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 professorship Sustainability in Hospitality and Tourism carries out applied research with the objective of improving sustainability in the tourism and hospitality industry.

The central question in the professorship’s research is how hospitality and tourism can be sustained in the future and deliver on the promise to improve people’s quality of life. The main objective of the professorship is to support the hospitality and tourism industry’s commitment to sustainability by designing, deploying, and evaluating behavioural interventions aimed at nudging hosts and guests toward sustainable choices.

The professorship operates as part of a wider network that includes businesses, non-profit organisations, government institutions, and students. Students enrolling in one of our courses this year and taking an interest in sustainability are welcome to help out with our research. The professorship also coordinates the Hotel Management School BA minor ‘Future-proof Hospitality: the CSR Challenge’ and the MA module ‘Sustainable Value Creation in Hospitality’


The professorship Sustainability in Hospitality and Tourism is involved in several projects, some of which are listed below. Each of these projects addresses 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?

Healthy food for people and planet

This design research project is conducted by Norbert Thijssen under supervision of Professor Elena Cavagnaro for Accor. Norbert designed and tested a tool to measure the environmental impact of dishes in CO2 equivalents. As it is well known CO2 emissions are one of the causes of climate change. CO2 embedded in food should be considerably lowered if we wish to limit global warming in line with the Paris Agreement (2015) and the Glasgow Declaration (2021). Norbert developed the tool as a management decision instrument. Chefs can easily enter the ingredients they wish to use for a dish, see the CO2 equivalent of each ingredient and od the whole dish, and the suggested alternatives to lower the environmental impact of the dish. Such tools have proven to influence managerial decisions because they are easy to use and offer alternatives.

Circular Hospitality in Friesland

This research was conducted by Audrey on understanding knowledge, attitude, and behaviour of Frisian citizen towards tourism and hospitality businesses that embrace the circular economy. In a circular economy there is no waste: all materials are used again and again without loss of quality. There is much debate how the circular economy concept, that was developed for products, can apply to a service industry such as hospitality. Moreover, it is unclear whether guests understand the idea behind the circular economy and will be willing to patronize businesses that apply it. Audrey’s research proved that there is a consistent group of people who does understand circular economy and is ready to embrace it. Audrey’s research is part of a larger project on Circular Economy led by Dr Lucia Tomassini, a member of the research Group.

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 project, the professorship intends to find answers 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 there is a consistent group of young travellers in the Netherlands, China, and Italy who enjoy nature holidays, often combined with cultural activities. These teenagers and young adults are influenced by values such as altruism and protecting nature when thinking about where they would like to go on holiday and booking their trip.

The professorship is conducting this study in cooperation with market research company TNS NIPO, the European Tourism Futures Institute (ETFI), Dr Nan Chan of Hong Kong Polytechnic, Prof. Dr Alessandra Fermani of the University of Macerata, and Dr Simona Staffieri of the University of Rome. Students of both the bachelor and master programmes of Hotel Management School have also contributed to this study.


The professorship consists of a Research Group headed by our Professor of Applied Sciences Dr Elena Cavagnaro. Members of the Research 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
Hotel Management School
Postbus 1298

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

Administrative Assistant: Ms Regina van der Meer
T: +31 (0)6 15319709

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


See also

Hospitality Studies

Innovation in Hospitality