Sustainability as a source of competitive advantage in the hospitality industry

This is not to say that hotel patronage is solely determined by tourist take-up rates, because there is a significant amount of business that is generated by customers whose trips are related to business. Good examples of these are regional conventions or other such gatherings where a good number of participants come from distant locations, and need to stay over at hotels. Other than these, however, tourists typically stay for longer periods of time and more benefited from the hotel’s services and amenities.
Because of the contracting revenues as a result of the economic crisis, hotels feel the need to develop new, non-traditional sources of competitive advantage. Simultaneous with this need is the challenge posed to business and industry to reduce emission levels as well as their environmental footprints.
1.2 Statement of the problem
The tourism and hospitality industry is one of those industries particularly suited to usher in economic progress for most developing countries. It is also poised to be the industry that jumpstarts the ailing economies for those developed countries severely impacted by the global recession. Since sustainability is a major issue in the selection of hotels by visiting tourists, and inasmuch as travellers’ first act in booking a hotel is to learn about it from its website, the projection of sustainability through the website gains paramount importance for the business. The problem this research seeks to address may thus be stated as: How does sustainability applied by hotel companies impact on customer satisfaction? 1.3 Purpose of the study The purpose of undertaking the research is to discover and analyse the predominant environmental sustainability policies and practices disclosed by hotel companies as experienced by their customers. Since visitors to hotels are diverse and have different needs and expectations, the current “greening” of hotel accommodations and amenities would tend to impact them in different ways, some favourably and some unfavourably. Those customers who understand and support the global need for sustainability will tend to approve of and support the present efforts in the hotel industry to install more environment-friendly amenities. However, those for whom sustainability is not an important consideration may be indifferent to the changes, and maybe even resentful of the added costs entailed, or the feeling of displacement due to the adoption of more efficient, cost-saving features. This study is informed by academic literature on customer acceptance and preferences for sustainable hotel services, and elements of customer satisfaction in the hotel industry. The study by Millar and Baloglu (2008) on hotel guests’ preferences for green hotel attributes, and that of Dominici and Guzzo (2010) on customer satisfaction in the hotel industry in general, provided the theoretical framework for the study. 1.4 Objectives of the study In order to provide the best possible conclusion to the research problem, the following objectives have been identified which the study hopes to attain: 1.4.1 To identify the elements of sustainability relevant to hotel companies. 1.4.2 To analyse the sustainability attributes of hotel companies’ services as perceived and experienced by hotel guests. 1.4.3 To analyse elements of sustainability that impact upon customer satisfaction in the hotel industry. and 1.4.4 To determine market directions in the demand for