Green Profiling: Green Guests, Fairytale or Fiction? Dieuwertje van Leest NHTV International Hotel Management School Breda, Customer Relationship Management __________________________________________________________________________________________
The hospitality industry has finally acknowledged that the environment is enormous. The industry has vowed to reduce their impact on the environment by means of greening the hotels. This vow has lead to the result that over the past decade green programmes have grown from an emerging trend to becoming a vast fixture within the hospitality industry. Initially green programmes were perceived to be a publicity stunt to better a companyâ€™s image (BDO Seidman, 2007). Later industries standardised their green practices making it a permanent fixture in their business strategies. This change was inspired by the change in customer demands, green practices were now directly linked to customer satisfaction (manaktola & Jauhari, 2007). Four segments of green consumers have been identified (Experian Research, 2008) , Behavioural greens, Think greens, Potential greens and True browns. The study identifies that potential greens are declining and most likely migrate into the true brown or greener segments. The result stipulates great opportunity for companies to engage green consumers, because many show willingness to buy green products. To understand the needs of the guest, extensive research has been done on the motivation on green consumerism (Chan & Lau, 2000; Moisander, 2007; Bonini & Oppenheim, 2008; Han et al. 2009). Most studies argue and provide evidence for willingness to buy green products and services yet also state that when it comes to actually buying the products words and deeds are not the same (Bonini & Oppenheim 2008). A study on motivational complexity of green consumerism (Moisander 2007) identified factors that influence the green consumerism; primary motives (overt and hidden), selective motives (overt and hidden), resources and opportunity. These motivational factors are part of the consumerâ€™s decision making process. Five barriers obstructing choices pro-green consumerism have been constructed (Bonini & Oppenheim, 2008), lack of awareness of eco goods, negative perceptions of green products, distrust of green claims, higher prices and low availability. Even though most studies have been conducted outside the hospitality industry the results can be translated into the hospitality industry. Other studies have built upon the findings made both within and outside the hospitality industry. Lee, Hsu, Han and Kim (2010) have conducted a survey within hotels amongst guests identifying how guests view the green image of hotels and whether or not the green image influences behavioural intentions. The research concludes that green programmes have a positive effect on the hotel image; it increases willingness for positive word of mouth and a higher intention to revisit the hotel. All studies performed have either identified the behavioural motivation factors, barriers preventing green consumerism, green consumer segments and the influence of green programmes on guests. All these studies identify the fact that a green guest exists and will make use of the products discussed yet no profile for a green guest has been attempted to construct. It is thus of further
benefit for the industry to identify this green guest so that attempt might be made to persuade them to buy their green product. Methodology A variety of methods has been used throughout various studies identifying different aspects of green consumer behaviour. Yet failing in identifying whom would fit that role of the green consumer, A general survey questionnaire was developed (based on quantitative desk research in the field of green consumerism) comprising thirty-two multiple choice questions supplemented by open questions for remarks. The survey was structures to include 4 profile segments; demographics, personal green habits, travel/hotel preferences and habits, hotel green preferences. The first segment of the survey consisted of demographic questions such as gender (Diamantopoulos et al. 2003; males ten to have higher and better knowledge of green issues, Davidson & Freudenburg 1996; females have been found to exhibit both higher concern and participate more frequently in various types of green behaviour.), marital status (research 2000, shows married people are more concerned about the environment), age is a factor discussed within many studies (van Liere & Dunlap 1980, Jackson 1983), without being able to convincingly argue whether higher or lower age categories show higher levels of green behaviour. Education level (Maloney et al 1973 shows people with higher education levels show overall higher scores in green behaviour), country of residence and ethnicity. The second segment of the survey consisted of 7 multiple choice questions asking respondents about their personal green habits within their home life. The international institute for sustainable development (IISD) describes that green customers are people who commit to green lifestyles, safeguard their own green practices and their impacts and support companies incorporating green practices. Thus a true green guest should have a green base even at home. The questions consisted of; separating trash, use of eco products, electrical appliances, transportation, self image etc. The third section of the survey consisted of questions about the travel habits of the subjects. This segment is to identify how many room nights the profiled green guest spends in a hotel annually, the reason for hotel visits, hotel selection criteria and participation within loyalty programmes. Segment four consists of thirteen multiple choice questions and two open ended questions about the opinion on green programmes in hotels such as appreciation for green programmes, participation, expense saving, room rates, amenities etc. giving an indication of willingness to participate in the green programmes and view upon current programmes. The final section of the survey uses a five point Likert type scale 1= strongly prefer, 5= strongly object with statements of possible future situations trying to identify possibilities for future improvement. A follow up survey was constructed gauging the opinion on green attributes of those profiled to be true green guests. Part one of the follow-up survey was a five point Likert type scale 1= important, 5= unimportant. Measuring importance of green attributes such as; recycling paper, energy efficient light bulbs, low flow water fixtures etc.
The scale was followed by a mixture of 10 multiple choice questions and open ended questions all gauging the opinion on green fixtures in hotels. Survey distribution Against standard procedure of spreading a survey amongst students, guests of a specific hotel or convention attendees a different distribution channel was considered. The survey was sent out via social media channels such as; facebook, twitter, hyves, msn etc. Motivational factor behind that choice being the need to reach a wide variety of an audience within a short time frame, making social media an easy choice. However also taking into consideration that typically the response rate to email surveys is between 10,5% and 30,7% (Medina-Munoz & Garcia-Falcon, 2000). Risking a response rate via social media of an even lesser percentage because there is no personal message at the address of the audience resulting in a lesser obligation to respond. Results General Survey In total forty-nine completed surveys were collected from all those reached via social media. The majority of the respondents were female (55.1%) with the marojority of the respondents being in the age category of 23-30 (44.9%). The education level knows a high overall with 43.48% having attended college and 47.83% with a university degree. The main amount of the respondents were of Dutch nationality and Caucasian ethnicity. The majority of the respondents is employed fulltime, yet the total yearly income greatly varies between respondents. Most subjects do act in some form of environmental activities at home. However the majority does state not to consciously buy eco-labelled products nor consider environmental issues in other aspects of life. There is a 50-50 division amongst respondents on whether or not they consider themselves to be eco-friendly. The majority of the respondentâ€™s main reason for staying in hotels is leisure purposes (79.09%) and are not members of loyalty programmes (76.74%) having the main selection criteria for a hotel price (84.09%), location (75%) and online reviews (54.55%). Overall green programmes are highly appreciated (89,74%) yet it is not a conscious choice to select a hotel operating a green programme(87.5%). Water saving fixtures are not found bothersome (80%) and overall opinion is that hotel can do more for the environment than they are currently doing (97.5%). Follow up survey The main opinion scores recycling paper, energy efficient bulbs and water saving fixtures high, yet local and fair trade produce are scored as unimportant. A hundred percent answers that information on green programmes are not available to guests yet information on initiatives such as the towel reuse programme is easily accessible. Survey respondents also state that the green guests are willing to use their loyalty rewards for environmental purposes such as planting trees (71.43%) and green airline seats(71.43%). The main preference is to be able to fill out green preferences when booking so that they can receive green services.
Conclusion The primary purpose of this study was to construct a profile for the “green hotel guest”. With a secondary purpose of identifying the needs and preferences of those green guests for improvement of the green attributes in green programmes. In general the survey responses were favourable towards green programmes, with 10% of the respondents qualifying itself as being green guests, creating the following profile for the green guests:
Even though the main amount of the respondents responds positively to green attributes, 10% states to oppose green attributes this 10% consists of males, 23-30, in a relationship having a college degree. Spending 1-5 nights per year in a hotel and are not loyalty members. These respondents opposing green programmes mainly object to water saving fixtures, fair trade products and energy saving fixtures. Comparable to the green guests a hundred percent of these respondents states that there is no information present in hotels on green programmes. The main reason given for being opposed to green programmes is the price. It is perceived that the value for money is lower in “green hotels”. They do claim that if prices would go down e.g. a lower rate for a green package they would be willing to book this.
The Green Hotel Association defined a green hotel as following: ,, green hotels are “environmentallyfriendly properties whose managers are eager to institute programs that save water, save energy and reduce solid waste – while saving money – to help protect our one and only earth” (2007). Based upon the results of this research a green guest can be defined as: ,,Green guests are those that consciously select a hotel upon availability of a green programme and during their stay will uphold their environmental principles by taking part in the hotel’s green programme”. Discussion/future research The results of this study will help hoteliers that have implemented green programmes reach that green target group and overcome difficulties with those opposing green programmes. By providing hoteliers with such a proper profile they can incorporate this knowledge into their strategy. In addition to a green profile the hotels are provided with a list of green attributes preferred by guests as well as an identification of pitfalls of green programmes within guest perception. The results of this study will help future researchers to develop research projects relating to green consumerism within hotels. Research could be performed among a larger audience of definite hotel guests within various hotel chains creating a clearer view of more feasible results. References Ajzen I; The theory of planned behaviour: organizational bevirou and human decision processes. 1991 Bohdanowicz P, Martinac I; Attitudes towards sustainability in chain hotels – results of a European survey. 2003 Bonini S, Oppenheim J; Cultivating the green consumer. 2008 Butler J; The compelling “hard case” for “green hotel development”. 2008 Davidson DJ, Freudenburg WR. Gender and environmental risk concerns: a review and analysis of available research. 1996 Diamantopoulos A., Schlegelmilch B, Sinkovics R, Bohlen G; can socio-demographics still play a role in profiling green consumers? A review of evidence and an empirical investigation. 2003 Green PE; on the design of choice experiments involving multifactor alternatives. 2008 Jackson JE; measuring the demand for environmental quality with survey data. 1983 Jeong & Jang; effects of restaurant green practices: Which practices are importand and effective? Lee JS, Hsu LT, Han H, Kim Y; Understanding how consumers view green hotels: how a hotel’s green image can influence behavioural intentions. 2010 Jian-Zhong LV; Green management: the new subject of hotel management. 2003 Maloney MP; ecology: let’s hear from the people. 1973 Medina-Munoz D & Garcia-Falcon JM; successful relationships between hotels and agencies. 2000
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