Reliability and Availability Guide Rural Hospitality Industry Energy Decisions

New research uncovers attitudes about energy preferences in the rural lodging and foodservice industries


Washington, D.C. (June 11, 2004) —Reliability and availability are the key attributes that architects, builders, and hotel operators look for in an energy source for rural accommodations, according to a recent study by Wirthlin Worldwide, a Reston, VA-based market research firm.  Wirthlin researchers surveyed 108 representatives of the travel accommodations industry who conduct business in rural communities in the U.S. to determine who makes energy decisions, how and when these decisions are made, and who and what affects the decision-making process. 

The hospitality industry—which depends on consistent energy to ensure customer satisfaction—routinely weighs certain factors when deciding how best to power air conditioning, laundry, cooking, lighting, and other equipment within their facilities.  Choosing an energy source is especially critical these days as the U.S. grapples with power grid failures and concerns about using economically and environmentally viable energy.

When researchers provided a list of eight factors—trustworthiness, reliability, efficiency, cost, availability, ease of use, safety—respondents said reliability and availability were the most important to them when choosing an energy source.  Cost is also a consideration, but concerns about price can be overcome when the value-based aspects of reliability, efficiency, and availability are considered, according to the study.

The propane industry commissioned the study as part of its continuing effort to monitor energy use trends in the hospitality industry.  “It behooves us to open a dialogue with current and potential customers,” said Roy Willis, president of the Propane Education & Research Council.  “The more informed we are about their business needs, the better we can service them and propose efficient, innovative energy solutions, such as propane-powered fuel cells and generators.”

Some key findings…

  • Energy marketers and providers have much influence when it comes to affecting the decision-making process.
  • Sixty-four (64) percent of respondents said that propane—compared to electricity (30 percent)—offers businesses the best value, in terms of price and efficiency, to heat buildings, produce hot water, and cook with.
  • About three-fourths (76 percent) of respondents use propane as a fuel source in some application—most frequently for cooking (52 percent), space heating (41 percent), and water heating (46 percent). 
  • According to the survey, nine in 10 accommodations respondents say they have much influence in determining energy sources used in their properties, while about seven in 10 architects and builders claim that much influence with their clients.
  • Propane is the most common energy source for heating water (46 percent), with electricity a close second (43 percent), and natural gas third (25 percent). 
  • Electricity is the most popular energy choice for operating clothes dryers (44 percent).  Propane is second with 21 percent, perhaps because decision-makers may be less aware of the value that propane adds by providing hotter air during the clothes drying process.
  • Energy decisions, say respondents, are typically made at the beginning of the project (30%), during the design stage (36%), or at the blueprint stage (26%).
  • In western states, availability is significantly more likely to be named as an important quality of an energy source.  Conversely, in the Midwest, cost is an important factor.

For more information about this research, contact Bill Dalbec, senior research executive at Wirthlin Worldwide, at (703) 480-1900.  For more information about propane and propane-powered appliances, visit or