By: Anna Majavu
New research has found that hospitality SMMEs are philanthropic and also play a key role in stimulating local economies by encouraging their customers to buy locally made foods, crafts and souvenirs. This “promoted civic attitudes” among customers and also cemented good relationships between small guesthouses and local suppliers. These good relationships, in turn, helped the businesses save money because they did not have to keep large stocks of fresh food which were reliably available, and could focus on their main job – to accommodate guests.
Even the tiniest, survivalist tourism and hospitality establishments practiced corporate social responsibility (CSR), found researchers Nerissa Stevens-King and Felix Bello, both of the Department of Marketing Management at the University of Pretoria. Bello and Stevens-King interviewed 102 tourism SMMEs, mostly guesthouses and self-catering establishments, from across the country for their study: “Drivers and barriers of corporate social responsibility engagement within small, medium and micro hospitality enterprises: The case of the hospitality sector in South Africa”, was published recently by the Journal of Tourism and Development.
While some SMMEs practiced CSR to “improve their marketing and image” or to meet the requirements of tour operators, they worked with, many did it “to improve our society” and “to protect our environment”, the research found. “The hospitality SMMEs also contribute to social responsibility by promoting gender equality in the employment practise and encouraging respect for culture and language,” found Bello and Stevens-King. “As organisations cannot operate in isolation, they require the support from other stakeholders, such as employees to offer services to the customers; or relying on local suppliers for outsourced services, and in turn, maintain the growth of the tourism sector”.
Supporting local community events and local education and job programmes, recycling their waste, and campaigning for social change were just some of the ways that the SMMEs practised CSR, along with encouraging staff ownership of shares in their businesses. The researchers found that hospitality SMMEs had very little spare money available for CSR, and “lack the financial means to be more economically and socially responsible”. However, owners and managers also did not consider a lack of funds to be a major obstacle preventing them from practising CSR.
The research also found that even small tourism establishments with only 10 employees strived to “promote a healthy and safe working environment for their employees and consider their economic responsibility towards staff salaries to be above industry average”. The researchers said SMMEs could extend the amount of CSR they practiced if they worked collectively and set up a CSR Council for all hospitality SMMEs.