Hotel Guests Not As 'Green' As They Proclaim They Are

by Tanya Thomas on Oct 21 2009 8:40 AM

A new study has spotted a significant gap between consumers' attitudes towards "green" initiatives in the hospitality industry and their actual behavior.

Two hospitality and tourism management graduate students at Virginia Tech's Pamplin College of Business claim consumers who engage in environmentally friendly behavior at home behave differently when staying at a hotel.

Master's students Melissa Baker, of Marshfield, Mass., and Eric Davis, of Lorton, Va., in a project supervised by hospitality and tourism management Professor Pamela Weaver, say that while more hotels are adopting green practices, few scholars have examined the relationships between such initiatives and consumer knowledge, attitudes, and behavior.

"It has been argued that if individuals became more knowledgeable about environmental issues, they would become more aware of the problems and be more motivated to act in responsible ways," Baker and Davis note in their study. "Prior research, however, has not shown this assumption to be true."

To reach the conclusion, Baker and Davis conducted an online survey of 881 students in four Virginia Tech classes (undergraduate and graduate) for their study. The survey received 322 responses, for an overall response rate of 36.5 percent.

The survey comprised various categories of questions aimed at gauging knowledge of environmental issues, personal attitudes about environmentally friendly behavior while staying in hotels, the extent to which hotels should operate sustainably, and green behavior at home and while a guest in a hotel.

Only a quarter of the respondents correctly answered eight or more of the environmental knowledge questions.

Though 54 percent agreed or strongly agreed that being environmentally conscious while in a hotel will have long-term environmental benefits, only 35 percent stated they would prefer to stay in a green hotel instead of a non-green hotel.

Regarding the extent to which hotels should "go green," three quarters of the respondents thought that hotels should use energy efficient or automatic lights; nearly half thought that hotels should have automatic sink faucets and nearly 60 percent thought that Styrofoam should not be used as a serving container in hotel guest rooms.

Nearly 60 percent said they were likely or extremely likely to stay at a hotel that changed sheets only when requested during their stay; the number was 55 percent regarding towel changes. However, 45 percent stated that they would be unlikely or extremely unlikely to stay at a hotel that provided amenity dispensers instead of individual bottles.

As for their home versus hotel behavior, close to 60 percent of respondents recycle paper products at home, but only 30 percent recycle them while at a hotel. Sixty percent of respondents conserve water at home, but less than 40 percent do so at a hotel. Eighty percent of respondents conserve energy at home, but only 40 percent save energy while at a hotel.