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 Stenden 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

How can we encourage hosts and guests to design and opt for dishes that are healthy for both people and planet? This is the central question in a three-year project chaired by the University of Wageningen in which the professorship Sustainability in Hospitality and Tourism participates alongside the Centre of Expertise for Leisure, Tourism & Hospitality (CELTH) and Accor Netherlands.

Healthy food for people and planet is food with a lower animal protein content. The aim of this project is to design, test, and evaluate interventions that encourage staff to design dishes with less meat and more vegetables, on the one hand, and to nudge guests into choosing these dishes, on the other. We particularly look at whether the intervention has a long-term positive effect. This means that the proposed interventions should be easy to implement by F&B staff and that guests’ satisfaction is not affected by any menu changes.

One of the outcomes of the project has been a tool to measure the CO2eq of dishes, designed by master graduate Norbert Thijssen.

Circular Hospitality in Friesland

Circularity is the new frontier of sustainability. It entails designing products and services so that their components can be reused endlessly without loss of quality, or disposed of without causing any harm to people and planet.

Circularity has been applied to the design of products on a large scale. The hospitality and tourism industry is also increasingly looking at circularity as a way to reinvent itself, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic. But what does it mean for a hotel, a restaurant or a tourism destination to become ‘circular’?

This is the central question in the project ‘Circular Hospitality in Friesland’. Together with six forerunners in the sector, the professorship is trying to answer this question by looking at such aspects as plastics use, coffee grounds and orange peels, grey water usage, and storytelling.

The project received a KIEM HBO grant in 2020.

Students of the minor ‘Future-proof Hospitality: the CSR Challenge’ are involved in this project in the 2020-2021 Academic Year.

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 Stenden 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
Stenden 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