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Why do hotels find reducing their carbon footprint difficult?

Eric S.W. Chan (School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, Hong Kong)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 7 April 2021

Issue publication date: 6 July 2021




The term “carbon footprint” emerged during the early 2000s, but many hotels remain unaware of what they should do to implement a comprehensive programme to reduce carbon footprint despite having some environmental measures. This study aims to investigate the barriers to reducing hotel carbon footprint and to explore why many hotel managers remain bystanders.


In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with hotel executives to understand what hinders hotels’ implementation of comprehensive programmes to reduce their carbon footprint. The NVivo 11 software package was used to organise data and code the transcribed interviews to identify patterns and themes.


The findings identified several main barriers. They were (1) a lack of understanding, (2) a lack of owner initiative, (3) difficulty with measurements, (4) a lack of stakeholder coordination and support, (5) a lack of a strong mediator, (6) balancing interests and (7) risky investment. The findings of this study suggest some specific strategies for overcoming these barriers.

Research limitations/implications

The study sample was restricted to the Hong Kong hotel executives interviewed; therefore, the findings will not reflect the full picture of managerial perceptions. Drawing on the foundations laid by this study, researchers could collect quantitative data from hotels in other countries to conduct a cross-cultural study.


Very few studies have investigated barriers to carbon-footprint reduction programmes. Specifically, none have been published in the hotel environmental management literature. This study represents a preliminary step towards understanding the barriers that prevent hotels from implementing the programmes.



The authors would like to acknowledge the support of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Project Reference: G-YBNH) and thank the participating hotels for their input and feedback on this project. The constructive comments of both the editor and anonymous reviewers are also acknowledged with gratitude.


Chan, E.S.W. (2021), "Why do hotels find reducing their carbon footprint difficult?", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 33 No. 5, pp. 1646-1667.



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