Beyond towel recycling : sustainability as hotel business strategy
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Hotels are not just places where people sleep or eat; they can provide unique cultural opportunities and community experiences, and at the same time contribute to enhancing the local communities in which they are embedded. Hotels are also subject to prevailing social values and cultural shifts. Two such significant shifts now occurring are the growth of the leisure class and the demand from customers to provide greener alternatives. These shifts are challenging hoteliers to come up with ways to increase the sustainability of their operations and, ideally, as part of sustainable development, also contribute to the communities in which they are embedded. This research explores the role of sustainable hospitality and addresses the question: To what extent do hotel leaders integrate concepts of sustainability into their strategic planning process? A sustainable community development definition comprised of four conditions (scale, limits, place, and diversity) was used to guide the research and analyze findings. A multiple case-study approach was adopted. Research methods included semi-structured interviews and the use of visual explorer, a research tool where a set of images is used to support collaborative and creative conversations as well as background documentation. Three hotels in western Canada were studied. Due to the sensitive nature of the information disclosed by interviewees, hotel names, locations, and chain affiliation have been kept confidential. Research findings demonstrated that understandings of hotel sustainability were generally shallow as was the integration of sustainability initiatives into the case study strategic plans. A sustainable community development lens adapted from the scholarship of Dale, Ling, and Newman (2004 to 2015) was uniquely developed for hotel sustainability and a model subsequently derived from the case study data. This model, which integrates planning strategy imperatives with sustainability imperatives (ecological, social and economic) focuses on investment, innovation, sense of place, social capital, and leadership. Recommendations, both for practice and future applied research, include the development and implementation of a sustainability training and leadership development education program for hoteliers and the development of indicators based on the four conditions of sustainable community development (scale, limits, place, and diversity) to inform the greater understanding and implementation, as well as evaluate the sustainability of hotel organizations.
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