Cornell study supports hotel guest participation in sustainability programs

Certain sustainability practices are nearly universal in the lodging industry, says a Cornell University study published by the Center for Hospitality Research (CHR). Water-conserving fixtures and linen-reuse programs, for instance, are widespread, based on the study of 100 U.S. resorts. The study, "Environmental Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry: Best Practices, Guest Participation, and Customer Satisfaction," by Alexandra Bruns-Smith, Vanessa Choy, Howard Chong and Rohit Verma, is available at no charge from the CHR.

"We found that a majority of resorts were using at least two dozen of the nearly four dozen sustainability practices that we examined," said Verma, who is the Singapore Tourism Board Distinguished Professor at the School of Hotel Administration (SHA). "Of course, many of these practices were implemented to save money, as well as to be green."

"In addition to our study of the 100 resorts, we also analyzed data collected by J.D. Power from 120,000 hotel customers over a five-year period," said Chong, who is a professor at the SHA. "We found that guests are generally willing to participate in sustainability programs, but green operations still don't have a big weight in the hotel booking decision. The big factors are still price and convenience."

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"Guests essentially expect to find sustainable practices in a hotel, and a reasonably large percentage of guests are willing to participate in those programs," added Chong. "However, our study also found that even more guests will join in when hotels offer incentives, such as loyalty program points, for participating in environmental programs."

Verma pointed out, however: "Since the guest satisfaction link to sustainability is not strong, we concluded that management's decision regarding which green programs to implement should rest on cost-benefit analysis and other operating considerations."

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