Sustainability in Hospitality and Tourism

Businesses of all kinds are increasingly embracing the ‘3 Ps’: People, Profit and Planet. The hospitality industry is no exception. These businesses recognise the importance of sustainability, while their guests are also becoming increasingly socially aware.

The Department of Sustainability in Hospitality and Tourism carries out practical research on the area Sustainability with the objective of improving sustainability in the tourism and hospitality industry. We do not do that alone. We operate as part of a wider network which includes businesses, non-profits, government and students. If you are enrolling in one of our courses this year and take an interest in sustainability, you are eligible to help out with our research. We invite students to participate in all our research projects, the findings of which are discussed by our lecturers in their classes. Meanwhile, the Department also contributes directly to the education of NHL Stenden students by developing curricula, including the minor ‘Future-proof Hospitality: the CSR Challenge’. 


The Department of Sustainability in Hospitality and Tourism is involved in a number of different projects, several examples of which are listed below. Each of these projects ties in with one of the following areas of research.

  • ‘Enjoy!’: how can you ensure that sustainability is the core of your hospitality product or service and is reflected in every aspect? In other words: how can you create a service which is fully sustainable in every way without adversely affecting the customer experience?
  • ‘Join!’: how can businesses involve customers and employees in the sustainability process?
  • ‘Support!’: how can sustainability be integrated into the business process?

Fully Sustainable Hotel Experience

The majority of European hotels ask their guests to reuse their towels, while is it also becoming increasingly common to see vegetarian items and Fair Trade coffee on the menu. Still, how do you ensure that sustainability goes beyond a few basic measures and that the hotel experience you offer your guests is fully sustainable, without undermining the guest experience? Through its research project ‘A Fully Sustainable Hotel Experience’, the Department Sustainability in Hospitality and Tourism aims to work with colleagues at NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences to develop a hotel concept in which the three dimensions of sustainability – people, profit and planet – are fully integrated. We feel this concept inspires people and employees to contribute to sustainability. The project is funded in part by the Centre of Expertise Leisure, Tourism & Hospitality (CELTH).  

Reusing towels

It may be the most tangible example of sustainability policy you’ll find in any hotel: the slip requesting guests to reuse their towels in order to reduce hotel water consumption and protect the environment. Yet research has shown that only 16 per cent of guests take this message to heart and actually do use the towel for two days rather than one. What might be done to improve this? Working with Stenden Hotel and third-year students of our Stenden Hotel Management School, the Department is investigating whether the message printed on the slips might be rephrased so as to incite more people to reuse their towels. 

Myths about young holidaymakers

When young people go on holiday, are they interested mainly in having a good time? Do they really spend all their time online? Do they go for the cheapest option, with little or no interest in nature and the environment, or are they, in fact, interested in nature trails and other outdoor activities when dreaming about a trip or planning a holiday? Through this research study, the Department intends to find an answer to these questions by exploring some of the values that influence young tourists. The initial findings of the study are encouraging: it turns out that, when going on holiday, young people are mainly looking to relax and recharge. For that reason, large numbers of young people do enjoy nature holidays, often combined with cultural activities. These teenagers and young adults are influenced by values such as altruism and an interest in nature when thinking about where they would like to go on holiday and booking their trip. The Department is conducting this study in conjunction with market research company TNS NIPO, the European Tourism Futures Institute (ETFI) and Dr Simona Staffieri.

We also involve various field experts in our research, many of whom play an important role. Since we aim to ensure that our research is as practical as possible, they are represented in the Department’s Research Group [Kenniskring]. The professionals contribute research topics and provide input for the projects, in addition to ensuring that the findings are shared with members of the business community.


The Research Group is headed by our Professor of Applied Sciences, Dr Elena Cavagnaro, while the other members of the group are lecturers at NHL Stenden and professionals working in the field, whose responsibility is to ensure that the research has practical relevance. They provide input by suggesting research topics and sharing relevant findings of their research with businesses and other organisations, while the lecturers incorporate the findings in their classes. 


NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences
Stenden Hotel Management School
Postbus 1298

Rengerslaan 8-10
NL-8900 CG Leeuwarden, the Netherlands 

Administrative Assistant in the Sustainability in Hospitality and Tourism Department: Ms Regina van der Meer
T: +31 (0)6 15319709

Office Manager ESR/Academisation Office: Ms Sonja Schuil
T: +31 (0)6 19281329