search engine with selection boxes and hotel listing

In the next step, the AHP model is introduced. We will describe separately
the implementation for the two mentioned case (individual and group travel).

7.3 Individual Travel Selection: implementation
In the individual case, the search engine used will be equal to one described
previously. So in this part we will detail the implementation of AHP method to our




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 46

case, following the established design. The 1
st
part is to introduce the pair-wise
comparison between the criteria.


Fig.13 – Pair-wise comparison of criteria

Some notes: the scale is not in the usual form of the 1-9 scale as described
earlier but varies between -9 and 9. This is because we need to differentiate the
relation between the pair-wise: for example, if we say that A is -5 compared to B
according to our conversion means B is 5 compared to A, in the 1-9 scale.
After this step, the information needed to accomplish the method is
complete. The next step is to perform the pair-wise comparisons between
alternatives regarding each criterion proposed. All data is contained in the tables
of the database, and classified in a 0-10 absolute scale.
For achieving the 1-9 AHP scale (for the pair-wise comparison of
alternatives) we will use the numeric difference between the values of each
respective attribute regarding LOCATION, PRICE and QUALITY for each of two
alternatives. This difference will then be mapped into the 1-9 scale by means of an
appropriate table of conversion that will be described in next step. After this, the
matrixes are filled in with the appropriate values taken from the lists saved on the
database.
As already mentioned, we will have in any case 4 matrixes, one comparing
criteria vs. goals the other three are the judgements matrixes (pair-wise




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 47

comparison of the alternatives with respect to the criteria). These matrixes will all
be square (number of rows equal to number of columns).

7.3.1 Construction of the judgement matrixes

As stated earlier the user input ends at the pair-wise comparison of the
criteria. The values that we are going to input into the following matrixes
(judgement matrixes) are retrieved from the hotel lists in the database.

Construction of the Judgement Matrix regarding Price

One problem was how to interpret the various prices of the different types
of rooms available. To make matters worst the type of rooms differed quite
significantly which made comparison of these difficult and also most importantly
the prices varied quite a lot.
After some discussing we decided that the minimum price of each hotel
should be the one to be used. This decision was made after we observed that the
minimum price offered a good indication of the hotel’s general price tag.
The next point is to explain the conversion from the 0-10 scale to the AHP’s
1-9 scale. The problem arises from the fact that the 1-9 scale is a relative scale,
i.e. a classification on the 1-9 scale only has meaning if we compare two
alternatives at a time. Because of the nature of this scale, for each time that the
AHP method is applied to the selected alternatives, we classified the prices in 0-10
scale in the following manner:
The hotel with the most expensive price is classified with 10. All the other
hotels with remaining prices are classified using a simple linear transformation.
This procedure is followed every time that the user enters the chosen alternatives
into the attribute comparison.
The following issue is: two alternatives with values in the 0-10 scale that we
need to convert to the 1-9 scale. Since we are dealing with an absolute scale (the
0-10 scale) we can say that for example that if A has 10 as its price value and B
only 5, we can say that A is twice more expensive or that the difference between
them is 5. This difference will be used to convert into to the AHP 1-9 scale, by
using the following table:




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 48



Numeric Difference
between alternatives
(in 0 -10 scale)

AHP
conversion
(1-9 scale)

Description

0

1

If alternatives have the same value, alternatives have
the same importance.
1
2
3


3


If the alternatives have a maximum difference of at
least 3, then we consider one alternative to be
moderately important over the other.

4
5

5

If the difference is considered to be relevant (4,5 or 6)
we say that one is more important than the other
6
7
8


7


The difference between alternatives are quite
noticeable, making one much important than the other
9
10

9

The difference between alternatives are so high, that
one says that one alternative is extremely important
compared to the other

Table 22 – Conversion between the 0-10 scale and the AHP scale.



Construction of the Judgement Matrix regarding Location

As mentioned before, each hotel’s location is characterized in terms of
distances to the sea, mountain and city centre accesses. This is done by using the
0-10 scale once again. Then the LOCATION matrix will be filled with values
obtained using the same conversion table of the AHP 1-9 scale for comparing
alternatives.




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 49

In this case the minimum value of the 0-10 scale (0) means that the hotel
has direct access to a specific location while, for example, 10 would mean that the
hotel is very far from that location.

Example:
Pestana Carlton Hotel is a 5 star hotel with the following location attributes:
1. Sea – 0
2. City Centre – 2
3. Mountain – 8

This classification means that the hotel has direct access to sea, is close to the city
centre and is far from the mountains.

Construction of the Judgement Matrix regarding Quality

The 0-10 scale was adopted for conferring consistence and equal conversion
for each of the three criteria. Of course this was also the case with the Quality
criteria.
For each time that the alternatives are entered into the Attribute
Comparison the application assigns 10 to the one with the highest star rating. All
the remaining star rating values are mapped into the 0-10 scale.
As it was the case with the previous criteria, the conversion table is used to
get to the values in the AHP scale needed for filling the QUALITY matrix.


Inconsistency Analysis Implementation

The inconsistency analysis was made following the theory background
described in theory part of this report. For each of pair-wise comparison matrixes,
we will derive the consistency’s ratio.
This step is needed for assuring that the results that will come from our
application will be meaningful and not biased by intransitivity from the user.






FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 50

8. Testing

This part is entirely dedicated to the testing of the application. Emphasis
will be put into asserting features/characteristics of our built DSS derived from
testing and of course validating the results obtained.
Firstly the search engine was tested, and to check if any bugs aroused from
it: a wide range of values were introduced and the search engine performed quite
nicely: the hotel listing was consistent with the search parameters also the
application only allowed progression to the attribute comparison phase if the user
selected 2 alternative, at the least, as it was predicted; also the application had a
limit for the maximum number of alternatives in order for us to check and
calculate (the Average Random, RI, index has only values for matrixes for a
maximum of 10 alternatives) the consistency ratio. Next was the testing the
attribute comparison, in which the AHP method was implemented. After some
initial bugs related to wrong insertion of values in the matrixes at our scripting
code, we began the testing according to following steps:

1. Checking if the database inserted the correct values in the matrixes.
The database sends all the values that are inserted in the pair-wise
comparison matrix info in the 0-10 scale, and the application
converts them to the 1-9 AHP scale.

2. If the insertion of values into the application is valid, we must test
the local weights derived by the application, as well as the final
results achieved by the application. This step was achieved by using
the Expert Choice, a decision-making software based on the AHP
method.

In the first step, we had some errors in the insertion of the values which was
quickly solutioned. Also the application effectively converted the values sent by
the database in the 0-10 scale into the AHP’s scale.
For the second step, as mentioned, we used the Expert Choice for assessing
the accuracy of our results. The software requires building a structure and making
pair-wise comparisons between criteria and between alternatives regarding a
criterion.




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 51

This was done using the data inserted into the application’s tables. For the
example depicted 3 hotels were chosen:
• Pestana Carlton Hotel, a 5 star hotel, with direct access to sea, quite
close to the centre but far from the mountain area. The minimum
price is 135 €.
• D.Pedro Garajau, a 3 star hotel, quite close to the sea, away from city
centre and far from the mountain area. The minimum price is 33 €.
• Hotel da Ajuda, a 4 star hotel, close to the sea, not distant to the
centre but far from the mountains. Minimum price is 72 €.


Fig.14 - Testing our implementation using the Expert Choice: ranking of alternatives



Fig.15 – Ranking of alternatives obtained by the application

The results achieved are exactly the same as the ones given by our
application which means that the AHP method was correctly followed in the
implementation process. The application example follows in electronic format
inside the CD, with all details, about the pair-wise comparison made for criteria
and alternatives as well as for the consistency analysis.
Finally we need to check the consistency values given by our
implementation. The software also performs the inconsistency ratio for each of the
pair-wise comparison matrixes.




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 52

The Expert Choice gave very similar results to the ones obtained in our
application. The differences were minimal and are probably related to the
rounding of intermediate values.

Consistency ratios Expert Choice Application
Criteria 0.13 0.1183
Price 0.06 0.0564
Quality 0.04 0.0333
Location 0.13 0.118

Table 23 – Comparison of consistency ratios: Expert Choice vs. Application

















FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 53

9. Conclusions

As we have seen the current trend in e-tourism is to offer new and
innovative services that bring added-value to worldwide users.
Customers will progressively leave the tendency to consider internet based
tourism services as merely only a way to book their stay in a tourism destination to
discover a new array of services that will enable them to personalize and customize
their wishes/preferences. This in term will mean an improvement in customer
satisfaction. Clearly with the phenomenon of globalization, which prompted the
current competition between holiday destinations, any comparative advantage will
tell a difference at the end. Also with internet connections reaching millions of
homes worldwide and brand new markets, especially from developing countries like
China, prompts a new dimension to the universe of potential customers.

In conclusion, innovation and customer satisfaction are the key words
nowadays for the e-tourism based services.

The developed web-application presented here aimed at implementing a
client-support system based on a DSS, in selecting a hotel, given the user’s input
parameters regarding the 3 chosen criterions.
The interaction implied into the system will allow more and better quality
info to the user and also considerable time-saving. This last remark is taken under
assumption when compared to the hotel search is based on a typical tourism
contents web-page.
Another great feature is that when the AHP method is used in implementing
the decision-making process, it allows direct confrontation between the
alternatives. Also this confrontation is visible to the user thus enabling more insight
into the selected alternatives from the user’s standpoint.
Finally, AHP is able to confer consistency to the user’s inputs in the deriving
a solution. The method provides feedback to the user about inconsistency
introduced by the user in pair-wise comparison of criterion by means of an index.
This can be for example if a user decides that Price is extremely important
compared to Quality, Quality is more relevant than Location and finally Location is




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 54

more valued than Price. There’s obvious inconsistency in the process of this
judgment*.
In conclusion, these are strengths of the method which prompted its
selection as the decision-making tool of this project.
Also the testing done on the previous chapter validated our approach of
implementing the AHP in a model-based framework for our database: the results
obtained from our application compared with those of the Expert Choice software,
yielded the same values. The same applies to the consistency analysis, as stated in
point 8 of this report.
Future upgrades to this project relate to the use of more powerful database
related technologies, such as AJAX, which is a smart way to reduce bandwidth by
refreshing only the sections of the webpage selected by the user as opposed to the
refreshing of all the webpage.
Also the interface would be greatly improved by integrating JavaScript
libraries for creating enriched applications inside the webpage. The use of SQlite
would also allow considerable gains in interface/usability aspects.
As for the application’s flexibility for different holiday destinations other
than Madeira’s tourism, we can say that is inevitable that some work would have to
be done in order to adapt it to, for example, a skiing destination.
The main advantage is that the model framework (application of the AHP
method) would be left almost intact. However redesign would have to be done on
the interface and on the E/R model of the database (defining different entities,
attributes and associations if needed).









* Note: testing these inputs results in an inconsistency index well over 3 for the example where a
consistent decision should result in a CR < 0.1.




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 55

10. Annex

Example of the AHP application example

Problem: A company wishes to expand its activities and is looking to establish in a
new location to accomplish this objective. After an earlier study, the company
chose three locations (L1, L2 and L3) and selected 4 criteria for the choosing
between them.

Criteria
• Land price
• Distance to suppliers
• Technician’s Quality
• Labour Cost

Solution:
Hierarchical Structure
Best Location
Land Price Distance
Technician’s
Quality
Alternative 1 Alternative 2
Alternative n
Labor Costs

Fig.16 – Example’s hierarchical structure




Criteria Pair-wise comparison
Criteria Land Value Distance Tech.Qual. Labour Cost
Land Value 1 1/8 1/2 3
Distance 8 1 5 7
Tech.Qual. 2 1/5 1 3
Labour Cost 1/3 1/7 1/3 1


Table 24 – Example’s criteria pair-wise comparison




FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 56


Normalized Matrix and respective local weights
Criteria LandValue Distance Tech.Qual. Labour Cost Local Weights
Land Value 0.0882 0.0852 0.0732 0.2143 0.1153
Distance 0.7059 0.6813 0.7317 0.5000 0.6547
Tech.Qual. 0.1764 0.1362 0.1463 0.2143 0.1683
Labour Cost 0.0294 0.0973 0.0488 0.0714 0.0617
Sum of input
values from
the previous
table

11.3333

1.4679

6.8333

14.0000

1.000


Table 25 – Normalized and respective local weights


Pair-wise comparison of the alternatives with respect to the criteria
Land Value L1 L2 L3 Distance L1 L2 L3
L1 1 4 2 L1 1 5 1/4
L2 1/4 1 1/6 L2 1/5 1 1/9
L3 1/2 6 1

L3 4 9 1


Tech.Qual. L1 L2 L3 Labour Costs L1 L2 L3
L1 1 1/4 1 L1 1 1/4 2
L2 4 1 7 L2 4 1 5
L3 1 1/7 1

L3 1/2 1/5 1

Table 26 to 29 – Pair-wise comparison of alternatives with respect to criteria


Judgement Matrixes Normalized and with local weights
Land Value L1 L2 L3 L.W
L1 4/7 4/11 12/19 0.5222
L2 1/7 1/11 1/19 0.0955
L3 2/7 6/11 6/19 0.3823

Table 30 – Example’s Normalized Judgement Matrixes

Ranking of alternatives:
2531 . 0 2014 . 0 ) 0617 . 0 ( 1524 . 0 ) 1683 . 0 ( 2364 . 0 ) 6547 . 0 ( 5222 . 0 ) 1153 . 0 ( 1 = × + × + × + × = L
2151 . 0 6806 . 0 ) 0617 . 0 ( 7208 . 0 ) 1683 . 0 ( 0623 . 0 ) 6547 . 0 ( 0955 . 0 ) 1153 . 0 ( 2 = × + × + × + × = L
5318 . 0 1180 . 0 ) 0617 . 0 ( 1268 . 0 ) 1683 . 0 ( 7013 . 0 ) 6547 . 0 ( 3823 . 0 ) 1153 . 0 ( 3 = × + × + × + × = L

Conclusion: L3 is the favourite.





FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 57

Consistency check

Step 1: Calculate the weights with respect to the initial matrix of criterion and its
local weights (criteria weights)

=

2498 . 0
7149 . 0
8505 . 2
4664 . 0
0617 . 0
1683 . 0
6547 . 0
1153 . 0
1 3 / 1 7 / 1 3 / 1
3 1 5 / 1 2
7 5 1 8
3 2 / 1 8 / 1 1


Step 2: Calculate the inconsistency index with respect to the criterion weights and
the weights driven in Step 1

=
=
n
i
weights criteria
step from driven weights
n
1
max
_
1 _ _ _ 1
λ

max
λ 1738 . 4
0617 . 0
2498 . 0
1683 . 0
7149 . 0
6547 . 0
8505 . 2
1153 . 0
4664 . 0
4
1
= |
.
|

\
|
+ + + =

Step 3: Calculate the Inconsistency ratio, IC

0579 . 0
3
4 1738 , 4
1
max
=

=


=
n
n
IC
λ


Step 4: Compare the IC ratio with the random index (RI) with respect to the
corresponding n
0644 . 0
90 . 0
0579 . 0
= =
RI
IC
( 1 . 0 ≤ ), which means that the decision is consistent.












FEUP/LEEC-PSTFC – A Decision Support System for Hotel Selection using the AHP method - July 2005 58

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