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Hotels Should Target Green Guests with Functional, Emotional Marketing

Gaia Hotel and Reser

Hotels with strong sustainability commitments should employ both functional and emotional green images to attract green guests, according to new research from the University of New Hampshire Whittemore School of Business and Economics. In terms of functional images, green consumers will look for tangible demonstrations of the hotel’s commitment toward green operational practices, such a recycling program or those with LEED certification. On the emotional side, they will look for actions that are evidence of a hotel’s commitment to the environment and sustainability, such as providing hotel guests with the opportunity to dine on food supplied by local farmers.

The study, by associate professor Nelson Barber, also suggests targeting specific marketing strategies to potential green consumers is likely to be more effective than blanketing across demographics under the assumption that everyone is a potential green consumer.

However, identifying these green guests can be challenging. Although industry research has shown that a significant percentage of hotel guests would prefer to stay in a hotel that cares about the environment, guests are not always that predictable, Barber says. He notes that a study by a major national hotel operation had opposite findings: 75 percent of their guest respondents said they would not give up daily room-service activities to reduce environmental impact. The study also found that guests pay less attention to the environment while traveling because they are not directly responsible for the costs of cleaning and utilities.

“So this dichotomy of opposed issues creates an interesting challenge for hotels. On one hand, hotels are trying to create and implement environmental policies, while on the other hand, hotel customers seeking services also expect to be pampered with hot water, high-pressure showers, freshly laundered linen, an ample supply of towels, abundant supplies of food and drink, and airport shuttles,” Barber said.

Barber found that green consumers tend to be more concerned for others and have a higher desire to work for the good of society than nongreen consumers. In addition, green consumers place a higher value on the restraint of actions that could upset or harm others and violate social norms. Finally, green consumers are less likely to be motivated to enhance their own personal interests and less likely to purchase self-serving products such as those associated with achievement or excess.

This analysis was based on a survey of 563 randomly selected U.S. hotel patrons and is presented in the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research in the article Profiling the Potential ‘Green’ Hotel Guest: Who Are They and What Do They Want?”

Earlier this summer the International Tourism Partnership (ITP) and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), in collaboration with 23 global hospitality companies, launched a methodology to calculate and communicate the carbon footprint of hotel stays and meetings in a consistent and transparent way.

Price is no measure of the best- and the worst-performing hotel chains when it comes to energy efficiency and carbon footprints, according to a study of 46,000 U.S. hotels by analytics company Brighter Planet.

Bart King is a PR/marketing communications consultant and principal at Cleantech Communications.


Bart King is the principal of New Growth Communications, a network of affiliated content producers and strategists serving clients in the emerging green economy. He is also an associate editor for Sustainable Brands. Follow him @bart_kingGoogle+

[Read more about Bart King]


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