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Can Hotels Educate Consumers about Sustainability?

Hirst, J.

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John Hirst
Associate Professor


M.A. Gardetti

A.L. Torres


This chapter presents, as a case study, the International Enterprise Project (IEP) at Durham University Business School, delivered as an MBA elective combining problem-based learning with action research, focusing on The Quest for Sustainable Business (Visser, 2012). Participants undertake fieldwork in Sri Lanka where their host company for the last three years has been ASHH (Aitken-Spence Hotel Holdings) which operates a range of eco-hotels, including the five-star Heritance Kandalama. This has given participants deep insights into the challenge of operating eco-hotels, particularly concerning sustainability marketing and reporting, customer perceived value and service excellence, staff training/development and community involvement. Instead of a product-oriented view of sustainability and quality performance, they gain a more holistic and interconnected worldview, encompassing economic, cultural and political issues and a belief in the interconnectedness of mind, body and spirit. This chapter addresses the question of how eco-hotels can leverage customer attitudes and behaviour in the same way and whether they should seek to do so. If this is part of their purpose, then understanding how to motivate their customers relies on an understanding of the differences between people and how they perceive and respond to the sustainability agenda. We conclude that service in sustainability hotels needs to be understood as a relational process in which consumers and hotel operators co-create memorable transformative experiences, which may require hotels to have the courage to confront the “attitude-behaviour” gap and customers to step outside their “comfort zone”. While environmental and 157social performance contribute to the brand-equity of sustainability hotels, their success depends on the bond they construct with customers, based on mutual respect and trust, and how they integrate this into their product offerings and sustainability marketing approaches.


Hirst, J. (2016). Can Hotels Educate Consumers about Sustainability?. In M. Gardetti, & A. Torres (Eds.), Sustainability in Hospitality: How Innovative Hotels are Transforming the Industry (156-178). Greenleaf / Routledge.

Online Publication Date Oct 1, 2017
Publication Date 2016
Deposit Date Aug 30, 2017
Publicly Available Date Aug 4, 2022
Pages 156-178
Series Number 9
Edition 1st ed.
Book Title Sustainability in Hospitality: How Innovative Hotels are Transforming the Industry
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Publisher URL


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