Industry Update
Opinion Article23 March 2015

Environmental Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry: Best Practices, Guest Participation, and Customer Satisfaction

Alexandra Bruns-Smith, Vanessa Choy, Howard Chong Ph.D., and Rohit Verma Ph.D.

By Rohit Verma, Professor at Cornell School of Hotel Administration and Howard Chong, Assistant Professor at Cornell University School of Hotel Administration

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Executive Summary: Certain sustainability practices could be considered nearly universal in the lodging industry, based on a study of 100 resorts in the United States. Among the common green practices are water conserving fixtures and linen-reuse programs. A separate survey of 120,000 hotel customers finds that guests are generally willing to participate in sustainability programs, but the presence of green operations still do not override considerations of price and convenience in selecting a hotel. Additionally, the study finds an increased willingness to participate when hotels offer incentives, such as loyalty program points, for participating in environmental programs. Although the link between environmentally sustainable programs and improved customer satisfaction is weak compared to standard drivers like facilities, room, and food and beverage quality, hotels are increasingly expected to maintain sustainability programs as a regular feature of their business. At the same time, the study did find that environmental sustainability programs do not diminish guest satisfaction. Consequently, the decision regarding which programs to implement should rest on cost-benefit analysis and other operating considerations.

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