The Social, Economic, and Environmental Dimensions of Hotel Sustainability: Role of Consumers

The Social, Economic, and Environmental Dimensions of Hotel Sustainability: Role of Consumers

Jorge Julião (Católica Porto Business School, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Portugal), Marcelo Calvete Gaspar (Instituto Politécnico de Leiria, Portugal) and Benny Tjahjono (Centre for Business in Society, Coventry University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3628-5.ch013
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Hotel sustainability has become a focal point for companies all around the world with a dual focus on attracting customers to their business and capitalizing from sustainability measures and practices. Such sustainability initiatives allow for increasing economic efficiency and reducing energetic and environmental impacts. Based on the triple bottom line, social sustainability is also key to promote and implement efficient corporate social responsibility practices. This study reports on a survey carried out to address the customers perceptions regarding the influence of sustainability on their choice of hotel. This survey was conducted in Oporto city (Portugal) to domestic and foreign tourists in 2018/2019 with a valid sample size of more than 370 respondents. This research concludes that, even though customers show to be sensitive to social, environmental, and economic aspects, these issues do not exhibit a significant influence on their hotel selection based only on sustainability claims.
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As environmental awareness keeps continuously rising amongst society, sustainability has been increasingly recognized as a major challenge at a global scale, having received considerable interest within the academia, business, government, and society alike.

Customers, employees, regulators and the media are constantly employing pressure on the companies to demonstrate responsible business behaviour and integrate sustainability into their business strategy (Sajjad & Eweje, 2014). Consequently, companies are seeking to create innovative ways to develop their sustainability performance (Dauvergne & Lister, 2013) and exploring ways to minimize the effect of their activities on the environment and society. To achieve this goal, companies need to fully understand the fundamental of sustainability and gather scientific evidence that supports their decisions.

Sustainability in Business

In business, sustainability means meeting the needs of the present organization and stakeholders such as customers, staff and communities without compromising the needs of future stakeholders (Alameeri, Ajmal, Hussain, & Helo, 2018). Regardless of the activity sector to address such needs, companies have to focus on three main aspects of sustainability, namely on the economic, environmental and social dimensions (Dyllick & Hockerts, 2002).

In the tourism sector, it has been demonstrated that its expansion can cause environmental deterioration (Chengcai et al., 2017) and that tourism has a very high environmental cost in relation to the benefits it brings to those societies hosting it. Since tourism growth is associated with assimilation increase in resources, it is important to promote its sustainable development. Despite the growing interest for sustainable tourism and the extensive research that has been conducted, it is recognized that current advances are still limited, especially with regards to the practical application of theoretical and methodological progress (Pulido-Fernández, Cárdenas-García, & Espinosa-Pulido, 2019). The lack of practical application of sustainable principles (Welford, Ytterhus, & Eligh, 1999) may be due to long term economic return (Robèrt et al., 2002).

Within tourism, hotels have the highest negative influence on the environment (Legrand et al., 2016). Hotels are responsible for about 21% of the CO2 that is emitted in all of the tourism sector (Girard & Nocca, 2017). Moreover, hotels need to reduce their impact on the environment as they count amongst the greatest polluters and resource consumers within the service industries (Sloan et al., 2009), and are considered one of the largest water and energy consumers, and even a greater producer of waste.

In a nutshell, the urge to seek for new and alternative strategies to develop waste management, water savings and energy conservation has been widely recognised (Verma & Chandra, 2018). As a consequence, current governments have been pressing the lodging industry with new regulations, promoting the adoption of new strategies in order to reduce their global carbon footprint (Berezan, Millar, & Raab, 2010). Therefore, gradually guidelines and examples of best practices are being created in the hotel sector, and more hotels are becoming eco-certificated. According to Sloan et al. (2009), around 80% of European hoteliers are involved in some kind of activity oriented towards the environment, as energy-saving measures, water-saving measures, green purchasing and waste minimization practices.

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