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Consumer Attitudes Towards the Role of
Hotels in Environmental Sustainability /
International Hotels Environment Initiative (IHEI) Research
The Survey
July 23, 2002 - British holidaymakers are leading the move towards environmentally responsible travel, according to a new multi-national report on consumer travel trends by the International Hotels Environment Initiative.

Nine out of 10 people surveyed in the UK believe tourism development is in danger of destroying the environment, compared to 70% of Australians and a third of Americans.

The report, out today, is based on the first international survey of consumer attitudes towards the role of hotels in environmental sustainability. It was conducted this month among travellers at airports in the UK, US and Australia by IHEI member hotel group Small Luxury Hotels of the World. 

According to IHEI director Karen Fletcher, “Ten years ago only a handful of hoteliers recognised their vital role in protecting our environment and sustaining tourism.

“Today there is a groundswell of awareness within the industry that the survival of tourism destinations depends upon our ability as individuals and organisations to reduce the pressures on the earths ecosystems. Fortunately for hotels this translates into tangible cost savings and business benefits.”

The report shows that 90% of British tourists interviewed nowadays consider it part of a hotel’s responsibility to actively protect and support the environment, including local communities, and are more likely to book a property with a responsible environmental attitude.  This compares with two thirds of Australians and Americans polled.

However, no British respondents reported actually asking if hotels have an environmental policy, a question posed by a less shy 26% of Australians and 14% of Americans.  

Greater pressure on hotels from the Brits and Australians

British people and Australians expect more from their hotels.  Fifty three percent of each (compared to only 28% of Americans surveyed) are very likely to choose hotels with equipment like renewable power supplies and biological wastewater treatment systems.

Australians particularly favour properties which use recycled toilet paper and biodegradable toiletries (50%), compared to only a quarter of Brits and 13% of Americans.

Predictably the British are keen on places which protect animal and marine life (80%, as opposed to 60% of Americans).  Ninety six percent say they pay extra care when throwing away rubbish likely to harm wildlife (75% Australia; 57% US).

But it is the Australians who show most concern for nature, with 83% supporting hotels which avoid felling trees (compared to 32% of people in the US).

Reflecting American food tastes, only 11% of US consumers prefer hotels using home- or locally-grown vegetables and fruit, as opposed to an average 58% in the other countries. 

At a domestic level…

The Brits and Australians demand more environmentally-responsible hotel keeping, with an average 65% (compared to 26% Americans) preferring hotels which conserve energy by re-using towels and closely managing lighting and air conditioning.

Seventy four percent of British travellers surveyed (62% Australians; 57% US) like hotels which seek to employ staff from local communities, figures also reflected in the 87% of Brits (63% Australians; 60% US) which expect their hotels to guarantee good wages and working conditions.

There is a growing recognition that environmental sustainability extends to protecting the well-being and culture of local communities and their people, endorsed by 71% of Brits and Australians but only 53% of people surveyed in the US.

In particular, 62% of Australians interviewed  (57% UK; 49% US) consider it very important that hotels support local businesses and cottage industries, as well as investing in local schools and hospitals.

Seventy seven percent of Brits surveyed (70% Australia; 54% US) feel hotels should consult local people on how their land is developed and used, as well as share prime resources like water and power with their nearby communities.

However, only 33% of Americans asked want to find local people on their hotel beach, compared to 75% of more willing Australians and Brits.

New awareness of personal responsibility:

While all three nationalities are equally happy to save water by showering, not bathing (70%), the British more readily conserve power by switching off lights and turning down air conditioning when leaving their hotel room (91% UK; 67% Australia; 76% US).

Seventy percent of Australians asked  (and 65% of Brits), but only 36% of Americans, cycle or walk on holiday, instead of travelling by car.

Thirty eight percent of Americans surveyed say they often fail to dress according to local sensitivities (only 22% Brits), and 35% of Australians interviewed find themselves intolerant of language differences (12% Brits and Americans).

The survey: In July 2002, on behalf of IHEI, Small Luxury Hotels of the World surveyed approximately 300 travellers at airports in the UK, US and Australia.   

The purpose of the survey was to get a feel for current consumer views on sustainable tourism, identifying attitudinal changes and new holiday trends.

IHEI Survey on Attitudes to
Environmental Tourism

UK - 
Asia Pacific -
US - 

Do you agree with the following statements:

  Yes % No % Don’t know %
Tourism development is in danger of destroying the environment 87 72 30 13 21 51 0 7 19
Tourist development contributes to environmental protection and conservation 18 60 30 56 28 47 26 12 22
It is important that hotels actively take steps to preserve and protect our natural resources 96 77 81 4 15 14 0 8 5
I am more likely to book a hotel with a responsible environmental attitude 87 60 54 9 18 14 4 22 14

When choosing a hotel, how influenced are you if it undertakes the following: 

  Very % Not Very % Not At All %
Uses recycled toilet paper 9 43 8 35 40 27 56 17 65
Uses non-toxic, biodegradable toiletries 40 57 19 30 33 32 30 10 49
Only uses electricity from renewable supplies like solar power and wind 35 58 14 48 30 41 17 12 46
Is constructed of indigenous materials 44 42 14 26 36 46 30 22 40
Is designed to reflect the surrounding architecture and landscape 70 73 39 9 22 44 21 5 17
Is sensitive to its marine life 74 70 46 13 25 31 13 5 23
Has gone to great lengths avoid felling trees 65 83 32 26 13 32 9 4 35
Protects local wildlife and its habitats 87 63 64 0 27 19 13 10 19
Contributes money towards preserving the local environs 61 43 38 26 43 32 13 14 29
Has a biological waste water treatment system 40 47 27 30 38 35 30 15 38
Uses home- or locally-grown vegetables and fruit 65 50 11 9 40 43 26 10 46

How important to your holiday are the following measures that hotels can take to protect the environment: 

  Very % Not Very % Not At All %
Offer to re-use towels 52 63 30 22 30 46 26 7 24
Conserve energy by keeping lights and air conditioning low 57 68 22 17 29 47 26 3 31
Recycle waste water to irrigate its gardens 56 65 22 17 30 46 17 5 32
Re-use and recycles waste 61 65 24 17 32 38 22 3 38
Use alternatives to chlorine in the pool 74 42 20 13 37 49 13 21 31
Seek to employ staff from local communities 74 62 57 13 32 38 13 6 5
Guarantee locally-employed staff good wages/working conditions 87 63 60 4 27 31 9 10 9
Seek to serve mainly locally-bought food, even if a different selection from products imported from overseas 70 53 28 17 35 42 13 12 31
Protect coral reefs against damage from swimmers and divers 87 88 62 4 8 24 9 4 14
Have demonstrable environmentally-responsible practices 52 75 49 26 22 35 22 3 16
Contribute money towards preserving the environment 65 72 51 31 25 32 4 3 16

When staying in a hotel/ resort, how often do you:

  Often rarely Never
Save water by showering, not bathing 70 65 70 9 28 14 21 7 16
Switch off lights and turn down air conditioning when leaving your room and at night 91 67.5 76 9 30 16 0 2.5 8
Before booking, ask the hotel if it has environmental policies 0 26 14 9 42 27 91 32 59
Make a financial contribution to local people and businesses 30 52 32 22 40 22 48 8 46
Buy local souvenirs 78 78 69 18 17 25 4 5 6
Order local dishes rather than international cuisine 87 68 68 13 24 22 0 8 11
Pay extra care when throwing away rubbish likely to harm wildlife 96 75 57 4 20 30 0 5 14
Fail to dress according to local sensitivities 22 33 38 22 45 49 56 22 14
Give preference to facilities and trips run by local people 43 68 50 26 27 44 31 5 6
Find yourself intolerant of language differences 13 35 11 22 35 44 66 30 44
Cycle or walk instead of going by car  65 70 36 26 28 33 9 2 31
Avoid shopping for things you will end up throwing away 70 65 76 9 23 19 21 12 5

How important is it to you that hotels:

  Very not very not at all
Support local businesses and cottage industries 61 59 51 26 33 43 13 8 5
Invest in and support local schools and hospitals 52 65 46 26 23 46 22 12 8
Consult local people on how their land is used and developed 65 77 54 13 20 32 22 3 14
Share prime resources like water and power with the local community 78 80 64 5 18 25 17 2 11
Allow local people to use their beaches 78 72 33 13 23 36 9 5 31
Help preserve traditional industries like farming and fishing 70 78 66 22 19 23 8 35 11
Financially support their local communities 74 70 50 17 23 50 9 7 0
Give job priority to people from the local community 82 75 62 9 18 35 9 7 3

Which element of your holiday do you think has the most negative effect on the environment (tick one):

  Tick One
Flight 30 18 19
Hotel 4 8 19
Ground transport like buses, trains and cars 66 74 62

How likely are you to think about:

  Very Not very Never
Whether the place you are visiting will be an attractive destination for your children and grandchildren in 20 years time 52 60 41 26 32 54 22 8 5

How much extra would you be willing to pay on a two-week holiday for a hotel you know is environmentally responsible (UK only):

£0 9
£10
£30 57
£70 21
£100

About the International Hotels Environment Initiative

Backgrounder

Established as a non-profit programme in 1992 by chief executives of the world’s leading hotel groups, the International Hotels Environment Initiative (IHEI) this year celebrates its 10th anniversary.

As a programme of the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum, an educational charity - and a pioneering business leadership initiative in its own right - IHEI promotes continuous improvement in the environmental performance of hotels throughout the world.

Providing IHEI’s leadership and funding are senior executives from 11 multi-national hotel groups, between them representing 68 brands, hotels on five continents and two million rooms. Also supporting the initiative are hotel brands and partners around the world.

In the past 10 years, IHEI has significantly raised awareness of responsible business practices amongst members of the global hotel sector and its suppliers, as well as tour operators, government bodies, academia and consumers.   It acts as a catalyst and a conduit for members to pool resources and share experiences on a non-competitive platform.

But IHEI does not just plan and pronounce.  It offers information and networking support, covering cost-saving programmes and new technologies, a best-practice manual, video and magazine - Green Hotelier, an environmental action pack, responsible purchasing guidelines and much more.

Its latest tool is a web-based, benchmarking system designed in conjunction with WWF UK to measure and improve both the environmental performance and the profitability of hotels by helping them save energy and water, better manage waste, carry out more informed purchasing, reduce chemical use and contribute to local communities.   

As the voice of the hotel industry in the environmental debate, IHEI is highly regarded by not only the world’s top tourism experts but governments, industry chiefs and powerful people in the hospitality business.  

Indeed, it is represented on the judging panel of prestigious awards such as British Airways’ ‘Tourism for Tomorrow Awards’ and, in conjunction with American Express and the International Hotels & Restaurant Association, the ‘Green Hoteliers Award’.

IHEI’s objectives are

  • To raise environmental awareness and promote good practice in the global hospitality industry
  • To promote the business benefits of sound environmental and socially responsible business practices
  • To develop hotel-specific self-help guidance, enabling properties of all sizes to implement environmental programmes
IHEI’s international council members are:  Accor, Carlson Hotels Worldwide, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Hilton International, Marco Polo Hotels, Marriott International, Radisson SAS Hotels & Resorts, Six Continents Hotels, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, the Indian Company of Hotels, TUI Beteiligungsgesellschaft.

Corporate and affiliate partners and associate members are: Association of the Brazilian Hotel Industry (ABIH), Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism (CAST), CH2M Hill, Small Luxury Hotels of the World and the Association of the Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Industry in Denmark (HORESTA).  

About sustainable tourism:

Tourism development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, taking into account socio-economic factors, as well as environmental management issues

  • Emphasises the character of the locale, its architecture, cuisine, heritage, aesthetics and ecology
  • Benefits local residents and communities – trains and employs local people, buys local supplies, uses local services, and may support local projects, hospitals or schools
  • Conserves resources, minimising pollution, waste, energy consumption, water usage and chemical usage.
  • Respects local culture and tradition
  • Does not abuse its product: anticipates development pressures, applies carrying capacity limits and management techniques to prevent ‘loved to death’ syndrome and co-operates to sustain natural habitats, heritage sites, scenic appeal and local culture
  • Strives for quality, not quantity, measuring tourism success by not sheer numbers of visitors but length of stay, money spent and quality of experience
About ecotourism:

Ecotourism is a subset of sustainable tourism and specifically addresses

  • The political and financial support for the protection of the environment
  • The recognition and respect of the rights of local and indigenous communities
  • The cultural and environmental education of travellers

Contact:

Stephanie Ponsford
Head of International Communications
Luxury Hotel Partners/Small Luxury Hotels of the World
T: 01372 224600
F: 01372 361874
stephanieponsford@hgal.com

 
Also See: Lake County, Fla. Struggles to Carve out Ecotourism Market, Explosive Growth Threatens Image / July 2001 
Teaching Travellers to Be Activists in Preserving the Places They Visit is a Key to Achieving Sustainable Development in the Tourism Industry / April 1999 
Business Enterprises for Sustainable Travel Formed to Encourage the Travel and Tourism Industry to Develop/Promote Sustainable Practices / Mar 2000 
Andreas Obrist and Sybille Riedmiller Named Green Hoteliers of the Year by the IH&RA; Honored for Committment to Energy Conservation / Nov 2001 


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