Research Confirms Market Potential for Propane in Hospitality Industry

Survey demystifies energy decision-making process and reveals hospitality industry attitudes about fuel source selection


March 18, 2004

Propane has strong market potential in the rural hospitality industry, according to a new study by Wirthlin Worldwide, a Reston, VA-based market research firm.  Three-fourths (76 percent) of respondents already use propane as a fuel source in some capacity: more than half (52 percent) use propane for cooking, and propane is the most common energy source for heating water (46 percent).  And, based on survey interviews, current propane users have positive perceptions of the fuel, giving marketers greater opportunities to sell them additional propane applications.

The hospitality industry depends on reliable energy to ensure customer satisfaction.  And if there is an electric grid failure, propane has a significant competitive advantage.  Wirthlin’s research provides valuable information to help propane marketers better understand the hospitality market and identify the best approach to court decision-makers.  In particular, the research addresses the following questions:

  • Who is the true energy decision-maker?
  • When and how are these decisions made?
  • Who will these decision-makers consult or take advice from with respect to energy choice?
  • Why do some current propane users only use propane for one application (versus multiple applications)?
  • What product attribute messages resonate most strongly with the target audiences?
  • Are there greater gains to be made from targeting current users (versus non-users)?

According to the survey, nine in ten (90 percent) accommodations respondents say they have much influence in determining energy sources used in their properties, and about seven in 10 architects and builders claim that much influence with their clients.  These energy decisions, say respondents, are typically made at the beginning of the project (30 percent), during the design stage (36 percent), or at the blueprint stage (26 percent).

Given the choice of several attributes—trustworthiness, reliability, efficiency, cost, availability, ease of use, safety—respondents rated reliability and availability as the two most important to them when considering an energy source.  And the largest percentage (44 percent) said they consider information from energy providers and marketers the most integral to their energy selections.

Those who currently use propane for multiple applications cite availability as a critical factor.  For many applications, the desire for gas—and lack of access to natural gas—leads proprietors to use propane.  For others, propane is simply the better energy source to use for a particular application.  Respondents were also attracted to propane because of its environmental benefits as a clean fuel.

The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) commissioned the study to gauge the rural hospitality industry’s attitudes about propane when compared to other fuels and to qualify the potential for propane market growth within this segment.

“It is important to note,” concludes Bill Dalbec, senior research executive at Wirthlin Worldwide, “that our experience in contacting and interviewing these decision-makers suggests that they are easily approachable and willing to discuss energy issues.  Therefore, it would behoove propane marketers to establish relationships with these decision-makers and get involved early in the building process.”

Wirthlin surveyed 108 architects/designers, builders/contractors, consultants, and proprietors in the hospitality industry last fall.

To obtain a copy of the “2003 Rural Accommodations Survey Research” report, click here  or contact Bill Dalbec at Wirthlin Worldwide.