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If you are an owner or manager of a hotel, sustainability is now your number one business risk factor. Many forces are going to combine to drive up hotel ownership costs in the next three years. Besides the usual inflation type expenses, energy and employees, the big ones are going to be global warming taxation and new green building codes. Global warming has been a disputed topic of discussion for decades, championed by most scientists, a few public figures, celebrities, environmental evangelists, and a few progressive companies. Unfortunately, global warming never made it onto the radar screen of hotel owners even though their customers have been telling them in survey after survey for the last five years they want to stay at environmentally friendly places.
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.—Atlantic City sees “green” in more than just money these days. Since 2008, the Atlantic City Convention and Visitor’s Authority (ACCVA) has been overseeing environmentally friendly initiatives that have made the area one of the “greenest” meeting destinations in the United States. ACCVA is a member of the ASAE Convene Green Alliance (CGA), a partnership that allows the organization to learn about and share its experiences on how to lessen its environmental impact. “Atlantic City was an early industry partner of CGA, a community of nearly 1,000 association meeting professionals and hospitality partners,” says Kristin Clarke, Convene Green coordinator. “Its commitment to sustainability and social giveback is authentic, and our members know that.”
In the summer of 2011, after many years of smaller, hotel specific efforts to improve our purchases, Saunders Hotel Group officially launched its Sustainable Purchasing Policy (SPP) company-wide. It was comprehensive, it was detailed, it was specific while remaining widely applicable, and by the fall of 2011 it was most likely out of date. In broad terms, our SPP is designed to assist purchasing managers to select better products. We fully understand that what is better today may be standard (hopefully) tomorrow. Therefore the SPP will continually evolve. As it stands now, the SPP provides excellent support and information on a variety of goods and services. However, hotel managers won’t leaf through a thick stack detailing the policy at every purchase.
Hotels have come a long way in embracing sustainability over the last decade, and for good reason. Evidence shows companies focused on sustainability outperform their peers. In the first quarter of Travelocity’s green hotel website, bookings for green hotels were 65 percent higher than for their non-green counterparts. Apart from competitive edge, operators cite financial benefit, guest satisfaction, brand enhancement, and staff retention and productivity as benefits of green hotel operation. The term “green hotel” has also evolved. Originally the term was a “catch all” for properties with almost any innovation that reduced water, waste, energy or chemicals, while saving money. But that bar has risen rapidly. No longer considered innovations, a green hotel is expected to do all the above.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we all have some contemplation ahead of us regarding the value of power continuity and what it means for long-term business success. For lodging in particular, power continuity must be viewed as an increasingly strategic consideration, given the critical role lodging plays in providing shelter during an extended outage. And it is not just those in traditional hurricane corridors like the Gulf and Southern Atlantic coastlines who must plan for power continuity in the event of extreme weather; hurricane strike zones have extended almost up to Maine, and heat waves, droughts and ice storms can also be expected to disrupt power supply regardless of geographic location.
As the lodging industry continues to lose sleep over the bed bug epidemic, it’s more important than ever to maintain effective, proactive pest management practices at your hotel. Unfortunately, many facilities have turned to improper techniques in their efforts to fight bed bugs—with serious consequences for their guests and the environment. In November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) issued a health advisory to alert the public to the dangers of improperly applying pesticides for bed bug control. According to the advisory, over the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of incidents reported of people misusing pesticides to treat bed bug infestations. Several facilities have illegally sprayed outdoor pesticides indoors.
Meeting planners and attendees today are looking for more than just a nice hotel in a hip city to have their meetings. Green meetings—events and conferences organized with a lens toward reducing environmental harm—have become much more common, although the levels of “greenness” vary widely. Now groups are embracing “green” in a broader sense, one that includes social responsibility, by seeking ways to give back to the communities they are visiting. The hospitality industry is all about serving the needs of others. Therefore, it makes sense that meetings destinations and venues partner with local nonprofits to offer community service opportunities. At many hotels, employees have taken the lead to give back, volunteering both time and money to organizations that improve the environment and lives of people.
“I turned on the water in the shower and waited for 10 minutes. Warm water finally started flowing, however it never lasted more than a minute and alternated mostly with cool to cold water.” That’s the exact quote extracted from an online review of a guest who rated a hotel in Pennsylvania on Tripadvisor.com. The reviewer gave the hotel a rating of two out of a possible five. The site is full of similar comments from guests complaining about how long it took them to get hot water when they wanted to take a shower or wash their hands. In the hospitality industry, when a guest turns on the hot water in their room, most wait patiently for the water to run a while to the proper temperature. Guests do not like to wait too long for their hot water according to the International Hospitality Association.
As a result of cost savings and consumer demand, the hotel industry has jumped on the green and sustainability bandwagon. Rarely do you find a hotel that still uses incandescent light bulbs, does not have some type of policy limiting how often sheets and towels are washed, or has not installed aerators or low-flow systems in faucets and showerheads. These actions not only help promote sustainability, they help improve the bottom line as well. As to consumer demand, studies continue to indicate hotel guests prefer green and sustainable hotels. Many corporations looking for lodging for their staff now make this a requirement. Recognizing this, some major hotel chains have gone as far as to have all of their properties LEED certified or to have opened entirely new properties with hypoallergenic guestrooms.
America is in the middle of a wake-up call when it comes to water usage and costs—an issue that has long-term implications for hotel properties. This past summer saw the worst drought on record in the United States since the 1950s. And this wasn’t only in California, Nevada, or Arizona, states that have often been plagued with water shortages. No, these record-breaking droughts occurred in large sections of the Midwest. In the past these areas have occasionally experienced dry years, but they rarely suffer official droughts. In fact, 60 percent of the United States was actually labeled a drought area at one time or another during the summer months of 2012. Some water experts fear that the United States may soon return to the conditions of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, when there was severe drought and dust storms.
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