chapter  2
27 Pages

Socially responsible hospitality and tourism marketing

ByAzilah Kasim

As one of the fastest growing sectors of the global economy, the extent and scope of hospitality and tourism (H&T) growth raise issues on its negative environmental and social impacts. This chapter aims to highlight these impacts, with a special reference to the hotel sector. The relevance and importance of addressing social responsibility and ethical issues in the H&T context are emphasized. In addition, ways to engage in the management and marketing of a socially responsible and ethical image will also be suggested to enhance awareness among readers on the issue. By nature, H&T offerings depend greatly on environmental and cul-

tural resources, as the industry involves activities that are constantly interactive with the natural systems. For example, tourists’ desire for a secluded and scenic accommodation may result in increased clearance of natural areas for the purpose of development of resorts and hotels (Wahab and Pigram, 1997). In addition, the transportation of tourists from one destination to another requires the use of some form of transport and, hence, the use of fossil fuel, which releases significant amounts of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants (Holden, 2000). Solid and organic wastes produced by food and beverage operators could also contribute to environmental problems at particular destinations. H&T has the capacity to initiate significant changes in the physical

environment (Wahab and Pigram, 1997; Hassan, 2000). This is particularly true for the hotel sector whose impacts have clearly been identified (see International Hotel Environmental Initiative’s [IHEI] Environmental Action Pack for Hotels, 1995; Kirk, 1995; Green Hotelier, 1999; Green Globe 21 Asia Pacific, 2000; World Travel and Tourism Council [WTTC], 2002; Kasim, 2005) as involving: (1) energy consumption; (2) water consumption; (3) waste production; (4) wastewater management; (5) chemical use and atmospheric contamination; (6) purchasing/procurement; and (7) local community initiatives. A broader outlook on other negative impacts of the industry is available in the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report (2002). Besides interactions with the natural systems, H&T activities also

involve direct or indirect contacts between tourists and the local people. Homestay tourism, agro-tourism, and eco-tourism, for example, generally involve direct interactions between the visitors and the locals (villagers, farmers, local guides, etc.). In contrast, conventional mass tourism requires less involvement of the local people, thereby minimizing direct interactions. In both cases, however, contacts between tourists and the local people could lead to problems such as conflict of values, over-commercialization of arts and crafts at the expense of authenticity, and importation of new lifestyle and culture, with possible negative consequences to local values, particularly among the youth

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(Hong, 1985; Wahab and Pigram, 1997; In Malaysia, for example, the first strains of the ‘drug culture’ were found among the hippie tourists who came in big groups to Penang. The tourists were also observed to impose their culture and way of life on places they visited, through activities such as swimming nude and having marijuana parties, which are against the local beliefs and values (Hong, 1985). The negative social impacts of H&T may begin even before tourists

arrive at a destination. Rapid and often poorly planned developments of H&T in developing countries catalyze rapid transitions of lifestyles from traditional to western-style modernization. This implies a rapid loss of cultural identity and degradation of traditional values. It could lead to far-reaching negative impacts such as the disruption of family and social cohesion (e.g., people work harder to improve social status, thereby spending less time with families), the abandonment of traditional economies (e.g., activities such as farming and fishing are replaced by H&T-related activities), substance abuse, prostitution, and more (Hong, 1985; Mathieson and Wall, 1992; German NGO Forum on Environment and Development, 1998). The inevitable link between H&T and the physical and social envi-

ronments implies that H&T’s survival depends critically on its ability to not only maximize its benefits but also minimize its negative impacts on environments and societies. In other words, the quality of tourists’ interaction with locals and environments will diminish considerably, if the natural setting of H&T activities is polluted, degraded, or lost in its aesthetic qualities as a result of a poorly planned H&T development. Similarly, a destination may lose its tourist appeal if there are social problems such as increased crimes (from drugs/alcohol abuse and prostitution) and societal antagonism. Therefore, the mitigation of these possible negative impacts is essential in order to sustain the quality of H&T services. Indeed, it would be impossible to solve all the environmental and

social impacts already mentioned, in absolute terms. However, key players in H&T can choose to pursue growth in a way that allows them the flexibility to respond positively to the changing global environment and societal structure, while being responsive to the principles and practices of sustainable development. In other words, H&T needs a new direction that involves all the key players in order to address the flaws of its conventional (mass) form. Goeldner and Ritchie (2006: 470) state that:

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As one of the ‘citizens’ affected by tourism development, the H&T business needs to contribute to sustainable development. Sustainable efforts from the industry and all its segments – hospitality, travel agency, air transport, tour operators, and others – are key to ensuring that the industry is sustainable. With support for sustainable development in mind, the H&T business must therefore be managed and marketed in a more responsible manner. Under the concept of business social responsibility (BSR), key trading partners of the industry including the H&T business are asked to show more accountability or social responsibility in their management. Consequently, they can engage in social or relationship marketing with the aim of benefiting the target audience or the wider public.