AN INVESTIGATION OF CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS HOTELS BECOMING SUSTAINABLE
Laura Smith BSc (Honours) Student Hotel and Tourism Management Institute Switzerland
ABSTRACT Climate change and the environment continue to be growing concerns for humankind. It is claimed that consumers are now demanding that products and services produced should be more sustainable and green in nature. Arguably, the question arises of whether or not the consumer actually considers a hotels’ transition to sustainability and/or the green practices during their decision-making process and whether this influences the final outcome. There is little research combining both the consumers behaviours and attitudes and their concern for the environment. From the secondary research conducted for this paper, it was discovered that green consumer behaviour is very complex. The demographics of a consumer have been seen to affect the decision due to different values, beliefs and concerns. Additionally, hotels that employ greener methods can be seen to improve their overall image – linking this to consumer satisfaction and positive word of mouth thus affecting the decision-making process. It is concluded that it is essential for hotels to take their overall image seriously, and nowadays being green is a part of that. Consumers’ needs are continually changing and it is crucial that research is updated regularly in order for the marketing of a hotel to be effective. Many factors can affect a consumer’s decision-making process, and the greening of hotels can be seen as a major factor, so it is vital that more research and information is conducted.
INTRODUCTION Over the years tourism has continued to grow at a remarkable rate (Sharpley, 2009) and it can be confidently foreseen that this trend will continue in the future (Harris et al, 2003). However, not everyone sees this prophecy as moral because despite becoming a booming industry, tourism has also begun to build itself a damaging reputation in relation to the exploitation of the environment (Ibid). Increasing numbers of tourists and travelers are becoming aware of this situation and are beginning to demand that action should be taken (Holden, 2000 cited in Shaw and Williams,
2002). However, this being said Swarbrooke (1999) disagrees with this notion. It is his belief that people are still not quite ready to truly get involved with ‘sustainable tourism’ – but the potential is there. The problem when there is such a hugely perceived demand, in this case for the tourism sector to become greener, people begin to interpret the concept incorrectly (France, 2002). This then leaves ‘sustainable tourism’ open to becoming just another ‘empty cliché’ (Ibid). Due to growing consumer demand and concern for the environment, hotel groups at last are slowly recognising the importance and realizing the need for the transition to more sustainable methods. Equipped with this knowledge, they are now showing their consumers that they are able to respond to their demands by implementing programmes and action plans with their premises. The Rezidor Hotel Group is an excellent example of this and has introduced the ‘Responsible Business’ programme which is aimed at three specific areas of responsibility. ‘First, taking responsibility for the health and safety of employees and customers. Second, respecting social and ethical issues in the company, as well as in the community. Third, reducing our negative impact on the environment’ (The Rezidor Hotel Group, 2009). Despite the obvious moves to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly in the hospitality industry a question is posed in respect to what the consumer thinks about this transition. It has been frequently documented that the consumer has demanded such a change and therefore would deliberately travel and purchase from hotels which hold sustainable or green values (Hansen, 2007). This study examines in detail the truth behind...