When a free drink on vacation can save the environment

16 Jun 2020

It’s not every week a researcher finds the actual answer to her academic challenge is to offer free drinks all round – then wins a global prize for the discovery.

Professor Sara Dolnicar
Professor Sara Dolnicar

University of Queensland tourism expert Professor Sara Dolnicar said her research primarily sought to convince guests at the 96-room, four-star Bohinj Eco Hotel in Slovenia to voluntarily forgo their “often unnecessary” full daily room clean, including fresh bedsheets, in exchange for free drink vouchers.

“Each daily clean uses about 35 litres of water, 100 ml of chemicals and 1.5 kWh of electricity, costing the hotel $13 on average per room,” Professor Dolnicar said.

“Upon check-in, we offered to split the savings of a room clean with guests, providing them with a free drink voucher, which dramatically raised the percentage of those willing to skip their daily room clean, lifting it from three to 42 per cent.”

Adding a pro-environmental message “interestingly” did not further increase the rate, said Professor Dolnicar, an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow.

“The experiment taught us a lot about how Equity Theory can be used to change human behaviour,” she said.