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Business Sustainability through Environmental and Operational Management in Five Star Hotels in Amman Jordan

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 Data collection

 Baloglu and Assante (1999) argue that interviews are crucial techniques in the collection of data from the respondents directly. The use of interviews allows the researcher to collect ‘deep’ data. The scope of collecting relevant data appropriate to research is higher in relation to interviews because this technique interacts directly with the respondents interviews are classified into three different types such as structured, semi-structured and unstructured interviews (Berg, 2009).  Based on the nature of the research and the information sought from respondents a choice is made about the parameters ranging from open/unstructured to closed/structured interview type. In this research, focus is on collecting in-depth data appropriate to the research, and this can be efficiently performed through following a semi structured interview whereby the researcher will provide a list of questions but also be able to probe (Veal, 2005). In these ways, the researcher will ensure maximizing the benefits of labor and time intensive interviews to collect data. Furthermore, the research will involve respondents from all the 13 five star hotels in Amman Jordan and stakeholders.

            The researcher will apply a specific process in performing the collection of data from the managers and stakeholders in the 13 five star hotels in Amman Jordan. This is because interviewing people at higher levels of management represent their own challenges The first step of the process will include emailing/phoning the properties to get names of the relevant managers. This will then be followed with an introductory letter in writing explaining the purpose of the research and requesting their participation. Follow up phone calls will be made to encourage participation. Appointments will be set up based on the convenience of the managers and stakeholders. In addition, a sample of the interview questions will be provided in order for them to prepare or bring any artefacts to the interview. It is expected that the interviews will last from 1-1.5 hours. Managers will also be requested for a back of house tour and for permission to take photographs of the various environmental saving devices and processes being used.  Permission will also be sought to audio and videotape the interviews.  Conversations with five-star hotel staff were helpful in understanding better the prevailing issues. The interviews were conducted at serene seating areas for the six selected hotels. The interview questions were prepared in advance, although additional questions were asked for purposes of clarification during interviews. The semi-structured interview approach was favored because of its flexibility in allowing the complexities surrounding the phenomenon to be appropriately explored. The interview questions were in English, but translated version to Arabic was available for non-English speaking respondents. Responses to interview questions were tape-recorded and participants assured of anonymity and confidentiality of the provided information. Each interview session lasted for 45 minutes.

The collected information was carefully transcribed and coded manually. The transcribed data will be processed in to a format that a software like NVIVO or Leximancer can be used for analysis. Coding rules were observed as described in Morse and Richards (2002) regarding descriptive coding, topic coding, and analytic coding.

3.2.2. Quantitative Approach

            On the other hand, Quantitative research used questionnaire with aim of generating numerical evidence necessary for statistical analysis. The sample size for the mixed method approach is rather small (n = 44) in order to provide opportunities of gathering detailed and incisive data. This strategy is defined in Creswell (2003) as prioritization; sequential implementation; theoretical perspectives; and integration. A concurrent triangulation strategy is adopted where both quantitative and qualitative methods are used as a way of cross validating, confirming, or corroborating the study findings (p. 217).

            Most researchers in the tourism sector have adopted triangulation strategy due to the interdisciplinary nature of the topics involved. Data triangulation can be termed as the use of both primary and secondary sources by researchers or scholars to support and confirm their findings. Triangulation solidifies data and any research as it cross verifies similar information. The triangulation of data usually serves to validate a research paper increasing the credibility, as well of the validity of the data (Krishnaswamy, Appa, & Mathirajan, 2006). Some approaches to triangulation include:

            Denzin (1978 cited in Jennings 2001, p. 151) identifies four types of triangulation which are data, investigator, theory and methodological. Denzin goes further to identify the difference between method and within method triangulation. Methodology triangulation is the linking of many methods to collect data, such as interviews, documents, questionnaires, observations, or surveys, when carrying out primary study, at different places and times. Theory triangulation is the use of more than a single theoretical approach to support and interpret data.

            The benefits of triangulation to research are that it adds sources of information, giving more insight into the topic. Inadequacies found in a source of data are minimized when many sources are used to validate similar data. With triangulation, inconsistencies in data can easily be recognized. Techniques that may be used to collect primary data include interviews, observations, action research, case studies, questionnaires, life histories, ethnographic research, and longitudinal studies. The secondary data collection sources will include existing sources, such as previous research, mass media products, diaries, government reports, web information, official statistics and historical data and information (Schensul, LeCompte, & Schensul, 1999).

            Triangulation will be employed to ascertain the authenticity of secondary sources. Findings from one secondary source will be compared with findings from two or more sources to ascertain their validities. If other study methods or our survey model does not uphold the findings the information will not be used. In the current research, it is intended to triangulate information gained from four sources – first the collection of data through the EMS/EIA survey, second from data sourced from the interviews, third from data gathered through observation and field visits to hotel facilities, and fourth from secondary sources including media reports.  

3.3 Questionnaire Design

            The questionnaire-based survey provides opportunity for the researcher to assess individuals’ accounts or attitudes of their behavior (Brunt, 1997; Veal, 2006).  Therefore, design of EIA/EMS survey observed the rules as described in Sarantakos (2005) regarding layout, construction, and question content. The questions are coded with statements whose responses reveal participants’ attitude, desirability, or extremities. Appendix A presents the actual questionnaire.

3.4 Research tool

The use of an established survey instrument (EMS/EIA) with sound psychometric properties will provide empirical data, which in turn can be generalised to other hotel businesses in the Middle East. Craik (2008) suggests that the Environmental impact assessment (commonly abbreviated as EIA) is one of the most suitable ways of assessing the impact of different sectors on the environment. Similarly, environmental organization system is a tool allowing firms to achieve the level of environmental performance already stipulated, hence managing it systematically.

The Environmental Management System (EMS) is another important tool that helps organizations in becoming efficient and environmentally proactive (Emillsson, 2002). British Standard Institute (BSI) developed the first EMS in 1992 as BS7750.  Since then a number of countries and countries have designed different EMSs.  According to BSI, EMS can be defined as the organizational structure, practices, responsibilities, processes, procedures, and resources that determine implementation of environmental policy (Netherwood, 1998).  The establishment and use of the best EMS by itself cannot lead to impact reduction on the environment.The link between EMS and EIA and the environmental management program (EMP), shows the project life cycle as a small part of the firm structure, and its bilateral ties and the environment. For the aim of these impact assessment, most hotel activates are portioned into four categories, namely laundry affairs, building and energy considerations, paper works and sewage systems. Each activity use different ecological sources, each of which is of great use. 

            Companies that establish EMS/EIA are able to demonstrate to their clients and general public how they are actively involved in environmental sustainability activities (see Appendix B). Implementation of EMS by organizations such as Hotels helps in reviewing or auditing their adopted environmental policies. This saves the organizations compliance to legislative pressures, increasing ethical concerns, public pressure, and exploiting green marketing opportunities (Netherwood, 1998). 

Hotels are at the helm of tourism industry and its is one area of tourism in which activities like landscaping, construction of buildings, disposal of waste, cooking, use of water and energy tends to impact  the environment negatively if not well managed. Hotels, restaurants, and resorts have inherent traits, which exacerbate their effects on the environment. They include heterogeneity time perishable capacity, labor intensity, and customer involvement in the process of production. The size of the hotel structure affects its impact on the environment. For example, the effects of a fifty room limited service hotel will be different from those of a three-hundred room full service hotel (Honey, 2002). Many forces exert pressure on hotels in Amman to be more environment-aware. The forces could be the changing consumer demands, government regulation, international organizations, and initiatives by NGOs as well as professional associations (Howlett, Jain, & Lee, 2011).

3.5 Piloting

 A pilot study was carried out to test inconsistencies, problems, or possible misunderstandings in the questionnaire hence allowing the researcher to correct the inadequacies and weaknesses before undertaking the actual data collection (Brunt, 1997; Sarantakos, 2005). Pilot study EMS/EIA

  • Identify appropriate managers and stakeholders from the 13 five star hotels in Amman Jordan (COO, Environmental Manager, Departmental Managers
  • Send EMS/EIA to appropriate managers with modifications i.e. F and B or Housekeeping if needed
  • Analyze data from EMS/EIA
  • Develop Semi Structured Interview Questions for Managers. (Secondary aims of assessing attitudes)
  • Conduct interviews
  • Transcribe and Analyze Interviews NVIVO
  • Write up results

3.6 Sampling

The sampling strategy will encompass email surveys to all five star rated hotel properties in Amman, Jordan.  This form of Systematic sampling (Veal, 2005) is employed to give a good mass for the empirical data collection using the EMS/EIA surveys. A small sample of these properties will then be selected for the qualitative components of the interviews and field visits. Due to logistical and financial constraints the research study is confined to Amman, which has thirteen five star hotels (Expedia, 2013). The researcher will approach all the thirteen properties to participate in the study. 

3.7 Data collection

            The self-administered questionnaire either involves participant’s response to written questions by provides answers as statements or just marking the preferred ratings of statements. This approach is faster in administering since respondents answer the questions at their own convenience. However, the approach has disadvantages compared to interview-based such as incomplete responses, frivolous or biased responses (Veal, 2006).

            The questionnaires were either directly handed to participants or deposited to their respective reception areas for the selected 6 five-star hotels. Collecting the fully filled questionnaires was arranged via telephone contact with option of email, post, or direct collection. Out of the 90 distributed questionnaires, 60 returned completed questionnaires. Scrutiny of the returned questionnaires found 16 of them to have errors and inadequate answers hence disqualified, 44 were found to be correctly filled representing 48.8% response rate.

3.8 Data Analysis

            The questionnaire-based collected by the quantitative approach was analyzed using NVivo software. Before commencing the analysis, each of the completed questionnaires was coded and edited carefully. This ensured capturing detailed data as per the respondents’ ratings of the survey statements on a five item the Likert scale.

Presentation of study findings

The analysis results will be presents as:

  1. Charts and Graphs for responses on EMS/EIA
  2. Thematic analysis collating information from the interviews broadly categorized under environmental and operations aspects of business sustainability. The inclusion of Photos and other artifacts used to provide data.

These significant factors need to be considered by the researcher in ensuring the collection of relevant data appropriate to the research. Research validity and reliability are crucial factors that determine the effectiveness of the collected data and the relevance of the entire research results (Berg, 2009). The use of a psychometrically tested instrument like the EMS/EIA for the Qualitative part of the research ensures validity and reliability.  Here, the ability to triangulate data (through interview transcripts, artefacts and secondary data sources like annual reports) will mitigate some of the reliability and validity criticisms levelled at qualitative research methods. The reduction of bias and administrative errors will also be considered through the consistent approach of the researcher collecting all the data and conducting all the interviews himself. Reducing bias in the data collection process, results in higher reliability of the collected data. In addition, the researcher will prepare a checklist for reference to ensure that he when he tours the back of house and collects artefacts to compare he maintains a level of consistency and comparability (Jennings, 1995).

This is one of the factors that require attention on the part of the researcher to ensure efficient performance of the research. The researcher needs to consider ethical values in performing the collection of data, in order to achieve accuracy and reliability of the collected data. The ethical values mainly imply that the research activities should be performed in a manner that does not harm another (person, animal or environment) in the conduct of the research. This ethical compliance is monitored by completing and receiving approval from the National Ethics Application Form (NEAF). Additionally, this provides safeguards for the researcher and increases the credibility of the research. For this project, limitations may arise in terms of commercial in confidence information and managers may require the researcher to sign non-disclosure clauses. The ethical processes will outline not only the anonymity of the respondents and confidentiality but also relate to matters such as the storage of the data. Data will also be coded to ensure anonymity and this will be made explicit to participants. Managers and stakeholders will also be assured that data will only be utilised for research purposes. This approach is likely to yield better overall research results. Ethical considerations will also apply to secondary data collected for this research including the appropriate acknowledgement of sources and accuracy as far as possible in interpretation. In these ways, a higher level of ethical value is likely to be observed throughout the data collection process in the given research.

            This section of this research proposal specifies the intended timetable. At the current time, it is envisaged that the thesis will be broadly divided into five chapters. Chapter 1 will provide an Introduction including definitions, research aims and background of the study. Chapter 2 will provide a review of the relevant literature. Chapter 3 will encompass the Research Design and Methodology including pilot tests of the research instruments. Chapter 4 will detail an analysis of the results and Chapter 6 will provide Findings, Discussion and Conclusions. References and Appendices would also be part of the thesis. At this stage, it is envisaged that the PhD study will be undertaken as a full time student. The chart below is a very preliminary schema.

Table 1 Project Timelines

Research Activities

Expected Time

Introduction,  Background, Development of Research Questions etc

Year 1  2014

Review of Literature

Year 1 2014

Research Methodology and Collection of Data

Year 2 2015

Data Analysis and Findings

Year 3 2016

Conclusion and Recommendation

Year 3 2016

At this time, the focus on Amman and in particular the 13 five star hotels may be perceived as an artificial parameter but they are argued as being mindful of both scope and being realistic of logistical, financial, and time pressures associated with completing the study in the required time. This narrow scope of the study also serves as astrength because it is intended to have real world application to the hotel industry in Amman, which is still in its infancy. Expected outcomes from the research including the identification and establishment of best practice environmental and operational systems will provide a vehicle for developing national standards, business sustainability, and competitive advantage for Jordan in the Middle East tourism market..The researcher’s work experience and background knowledge of Jordan and Jordanian culture and norms might also be cited as bringing a level of subjectivity to the study. However, this may actually be considered more of astrength than a limitation as it allows for interpretation that is more accurate and triangulation of data.

The qualitative method might also be construed as a constraint by researchers that are more positive but this aspect will be mitigated by the use of three separate data sources and attempts to triangulate data along with a rigorous examination of secondary sources. This paper presented an outline of the proposed research studyBusiness Sustainability through Environmental and Operational Management in Five Star Hotels in Amman, Jordan’. This preliminary study proposal has been prepared with a view to establishing the Confirmation of Candidature. The paper highlighted the aims and objectives of the research, which is to examine the impact of operational business practices on environmental sustainability in five star hotel properties in Amman. A preliminary review of the literature revealed the term sustainability mainly implies the performance of business activities in a manner that ensures the most efficient utilisation of organisational resources with minimal impact on the environment. It is concerned with utilising resources that ensure the sustainability of resources for the future generation. The literature explained that there is a higher level of need and importance to conduct hotel practices in a sustainable manner mainly because of the consumptive nature of essential resources such as energy, water and the production of huge amounts of waste characterise the hotel industry. A higher level of awareness among the public concerning environmental issues and their willingness to visit and pay premium prices for hotels that focus on green practices, provides an incentive for hotels to attain green credentials and improved performance. The review of the literature revealed that hotels across the world follow green initiatives in a number of ways including policy and procedures, dedicated staff to monitor and manage sustainability, recycling and encouraging guests and employees alike to be eco-friendly. The support for the local community and benefits achieved from publicising eco and sustainability measures on both the environment and profits were also canvassed. Finally, it was identified that sustainable practices have a positive influence over the hotel’s performance, profitability and long-term reputational benefits.

            The research design to be employed involves the use of the EMS/EIA questionnaire, semi structured interviews and participatory research through field visits. Data will be coded and analysed using methods like thematic analysis, NVIVO and frequency of occurrences. Ethical perspectives and the need to have approval for the study will be through completion of the NEAF.  Limitations and a time line for completion of a PhD study have also been provided. Expected outcomes of the thesis include the identification of best practice sustainable measures and their ability to be applied to the context of Jordanian hotels. Additional benefits include the positioning of Jordan as a vital eco tourist destination in the Middle East thus promoting its unique culture and heritage while also contributing to economic growth.

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