As sustainability practices gain ground, so, too, does guest participation

Hotel guests are generally willing to participate in a property’s sustainability programs, and the industry itself has implemented a wide variety of green practices. In fact, green practices contribute to guest satisfaction, but sustainability is not a major factor in hotel selection. Those are the conclusions of a study of 100 U.S. resorts and 120,000 U.S. hotel guests by a group of Cornell-based researchers.

The researchers found that the resorts were using at least two dozen of the nearly four dozen sustainability practices that the team examined. Such green practices as water-conserving fixtures, compact fluorescent lighting, and linen-reuse programs, for instance, are extremely widespread. But the researchers added that sustainability was just one motivation for implementing them. Many of these practices were also implemented to save money.

Turning to the guest survey, the researchers analyzed data collected by J.D. Power from 120,000 hotel customers over a five-year period. About three-quarters of them said that they were willing to participate in sustainability programs, when such practices are offered. Interestingly, the study found that even more of the guests also would join in the green practices when hotels offer incentives for participating in environmental programs, such as loyalty program points.

The study also confirmed that green operations don’t have a big weight in the hotel booking decision, a fact that most hotel operators realize. So, even though many guests do appreciate it when hotels maintain sustainable programs, the big factors are the same as ever—price (or value for money) and convenience (including location).

Even though the link between guest satisfaction and sustainability is not strong, and even though green operation is not expressly a reason that guests choose a hotel, it seems clear that consumers have a general expectation that hotels operate sustainably. Other Cornell studies have indicated that meeting planners include hotels’ operations as part of their own carbon footprint calculation, for instance. With that background, the researchers concluded that management’s decision regarding which green programs to implement should rest on cost-benefit analysis and other operating considerations.

A complete discussion of these studies is available through the Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration ( “Environmental Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry: Best Practices, Guest Participation, and Customer Satisfaction,” by Alexandra Bruns-Smith, Vanessa Choy, Howard Chong, and Rohit Verma. As with all CHR Reports, there is no charge for this report.