Tourism trends: globally, and in Sri Lanka 

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The purpose of this research is to investigate the challenges of leaders (lodging owners) when implementing sustainable practices in the lodging industry in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka was chosen for this research, as tourism is an emerging industry in the country, since the devastating effects of the tsunami in 2014, and the end of the civil war in 2009. Sri Lanka is relatively unspoilt by tourism and is in its starting phase of growth. Therefore, the island is in a unique situation from a sustainability approach, where it has an opportunity to develop in a way where it can avoid and learn from poor decisions and mistakes made by other countries. Other geographical locations were considered, but didn’t offer the authors this unique opportunity in relation to the aim and purpose of this research paper.
According to the literature discussed in the introduction, sustainable development is not yet the norm in the lodging industry (Ferdig, 2007; Waldman, 2006; Metcalfe & Benn, 2013) in either developed or undeveloped countries, and if it is, this is mostly focused on environmental sustainability, creating weak sustainability (Melissen et al., 2016).
Since research shows that the norms and leadership behavior of a leader play an important role in the greening of organisations and change towards sustainability (Robertson & Barling, 2013, Linnenluecke & Griffiths, 2010), the authors focus on lodging owners. Furthermore, the motivation for integrating sustainable practices within the lodging industry is often based on the manager’s perception of sustainability (Melissen et al., 2016; Glorieux-Boutonnat, 2004; Stone and Wakefield, 2000; Ayuso, 2006 cited by Prud’homme & Raymond, 2016).

Research questions

1. What are the perceived challenges of the lodging owners in implementing sustainable practices?
2. What models, theories and frameworks are applicable for identifying and analyzing the challenges of the lodging owners’ perceptions of implementing sustainable practices?


This chapter provides an overview of the theories and models used for this research. It introduces the three most prevalent themes (leadership, stakeholder management, culture) within the field of sustainable lodging, in order to provide support for the use of these theories. These were used for later data analysis. In the absence of any existing models for the purpose of for data collection in this research, two models were combined to form a applicable model, and named Sustainable Lodging Manager Maturity Model (SLM3).

The three most prevalent themes

The next three sections will elaborate on the most prevalent themes based on relevant literature on the topic of sustainable practices in the lodging industry.

Transformational leadership

Literature shows that in the field of sustainable tourism, and in the field of implementation of sustainable practices in lodgings, transformational leadership styles are found to be most effective (Mackenzie & Peters, 2014; Patiar & Wang, 2016). This section will introduce transformational leadership theory and relevant literature regarding this research.
Transformational leaders aim to improve the performance of followers and developing them to their fullest potential (Avolio, 1999; Bass & Avolio, 1990a, as cited in Northouse, 2016:191). Leaders who exhibit transformational leadership behavior motivate others to act in ways that support something greater than their own self-interests (Kuhnert, 1994, as cited in Northouse, 2016:186). The term transformational leadership was first used in the year 1973 (Downton, as cited in Northouse, 2016:186), and in this research, the influential model, based on earlier work by Burns (1978, as mentioned in Northouse, 2016:), by Bass (1985) is used. Bass (1985) describes in his transformational leadership model that this kind of leader often has a strong set of internal ideals and values. The theory describes four important factors within this kind of leadership. Idealized Influence or charisma is the emotional factor of leadership (Antonakis, 2012, as cited in Northouse, 2016:191), which describes the leader as a role model that is deeply respected by followers. Inspirational Motivation, the second factor, describes leaders who motivate others to achieve something for a greater good, and not just for their own self-interest. Intellectual Stimulation is a way a leader can support followers to be innovative and challenge their own beliefs and values. Individualized Consideration describes a leader who acts as a coach and who listens to what his or her followers need.
Current research on the topic of sustainable development in the lodging industry shows a positive connection between supportive and transformational leadership styles of lodging owners and implementation of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or sustainable development (Mackenzie & Peters, 2012, Anoop & Ying, 2016). A consultative leadership style where the hotel manager is involved, gives direction, guidance and support is positively related to CSR awareness (Mackenzie & Peters, 2012). Transformational leadership in combination with organisational commitment of the leader is positively associated with sustainable performance dimensions of hotel departments (Patiar & Wang, 2016). These dimensions include environmental (energy, water, waste and the use of local suppliers) and social indicators, such as support for the local community (Patiar &Wang, 2016). Furthermore, according to an Australian study conducted by Patiar and Mai (2009) on hotel managers, a transformational leadership style contributes to employee satisfaction, as it leads to motivating subordinates and creates high job commitment.
Related research on environmentally specific transformational leadership, in the context of climate change, shows that leaders with environmental descriptive norms demonstrate environmentally specific transformational leadership qualities, which predicts employees’ harmonious environmental passion. The findings show that the norms and leadership behavior plays an important role in the implementing sustainable initiatives (Robertson & Barling, 2013). One explanation of this relationship is that transformational leaders have a clear vision to realize success and they can inspire others to commit to their objectives (Keller, 2006, as cited in Partiar, Anoop & Ying, 2016). This means they have the potential to accomplish performances within their organisations beyond expectations (Bass, 1985; Wang et al., 2011, as cited in Partiar, Anoop & Ying, 2016).
Concluding, there are numerous publications that show the connection between a transformational style of leadership and the implementation of sustainable practices.

Stakeholder management

While there is not much published on stakeholder management within the lodging industry, there have been publications relating it to sustainable tourism. Lodging is a part of tourism and the authors have therefore chosen to use literature on the topic of stakeholder management within sustainable tourism to be able to shed light on the lodging industry as well.
A stakeholder perspective can create competing demands and colliding interests. A stakeholder perspective can create competing demands and colliding interests (Werther & Chandler, 2011). In the case of Sri Lanka this could be eg. cultural context or the struggle to create a sustainable supply chain without lowering the customer quality. A stakeholder perspective helps organizations to identify constituents in its environment that are impacted by the organization’s operations. Allowing them to prioritize among those stakeholders’ often create competing demands (Werther & Chandler, 2011).
This demonstrates the necessity of including and managing an organization’s stakeholders. As mentioned above, there is a need to involve and include stakeholders and SM in the organization’s process in order to create successful and sustainable tourism (Byrd, 2007). Furthermore, there are many examples of how tourism projects fail if no SM is present (Byrd, 2007) but also success stories when implementing SM.
Furthermore, Byrd (2007) connects SM and sustainable tourism to the decision making process. When it comes to organizational sustainability as a whole and SM it “depends not only on what the firm does but also on how it does it” (Werther & Chandler, 2011:179). Byrd (2007) raises the issue that traditionally the decision making process within tourism development is a top down process in which experts take the decisions (McGehee, Knolleberg & Komorowski, 2015). Another issue is that the decisions that are taken are based on the business perspective and might have competing issues when it comes to stakeholder management, as mentioned above (Beierle & Konisky 2000 cited by Byrd, 2007). Hence, stakeholder management is a vital component in reassuring that organizational sustainability becomes implemented. Furthermore, without consulting and managing stakeholders there will not be any organizational sustainability.
Stakeholder participation is key in SM. There can be both formal (active) and informal (passive) stakeholder participation (Byrd, 2007). In the context of sustainable tourism within a developing country, there is need for not just stakeholders participation, but also stakeholder empowerment them (Teare, Bandara & Jayawardena, 2013). According to Carmin, Darnall, Mil-Homens, 2003, as cited by Byrd, 2007 different “Approaches to stakeholder participation that empower stakeholders to make decisions are regarded as more inclusive forms of stakeholder involvement”.
In Sri Lanka’s case, the government aims to use participatory SM in the decision-making process, thus creating sustainable tourism development through the empowerment of the local communities (Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, 2007 cited by Teare, Bandara & Jayawardena, 2013).
One successful participatory way of managing external stakeholders is through the local community. This gives the leader a participatory way of SM, thus giving legitimacy and providing longevity of the business (McGehee, Knolleberg & Komorowski, 2015). Furthermore, this is giving the communities an opportunity to voice their concerns and preferences regarding sustainable tourism in relation to local culture, economy, environment and community relationships (McGehee, Knolleberg & Komorowski, 2015).
One might argue that SM is interconnected to the leader itself through the management of the internal stakeholders, such as employees. The leader should be inclusive to stakeholders’ voices, concerns and opinions. The leader should provide a reciprocal communication platform which leads to stakeholder inclusion and participation. As mentioned above, the incorporation of sustainable initiatives depends heavily on the managers’ perceptions and role. Managing the internal stakeholders is the first step in incorporating the internal sustainable practices.
Concluding, as previously mentioned, according to literature there is a connection between stakeholder management and creating sustainable tourism. Thus, proving to be a relevant theme to investigate for data analysis.


For this research, the authors have chosen the theme culture based on literature to provide insight into the contextual cultural perspective of Sri Lanka. This will strengthen the research by adding a contextual layer on the interviewees responses.
Sustainability and culture in the lodging industry is premised on the view that ST is only attainable if there is harmony, synergy and alignment between the objectives of cultural diversity and that of social equity, environmental responsibility and economic viability (Nurse, 2006). As this research is conducted in Sri Lanka and has a contextual angle, the authors will analyze the findings on a cultural theme and theories.
Culture is seen as a collective phenomenon, but it can be connected to different collectives (Hofstede, 2011). Culture in this context can be defined as the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, values, beliefs, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a member of a group in the course of generational through group and individual striving” (Hofstede, 1997, as cited in Csapo, 2012).
This research aims to investigate and understand the contextual culture of Sri Lanka from an organisation and leadership perspective. Therefore, cultural themes were selected for understanding cultural differences and to analyze the results of the research.

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Sustainable Lodging Manager Maturity Model, SLM3

The following section will elaborate on the construction of a model that was used in this research. Based on literature research, the authors concluded that no current model for the aim of this research exists, therefore the Sustainable Lodging Manager Maturity Model (SLM3) was developed. The model consists of a combination of the Sustainable Project Management Maturity Model (SPM3) (Silvius & Schipper, 2015) and the Sustainable Tourism Model (STM) (Hall, 1998, Fons, Fierro & Patiño, 2011), both based on the 3BL. Figure 1 shows the SLM3, consisting of the two established models described below.

Sustainable Project Management Maturity Model, SPM3

The first model in the SLM3 is the SPM3 (Silvius & Schipper, 2015), which has a focus on the project manager’s perceptions of sustainability in projects. The model can be found in appendix A. The SPM3 is derived from various business models (Silvius & Schipper, 2015). This model shows the project manager’s perceptions of where they are today and future aspirations regarding sustainable practices. The model can be used as a practical tool to assess and develop the integration of sustainability in projects. The aim of the model is to enable project managers and organisations to turn abstract concepts of sustainability into practical actions (Silvius & Schipper, 2015). The SPM3 measures the maturity levels of the project managers on different aspects of sustainable practices (Silvius & Schipper, 2015). The SPM3 uses four states of maturity, which are compliant, reactive, proactive and purpose. For the SLM3, no modifications regarding these states were required, since the authors decided that the original maturity measuring scales were a good fit for the purpose of this research. The authors chose SPM3, because of the similarities between the responsibilities of a project manager and a lodging owner. The SPM3 was specifically developed for sustainability practices in projects, and the aim of this particular research is to explore sustainable practices within the lodging industry. The authors therefore argue that there are enough similarities between these two, to be able to effectively use the SPM3 model for this research. Furthermore, the SPM3 reflects perceptions of project managers, and the aim of the current research is to explore perceptions of lodging owners. To the authors’ knowledge, no maturity model for sustainable lodging owners exists. The authors have therefore based the SLM3 partly on the SPM3.

Sustainable Tourism Model, STM

The second model within the SLM3 is the Sustainable Tourism Model (STM) (Hall, 1998, as cited by Fons, Fierro & Patiño, 2011). This model can be found in appendix B. The STM is based on the 3BL, but is adjusted in a way that the three aspects are more aligned with important themes within sustainable tourism. Social impact is renamed as social equity, economic impact as economic efficiency and environmental impact as preserving the environment (Hall, 1998). These three sustainability aspects were used in the final SLM3. Subcomponents of the aspects were used to create questions for the interviews. There have not been any publications that propose alternatives to this model, therefore the authors chose to merge this model in combination with the SPM3, the authors have therefore based the SLM3 partly on the STM.


The authors have chosen an exploratory and inductive research approach for this thesis, which means that the data is gathered before pre-conceptions about the outcomes of the data are made. The research questions for this paper are not based on preconceived assumptions, but are constructed in a way that the raw data can be explored and analyzed from an objective perspective. The concepts, themes and links should be able to emerge from the data through interpretations by the researchers (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, as cited in Thomas, 2006). The authors primarily conducted interviews followed by a literature review to discover themes for data analysis. The data was analyzed using themes relevant to the aim of the research, to support the interpretation of the data. The themes were introduced in the first chapter of this thesis. In the case of this research, this implies using existing theories and adapting them to the geographical, cultural and organizational context of sustainable lodgings in Sri Lanka.

Ontology and epistemology

Ontology is a representation of how the researchers view reality (6 & Bellamy, 2012). Epistemology focuses on how knowledge for the research is gained. There are two general ways of looking at reality. Realism means that the truth can be measured objectively, and relativism means that the gathered data will be subjective. The authors’ ontology and epistemology are founded on relativism, as the authors gather data using semi-structured interviews, that measure lodging managers’ perspectives, which is subjective data. The personal perception of ontology and epistemology of the authors will play a role within the research. For example, the perspectives taken by the researchers were anchored in a Master’s program with a focus on organizational and leadership theories, and these preconceived notions shaped the design of this research.

The research design

The research design is based on a qualitative research approach, which strives to understand why things are as they are. One of the most common ways of collecting empirical data in qualitative research is by conducting interviews (Bryman, 2015). Furthermore, Bryman (2015) defines three major types of interviewing techniques; unstructured, semi-structured and structured. The usage of semi-structured in-depth interviews with open-ended questions gives the opportunity for exploration and elaboration for further comprehension of the subject (Creswell, 2003, 2007). In-depth interviews can also provide the study with vital insight in understanding the context through monitoring the interviewees behavior (Silverman, 2011). The qualitative research method emphasises that merely analysing numbers and statistics cannot be used to understand everything.
To answer the research questions, a case study in Sri Lanka, using semi-structured interviews, was chosen as the most appropriate research design. The aim was to be able to explore lodging owner’s perceptions and be able to dig deeper into relevant topics while conducting the interviews. As the research is focusing on the leader and the challenges that they face, the optimal way to illustrate this is to research lodging owners’ perceptions. By measuring perceptions and not simply looking at the current situation from an objective perspective, the authors are able to find out more in-depth information. Thus, understanding why thing are as they are and why certain challenges are present. This is in line with the authors’ aim and purpose of this research. Furthermore, it takes several years to research the outcome of a sustainable initiative and its impact. The authors therefore focused on lodging owners’ perceptions, as time and resources were limited to be able to measure long term impact as well.
Sri Lanka was chosen for the case study as tourism is an emerging industry in the country since the devastating effects of the tsunami and the civil war ended. Sri Lanka is relatively unspoilt by tourism and is in its infant stages of growth. Therefore, the island is in a unique situation from a sustainability approach, where it has an opportunity to develop in a way where it can avoid and learn from poor decisions made by other countries. Other geographical locations were considered, but didn’t offer the authors this unique opportunity in relation to the aim and purpose of this research paper.
Furthermore, since the chosen ontology and epistemology was relativism, and the chosen method to explore the research questions was semi-structured interviews, the authors decided that an on-site case study would be the best fit. Conducting the research from another location would limit the authors with for example conducting interviews, where digital communication would remove much of the personal and contextual approach and non-verbal communication that the authors wanted to experience. Personal conversations provide more in-depth analysis compared to digital communication..

Table of contents :

1.1. Background
1.1.1. Geographical context
1.1.2. Tourism trends: globally, and in Sri Lanka
1.1.3. Effects of increased tourism
1.1.4. Sustainability in the lodging industry
1.1.5. Recurring themes within sustainable tourism in the lodging industry
1.2. Problem formulation
1.3. Structure of the thesis
2.1. Purpose
2.2. Research questions
3.1. The three most prevalent themes
3.1.1. Transformational leadership
3.1.2. Stakeholder management
3.1.3. Culture
3.2. Sustainable Lodging Manager Maturity Model, SLM3
3.2.1. Sustainable Project Management Maturity Model, SPM3
3.2.2. Sustainable Tourism Model, STM
4.1. Ontology and epistemology
4.2. The research design
5.1. Primary data collection
5.1.1. Sampling design
5.1.2. Semi-structured interviews
5.1.3. SLM3
5.2. Data analysis
5.2.1. Transformational leadership
5.2.2. Stakeholder management
5.2.3. Culture
5.3. Validity and reliability
5.3.1. Semi-structured interviews
5.3.2. Data analysis
5.4. Limitations
5.4.1. Externally imposed limitations
5.4.2. Delimitations
5.5. Ethical considerations
5.5.1. Ethics and the semi-structured interviews
6.1. General sample data
6.1.1. General information of lodgings (sample data) extracted from interviews
6.1.2. SLM3 results overview
6.2. Transformational leadership
6.2.1. The theory, the four factors and method
6.2.2. Idealized Influence or Charisma
6.2.3. Inspirational Motivation
6.2.4. Intellectual Stimulation
6.2.5. Individual Consideration
6.2.6. General summary
6.3. Stakeholder management
6.3.1. The model, the three levels and the method
6.3.2. Organizational stakeholders (internal)
6.3.3. Economical stakeholders (external)
6.3.4. Societal stakeholders (external)
6.3.5. General summary
6.4. Culture
6.4.1. Theory, categories and method
6.4.2. Power distance
6.4.3. Individualism versus Collectivism
6.4.4. Femininity versus Masculinity
6.4.5. Long term orientation
6.4.6. General summary
6.5. The SLM3
7.1. Research question one
7.1.1. Thematic connections
7.2. Research question two
8.1. Concluding remarks
8.2. Contributions
8.2.1. Contributions to theory
8.2.2. Contributions to practice
8.2.3. Contributions to research
8.3. Further research
8.3.1. Conceptual framework
8.3.2. Future research in general
8.4. Conflict of interest


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