It is, by total number of respondents, one of the largest sustainability-related lodging surveys I have seen. As part of its Earth Guest Research initiative, Accor Hotels conducted a survey of almost 7,000 of its guests in six countries—Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Only guests who had stayed at an Accor hotel in the previous 12 months were eligible to participate. The Web-based survey was conducted last August by French market research institute IFOP. Why did it take almost a year to release the results? According to Sophie Flak, executive vice president, Organization and Sustainable Development for Accor, there was a large volume of data to sift through and the company went through an organizational change with the announcement of a new chairman and CEO last December (Denis Hennequin).
The survey produced some fascinating findings. When asked if they had heard of sustainable development, 82 percent of male respondents said “yes.” Only 72 percent of women said “yes.” Why more men? What appears to have happened is that men in the age group 18 to 34 were much more apt to be aware of sustainability and this significantly impacted the results. By country, travelers in China were most aware of sustainability (97 percent), followed by France (94 percent). By class of hotel (low cost, economy, midscale, upscale and luxury), travelers staying at low cost (85 percent) were most likely to have heard of sustainable development.
When asked what themes they consider to be most important for a responsible hotel company, 17 percent said water, 15.8 percent said energy, 15.2 percent said protection of children, and 13.7 percent said waste. Would protection of children have ranked so highly in North America? From my experience, sustainability-related surveys have never even addressed the issue.
Whose Responsibility is Sustainability?
Most respondents (77 percent) said sustainability is the responsibility of the national government, 67 percent said it is citizens’ responsibility, and 63 percent said it is corporations’ responsibility. Fifty-one percent take sustainability into account when choosing a hotel. When asked if they would accept the idea that sustainability might cost a little more, 66 percent either rather agreed or fully agreed. The survey did not ask exactly how much more guests might be willing to pay for sustainability. Most Accor guests believe being sustainable does not mean a less comfortable stay (66 percent).
Accor asked its guests if they would like to find their guestrooms cool as soon as they arrive (the assumption being that it is summer). Interestingly, only 51 percent said they rather agree or fully agree. In fact, 93 percent said they rather agree or fully agree with the idea of turning air-conditioning on themselves (not exactly what guestroom energy management system vendors would like to hear). When it comes to lighting, an even higher percentage of guests (96 percent) said they are more than happy to turn lights on themselves. So much for “We’ll leave the light on for you”—Accor’s Motel 6 slogan.
Accor’s Flak says her company, which has had an environment department since 1994, plans to repeat the survey within the next 12 months. They may expand it to other countries, including the United States. This fall, Accor will have even bigger news to share: the release of the environmental footprint of all of its 4,200 hotels, along with its new sustainable development strategy.
To access more information on Earth Guest Research and more survey results, click here.
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