Dr Pablo Pereira Doel
My research project
Showering Smartly. Exploring tourism accommodation guests’ environmental values, inconvenience, smart-water saving technology and persuasive communication
This research aims to explore the effectiveness of persuasive communication to encourage hotel guests to behave more pro-environmentally during their stay, specifically their shower behaviour, leading to a reduction of water and energy consumption and the carbon emissions linked to heating water. To achieve this aim, covert field experiments in hotel/hostel contexts will be developed during an 8-month period (1st February – 30th September 2019). The experiments involve using different persuasive messages in several hotel rooms from different hotels and hostels around the world. In particular, the research 1) uses simple decision rules in two types of persuasive messages encouraging saving water (selfless or selfish focus), informed by behavioural economics and environmental values literature; 2) low and high inconvenience contexts are considered (e.g. how easy or convenient is for the guest to save water), informed by the low-cost hypothesis; and 3) the effect of giving or not real-time feedback during showers through a smart water-saving device. In addition, this smart device allows assessing the effect of the persuasive messages on water consumption by continuously measuring and storing data like water runtime, flow interruption, motion detection (e.g. time gap between the tap is opened and the individual enters the shower), temperature and humidity.
This research contributes to a better understanding of pro-environmental behaviour and to the largely unexplored field of how to better communicate sustainability, within and beyond tourism, with a consumer focus approach. The emphasis on hedonic contexts is unusual as most research on pro-environmental behaviour have been conducted in home environments. The use of covert field experiments and a smart water-saving device contribute methodologically to knowledge in the hospitality/tourism literature about hotel guests’ shower behaviour (i.e. litres of water used per shower, length of showers and time of the day, among others). This research clarifies the role of inconvenience on attitudinal factors, which may contribute to broader behavioural change theories. Moreover, the research contributes to the behavioural dimension of sustainable tourism, informing theoretically the way hotel guests respond to persuasive communication and the way to elicit behaviour change. For the hospitality industry, this research can help to reduce the shower water and energy consumption (it is expected an 11-23% reduction, in line with previous studies) and the carbon emissions linked. The demonstration effect from the industry partners means that others will follow suit. Hence this project can have a high impact, high scalability and high transferability. Lastly, the research can contribute to strengthening the business case for sustainability engagement and, therefore, to advance the sustainability agenda, specifically the Sustainable Development Goals 6, 7, 12 and 13.
University roles and responsibilities
- Digital Lab Assistant
I have an extensive background in international hospitality management, an industry where I have worked for more than 13 years in 4 different countries after earning a Bachelor’s degree (Hons) in Hotel Business Management. My career has included various management positions, which allow me to know closely the issues the industry faces and a strong understanding of its operations and impacts in different cultures.
During one of my roles as Restaurant Manager, I got passionate about the impacts on the environment that our food choices may have. Thus willing to learn more I earned a PGDip in Nutrition and Dietetics, focusing my dissertation on the positive impacts of growing and consuming organic food.
My passion for sustainability intensified during the next years, leading me to research how to improve hotel and restaurant operations to minimise negative impacts and maximise the positive ones. It headed me to achieve an MSc in Responsible Tourism Management and other related courses such as Project Management for Sustainable Development, Global Reporting Initiative Certification or ISO 14001:2015 and 9001:2015. I am enthusiastic about on-going training and research in sustainability applied to tourism and hospitality.
After finalising the MSc, I decided to volunteer in The Gambia to share knowledge and experience how sustainability can add value to all stakeholders. During my volunteer placement at Sandele, a small ecolodge, I have undertaken various responsibilities related to cross-sector collaboration, engaging with different people from vegetable growers to local councillors, and working closely with Sandele staff, management and proprietors to build capacity. I have experienced that the true path to creating positive change requires engaging all stakeholders. By creating better places to live in, we are creating better places to be visited.
Freshwater availability is under severe pressure, exacerbating alongside the ongoing climate crisis.
Tourism accommodations use 350 litres of water per person/day, 40-250% over common households.
Showers are highly hot water-intensive behaviours, increasing energy use and carbon emissions. So,
fostering pro-environmental shower behaviour can contribute to tourism businesses’ environmental,
social and corporate governance. Real-time feedback through smart technology and persuasive
communications have been successful in pro-environmental behavioural interventions. Nonetheless,
their combination has hardly been applied in tourism. Thus, a behavioural intervention in seven tourism
accommodations from Denmark, Spain, the UK and the US was designed. The intervention combined
innovative smart technology, which provided real-time feedback to the guest, with persuasive
messages, which reflected pro-environmental values (i.e. selfless/selfish) and the level of effort
required (i.e. high/low), to encourage guests to reduce their shower duration. The 25,488 showers
measured through structured covert observations and three randomised covert field experiments
showed that shower duration was an average of 13.56% shorter (N = 1,274) when real-time feedback
was provided. When persuasive messages were added, shower duration was even shorter with the
most effective message (i.e. selfless + high) achieving a 21.27% reduction (N = 16,041) among all the
accommodations. This represents one of the most successful interventions in shower behaviour in any
setting, achieving savings of approximately US$48, 4.44 m3 of water, 0.19 MWh of energy, and 33 kg of
CO2 per room/year. This thesis contributes, methodologically, by using innovative smart technology to
measure real behaviour; and theoretically, by showing that the effect of the technology is enhanced by
appealing to individuals’ values, weighing the effort-level required, and accounting for the situational
contextual features. This thesis contributes to further strengthening the business case for sustainability