The group decided to start by finding out exactly what their hotel guests’ concerns and expectations are with regard to sustainable development.
“With 4,200 hotels worldwide and our pioneering experience in sustainable development, our role is to drive change and lead the tourism industry in this field," says Accor Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Denis Hennequin.
“I strongly believe that sharing our knowledge will enable us to advance, and that we need to leverage sustainable development concerns to develop new, more sustainable products and services that will eventually lead to a whole new approach to the hotel experience.”
Sample groups comprised nearly 7,000 respondents who had spent at least one night in a hotel in the previous 12 months, including a cross- section of hotel types (chain, independent, etc.) and segments (budget, economy, midscale, upscale and luxury).The idea is to extend the tracking study to other countries and renew it on a regular basis to identify any changes in consumer expectations.
The survey results are available to view at the Accor website. Accor are also making the methodology available to industry operators provided that they agree to freely share their own survey results.
Certain guest profiles are more concerned about sustainable development than others.
Contrary to popular belief, sustainable development seems to be of more concern to men (82 per cent) than to women (72 per cent). This finding is closely related to another, as business customers — the majority of whom are still men — were found to be more concerned about the topic than leisure customers.
The understanding of the concept also varies by hotel segment. Economy hotel guests seem more sensitive to sustainable development issues. However, this may be due to the lower average age of budget hotel users, who are generally quite young.
Nearly eight out of ten respondents claimed to know and understand the concept of sustainable development, which is seen as a day-to-day reality regardless of cultural and socio-economic differences, the purpose of the stay and the type of hotel selected.
A global consensus on water, energy and waste
In response to an open-ended question, optimising water and energy resources and reducing waste were by far the main concerns worldwide. In response to a closed-ended question, guests identified the fight against child sex tourism as a key priority for the hotel industry.
When asked about their sustainable development-related expectations, Chinese hotel guests ranked health and well-being high on their list, while Brazilian guests seem more concerned with fostering local economic development, a major issue in a country that is trying hard to reduce inequality.
NGOs and international organisations rank last on the responsibility scale
In a noteworthy change, survey respondents placed NGOs and international organisations last on the scale of responsibility for sustainable development issues. This observation seems to indicate that the time for enhancing awareness and encouraging action has passed and must now give way to more practical measures that enable customers to make a direct contribution.
Cultural differences seem to influence the order in which respondents place those they see as primarily responsible for sustainable development. The government and individual citizens topped the list in France, Germany and Brazil.
In these countries, respondents widely insisted on their own role in the process, with results above 70 per cent overall and above 80 per cent in Brazil. In Australia and the United Kingdom, on the other hand, hotel guests attribute almost equal responsibility to business and government, and only one out of two respondents believes that individual citizens are responsible for sustainable development.
In China, the top spot went to government, followed by private enterprise.
A constraint turned into a desirable experience
Fifty-one per cent of the survey respondents said they wanted their room to be at the right temperature as soon as they arrived. Paradoxically, 93 per cent said they were in favour of adjusting the air-conditioning themselves, even if it meant waiting several minutes for the desired temperature to be reached.
It seems that guests are willing to sacrifice some of their own comfort in favour of the environment, as long as they have a choice and are allowed to play an active role in the process.
Guests also say that they are increasingly considering social and environmental responsibility criteria when selecting a hotel, even if it means staying in a less practical location or paying slightly more.
Lastly, sustainable development is no longer seen as a sacrifice or equated with a lower-quality offering. 66 per cent of respondents do not expect comfort to suffer in a hotel engaged in a sustainable development process.