Table of Contents
1. Context Analysis 3
1.1 Rationale 3
1.2 Aim of bachelor thesis 4
1.3 Research objectives & questions 4
1.4 Scope & limitations of bachelor thesis 5
2. Literature review 6
2.1 Introduction on problem within field of interest 6
2.2 Objectives literature review 6
2.3 Search process 6
2.4 Findings & relevancy field of interest; theories, arguments, controversies 7
3 Methodology 11
3.1 Research design/approach and Gantt Chart 11
3.2 Elaboration on Gantt Chart 12
3.3 Reflection on data collection methods 13
3.4 Reflection on ethical considerations 14
4. References 15
5. Appendices 16
Appendix 1. Gantt Chart 16
This plan of approach will provide a logical rationale for my upcoming bachelor thesis. This report will describe the aim of my bachelor thesis, as well as its research objectives and questions. Moreover, it will elaborate on the possible scope and limitations of my research and reflect on the used methodology.
In order to do so, an extensive literature review will be made containing key theories, arguments and controversies within the field of interest. This combined with a conceptual framework will show the relevance of my bachelor thesis with the field of interest.
Lastly, my individual steps towards creating my bachelor thesis will be presented.
1. Context Analysis
The research for my bachelor thesis is a combination of empirical and non-empirical research in the field of (corporate) sustainability in cooperation with the NHTV University of Applied Sciences, situated in Breda. This research will be used for the ‘Online Sustainability Business School' platform of the NHTV, which will be released fall 2016.
This research will mainly focus on the communication process between small-medium hotels in The Netherlands and their (potential) guests regarding sustainable/greening efforts within their hotels.
As environmental awareness has increased over the last decade and environmental consumerism has risen tremendously (Ruffolo, 2015), the lodging industry has been forced to jump on the bandwagon as well. Environmental responsibility has become a way for hotels to differentiate themselves from their competitors in an ethical-responsible manner. Competitive advantages, customer loyalty, increased brand value and enhanced risk management are the most prominent benefits for hotels, when choosing to engage in sustainable management (Green Hotels Combined, 2010).
Whether sustainable efforts are being noticed or not by the (potential) guests, all depends on the hotels' communication, marketing and sales approaches. A solid communication strategy should touch upon the hotel's environmental values, goals, programs and practices (Jameson & Brownell, 2012) and reach the targeted audience. Between the sender and receiver of this message, various factors can either enhance or interrupt this message.
Cornell University (2015) has concluded that currently the link between environmentally sustainable programs and improved customer satisfaction as well as engagement is weak, when compared with facilities, rooms, and food and beverage outlets.
However, this link can be strengthened the upcoming years when incorporating sustainable practices within a hotel, making it part of the standard drivers.
Therefore, conducting research on this communication of these practises towards the public seems highly rewarding for upcoming hoteliers.
1.2 Aim of bachelor thesis
The aim of this research is to determine how small-medium hotels in The Netherlands are currently communicating their sustainable efforts towards their (potential) guests and how to increase the effectiveness of this communication.
By being able to communicate their sustainable efforts more effectively, more (potential) guests will be made aware of the hotel's aspiration and adapt their consumer behaviour accordingly by choosing for a more sustainable hotel.
Consequently, this will cause an increase in bookings and therefore revenue for the hotel. But most importantly, it creates a new type of customer that has increased environmental awareness. Customer engagement will increase and even co-creation can exist between hotel and its guests in an ethical-responsible manner.
Thus, the implications of this research can be of high value for (upcoming) hoteliers, whom we can reach out to via the ‘Online Sustainability Business School' platform of the NHTV.
1.3 Research objectives & questions
• The research problem: It is not clear how to enhance/improve the communication process of sustainable/greening efforts by small-medium hotels in The Netherlands towards their (potential) guests.
• Focus: How can the communication process of sustainable/greening efforts by small-medium hotels in The Netherlands be improved?
• Research Objective: Identify the current communication process regarding sustainable efforts by small-medium hotels in The Netherlands and establish new ways to make this communication more effectively.
• Research question 1: How do small-medium hotels in The Netherlands communicate their sustainable efforts towards their (potential) guests presently?
- What classifies as a sustainable effort?
- What types of communication tools are being used currently?
- What is the result of their current communication strategy?
• Research question 2: How does effective communication regarding sustainability influences the consumer behaviour process and decision-making process?
- What is the difference between injunctive appeals, descriptive appeals and benefit appeals?
- When do normative appeals influence sustainable consumer behaviour?
- Which target group seems most vulnerable to sustainability promotion and which target group should you tackle?
• Research question 3: What kind of communication strategy can be used in order to increase effectiveness when communicating sustainability towards (potential) guests?
- What seems most effective? Promoting personal or environmental benefits?
- Does normalisation of green behaviour can be combined within a corporate communication strategy?
These main research questions all consist of multiple sub-questions, which will guide and support my main findings.
1.4 Scope & limitations of bachelor thesis
The research will be conducted mostly between February 2016 until June 2016 at the NHTV, as this is our graduation phase time scope. Eighty percent of the research will consist of desk research, and twenty percent will consist of interviews with relevant hotels, meaning they will fit within the set boundary of being a small-medium hotel in The Netherlands.
Therefore, this research will be applicable for small-medium hotels in The Netherlands.
Additionally, this research will only interview a grasp of the total amount of small-medium hotels in The Netherlands, meaning that the findings of this research will not be applicable to the entire industry.
2. Literature review
2.1 Introduction on problem within field of interest
As the demand for sustainable products and work processes is increasing, sustainability has become part of the marketing strategy of hotels. Included in the marketing mix nowadays, sustainable efforts are the way to go.
However, formulating these sustainable efforts and communicating them towards (potential) guests can be difficult as it intrudes the moral thinking of the human being (Kumar, Rahman, Kazmi, & Goyal, 2012). Research has be done on sustainable efforts, the marketing process of these efforts, targeting the right audience for these efforts and so on. My job now is to combine these research papers and conduct research on how to maximise the effectiveness of current communication and define where certain problems arise.
2.2 Objectives literature review
The objective of this literature review is to create a theoretical framework for the research, which will give a clear overview of any theories, arguments, controversies which arise in the field of interest. This literature review will be reviewed and will grow along with the research accordingly.
2.3 Search process
In order to find relevant high-quality information, a brainstorming map was created which indicated on which topics information should be gathered on. This minimized the risk of gathering irrelevant information (Martin & Hanington, 2012). Most of this information discusses the current industry and their current approaches to sustainable efforts.
The information consist of articles, journals, books and newspaper articles, found via the NHTV's metasearch. Databases were used from Emerald Insight, EbscoHost, Elsevier, GoogleScholar, ScienceDirect, Cornell University and Routledge, which all are valid databases.
Moreover, while screening these journals and articles, I used the snowball-technique in order to find related articles and literature.
2.4 Findings & relevancy field of interest; theories, arguments, controversies
Since environmentalism has become a core value in our society (Ruffolo, 2015), the lodging industry seeks to reconcile economy, environment and protection of social and cultural identities. In all three pillars of sustainable development movement can be seen. This increase in environmental awareness has led to consumers, interest groups and governments demanding that companies act in a socially responsible manner (Grimmer & Woolley, 2012).
The lodging/hospitality industry, which formerly already focussed on controlling costs through sustainable efforts (Bruns-Smith, Choy, Chong, & Verma, 2015), has a completely new market to operate in. Hotel operators are well aware of the potential benefits that stick to these sustainable practises. And if not, they will see the results from their competitors, as it has become a way for hotels to differentiate themselves from their competition.
Lodging companies should keep in mind that sustainability is no longer an option; it has become a stipulation. Especially with the increase of green hotels; an environmentally friendly lodging property that helps protect the environment by implementing programs to save water and energy, as well as reduce solid waste (Green Hotel Association, 2014).
Sustainability has been studied within multiple contexts, either focussing on green concerns or social issues. However, in general, sustainability consists of three dimensions; environmental, social and economic dimension, which allows lodging companies to execute sustainable practises in different ways.
As a result, lodging companies such as hotels have implemented sustainability within their marketing strategy. The 4P's (product, price, place, promotion) of marketing by McCarthy can be converted to the 4C's, which include sustainability principles, as you can see below.
Fig. 1. McCarthy's 4P Approach Vs Sustainability Marketing Mix (Vinod Kumar et al., 2012)
Adding sustainability to your marketing strategy can create both a competitive advantage, as well as creating opportunities to save costs and promote innovation within the company (Kumar, Rahman, Kazmi, & Goyal, 2012). Examples of the implementation of sustainability within hotels can be seen in pro-environmental programs such as on-site wastewater treatment, conservation of water and energy, investing in local/durable goods, responsible bulk purchases and many more.
Although environmental management is gaining momentum among hotels and its (potential) guests, consumer participation in sustainable practises appears to be relatively non-existing.
According to a consumer survey conducted by the U.S. Travel Association in 2009 and again in 2012, 78% of American travellers reported that they are concerned about the environment, however only 9% were willing to pay higher prices for environmentally friendly products and services (Miao & Wei, 2013). These results are highly contradicting and prior studies implied that pro-environmental behaviour is not consistent due to various weighing factors.
As stated by (Miao & Wei, 2013), motivators which drive pro-environmental actions can be very dynamic, based on the guest's surroundings (home vs hotel). Within this research three major motives were used; normative motives, hedonic motives and gain motives. Driven by normative motives, one is sensitive to their environment's opinion. They feel morally compelled to act out pro-environmental behaviour.
Furthermore, hedonic motives focus on the need to “feel better right now”, a feeling which one for instance gets by donating money to charity.
Lastly, gain motives are concerned with personal improvement of own resources. Their research concluded that tackling normative motives solely, is not sufficient enough to evoke participation from guests regarding sustainability.
Moreover, the research implied that people in a hotel setting would rely more on hedonic motives such as comfort and pleasure.
In order to engage these type of guests, hotels can try to combine these hedonic motives from their guests with their own sustainable efforts. The next step would then be to communicate these efforts towards their audience.
(Tixier, 2008) suggests that the gap between pro-environmental values and thoughts and pro-environmental actions lies within the lack of effective communication. Hoteliers communicate indirect and soft in tone and/or style towards their guests. Only hotels that are leading in the (sustainability) industry will resort to concentrated communication.
Generally, guests will be provided with an option to support their sustainable efforts; either with a subtle note in the guest directory or a pamphlet at the front-office. The pro-environmental programs are being presented in a sensitive and attractive way towards guests.
Nonetheless, some choose not to involve their guests as it could inflict with their personal values and could be perceived as a way to drive down costs. Another argument to resort to according to (Tixier, 2008) is that the hotel first needs to build staff awareness on these sustainability matters, before involving the guests.
On the contrary, the Intercontinental Paris hotel, stopped informing their guests due to complaints of receiving too many leaflets in their room. Thus, a good communication system seems in order (Tixier, 2008)
As guests psychologically perceive their holiday as a period of individual freedom, as well as a period in which they would like to forget personal problems and their own limitation, it comes as no surprise that they don't want to be either bothered and/or lectured by hotel staff. This makes the communication problem even more prominent.
According to research from (Jameson & Brownell, 2011), a good communication strategy delivers an accurate message about an organisation's programs, goals and values in an organized manner through pertinent communication media. A green communication strategy specifically focuses on their efforts regarding the environment and resources and is mostly told via an ‘environmental storyline'.
Although this storyline is a great way to engage with your (potential) guests, this effort may not differentiate your company from the competition, as most companies promote themselves as being green. Other examples of storylines are financial and service storylines. (Jameson & Brownell, 2011) discovered that the environmental story meets guests' needs to feel righteous, while the financial story appeals to guests who want to feel lucrative and the service story meets their need to feel important.
Moreover, this storyline needs to be told by various communicators to multiple audiences. In a linguistic analysis done by (Jameson & Brownell, 2011), seven common ways of green communication were identified. Based on these seven methods of communication, a communication media should be chosen and most importantly, the message has to be easily accessible for (potential) guests and should encourage them to participate in sustainable efforts.
If these principles were to be followed, a communication strategy can be designed, which elaborates on the green story of your company.
More research has been done regarding targeting the appropriate audience. Studies from (Miao & Wei, 2013) have shown that women usually have less environmental knowledge than males, but are more susceptible to sustainable efforts as they are more emotional.
Likewise, research has shown that the timing of the message is of incredible value. People tend to be more open towards changes during spring or autumn, as it indicates a new beginning. This would then make it a more ideal setting to promote your sustainable efforts.
New approaches to promoting sustainability have been developed such as normalising green behaviour; repositioning green activities as normal and therefore stigmatising non-green activities as not-normal (Rettie, Burchell, & Riley, 2012). This process of social normalisation can be of high value when used in the lodging industry, especially when communicated effectively towards (potential) guests.
3.1 Research design/approach and Gantt Chart
The research design will be based upon generation of theory, interpretivism and constructionism. The research for this bachelor thesis will be a combination of empirical and non-empirical research, with the emphasis (80-90%) on non-empirical research.
This research will mainly focus on the communication process between small-medium hotels in The Netherlands and their (potential) guests regarding sustainable/greening efforts within their hotels, meaning that the empirical component will consist of interviews with Dutch small-medium hotels.
The non-empirical component will consist of reviewing existing literature and combining existing methods. The purpose of this is to identify commonalty and/or differences among studies within the field of interest and determine what information can be used for the research questions.
After collection data from the interviews, scenarios can be created in which existing theory and data gathered from interviews can be combined to discover the links with the general theories and the experiences of the Dutch small-medium hotels.
Based on the research objectives, design and timeframe a Gantt chart (see below and appendix 1) can be made to give an overview of the upcoming activities. The purple highlighted area in the timeline indicates the progress of the research so far.
3.2 Elaboration on Gantt Chart
Defining Research Area
• Creating a brainstorm map
• Determining the direction of bachelor thesis
• Deciding on the field of interest
• Choose the topic
• Meeting my graduation coach and discuss plans
• Gathering existing literature on field of interest related to topic
• Screening journals, books, articles (using snowball technique)
• Writing the literature review
Discuss progress colleagues
• Meetings with colleagues from the ‘Online Sustainability Business School' platform to discuss progress and research methods
Writing Plan of Approach
• Decide on research questions
• Combine literature review and aim of thesis
• Create my time planning/Grantt chart
• Critically analyse the used methodology
Feedback + adjustments Plan of Approach
• Ask for feedback and adjust Plan of Approach where needed
• Reformulate research questions
Empirical data collection (interviews)
• Design an interview guide based on the literature review and research questions
• Plan and conduct interviews with small-medium hotels in The Netherlands
• Transcribe interviews
Non-empirical data collection (existing literature)
• Analyse existing research on topic
Process and analyse collected data
• Combine the interviews and existing literature
• Search for correlation, arguments and controversies between two components
Writing Bachelor Thesis
• Combining all-gathered knowledge into one vast research paper
• Determine the answers to the research questions
• Determine the answer to the research problem
• Reflect on the used methods
3.3 Reflection on data collection methods
As the research will mostly be conducted mostly between February 2016 until June 2016, this small timeframe has influenced the research methods of choice, as well as previous discussions with my colleagues from the ‘Online Sustainability Business School' platform.
It was decided that interviews should be included within the research, as the research scope had been narrowed down to only small-medium hotels in The Netherlands. Otherwise there is no relevance to be found between existing literature and this scope.
I do believe that combining existing (international) literature with contemporary interviews from the Dutch hotel industry can give a great insight into the current sustainable efforts that they are pursuing.
Interviews will help define the current issues regarding sustainability communication and combined with existing research, an approach can be found to tackle these issues.
3.4 Reflection on ethical considerations
When looking at ethical considerations of conducting this research; lack of informed consent, invasion of privacy and deception are factors to be concerned with. Therefore, a brief document of consent must be signed by every interviewee.
Similarly, when using existing material from renowned writers, it should be used carefully, and always be referred to.
Lastly, this research will only be available for the NHTV University of Applies Sciences and the Online Sustainability Business School platform.
Bruns-Smith, A., Choy, V., Chong, H., & Verma, R. (2015). Environmental Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry: Best practices, Guest Participation, and Customer Satisfaction. Ithaca: Cornell University.
Green Hotel Association. (2014). Green hotels: green marketing and promotion. GHA.
Green Hotels Combined. (2010). How to increase your bottom line by going green. Retrieved from Green Hotels & Responsible Tourism Initiatives: http://green.hotelscombined.com/Gyh-The-Business-Case-For-Sustainability.php
Grimmer, M., & Woolley, M. (2012). Green marketing messages and consumers' purchase intentions: Promoting personal versus environmental benefits. Australia: Taylor & Francis.
Jameson, D. A., & Brownell, J. (2011). Telling your Hotel's "Green" Story: Developing an Effective Communication Strategy to Convey Environmental Values. Ithaca: Cornell University.
Jameson, D., & Brownell, J. (2012). Telling Your Hotel's "Green" Story: Developing an Effective Communication Strategy to Convey Environmental Values. Ithaca: Cornell University.
Kumar, V., Rahman, Z., Kazmi, A. A., & Goyal, P. (2012). Evolution of sustainability as marketing strategy: Beginning of new era. Uttarakhand: Elsevier Ltd.
Martin, B., & Hanington, B. (2012). Universal Methods of Design. Beverly: Rockport Publishers.
Miao, L., & Wei, W. (2013). Consumers' pro-environmental behaviour and the underlying motivations: A comparison between household and hotel settings. Lafayette: Elsevier Ltd.
Rettie, R., Burchell, K., & Riley, D. (2012). Normalising green behaviours: A new approach to sustainability marketing. Helensburgh: Westburn Publishers ltd.
Ruffolo, I. (2015). The Greening of hotels in the UK and Italy: A cross-cultural study of the promotion of environmental sustainability of comparable corpora of hotel websites. Elsevier, 398-408.
Tixier, M. (2008). The hospitality business communication and encouragement of guests' responsible behaviour and their diverse repsonses. Paris: ESSEC.
Appendix 1. Gantt Chart
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