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Hospitality is not just about offering a place to sleep. It comprises the entire experience of travel, from transportation to lodging, dining, shopping and entertainment. Leaders in hospitality recognize a guest’s experience begins when planning their trip, before a single reservation is booked. This is the ideal time to start making an impact on their traveling decisions, and sustainability can and should be a core part of the message to guests. At Paladino, we approach our work in sustainability through an abundance lens. We first evaluate the abundance of resources and opportunities within an environment or situation to determine the prospect for change and then center a sustainability strategy around these opportunities.
Ecotourism began in the 1980s as people developed an awareness of the cultural impact of globalization, tourism, and political conflict in places such as El Salvador and Colombia. Over time, this trend began permeating the way people think and their responsibilities in everyday life. Now is a great time to reevaluate our values as property owners—especially as the manager of a large lodging property such as a hotel or resort. The immediate need for water conservation is starkly apparent, these days, in many areas around the country. In Boise, Idaho, for example, the snowpack from the foothills and nearby mountain ranges is the lowest it’s been in years.
In January 2014, Jonathan Pickering wrote in this column about Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, as a way for hotels and resorts (and other commercial and, in some cases, residential properties) to obtain innovative financing. Unfortunately, it does not appear that the hospitality industry in general has been (excuse the pun) keeping PACE with the program. PACE is now enabled in 31 states and the District of Columbia, and provides for the financing of energy efficiency improvements, water conservation projects, renewable energy installations and upgrades, and—in Florida, where we live, work, and play—for wind resistance projects (hurricane hardening, for example).
Sustainability isn’t always what springs to mind when one envisions luxury lodging accommodations. It’s true that the two haven’t always gone hand in hand: for some, sustainability paints a stark picture of austerity, while luxury tends to bring to mind lavish extravagance. Thankfully, that paradigm is shifting. Today, travelers increasingly see sustainable and responsible design as a strong selling point when looking for hotel accommodations; a 2013 Travel Guard survey of travel agents proclaimed that “green travel is here to stay,” finding “24 percent of those who responded noted that interest in green travel is currently the highest it’s ever been in the last 10 years, and 51 percent reported that interest has remained constant throughout this time period.”
One glance around a hotel lobby and the trained eye can see many opportunities for flexible and rigid polymeric materials necessary for efficient, effective and safe construction. It would seem that Cliff Goldman, author of the guest column in January entitled, “A Hotel Industry Future Without Vinyl Products,” would have these potential opportunities exclude vinyl as an option, for reasons he may not fully understand. Most professional designers and engineers know the benefits of flexible vinyl, including its inherent flame retardant advantages, UV resistance, stain and scratch resistance and low VOC properties, not to mention recyclability. These characteristics all fare very well when compared to other polymeric materials.
The first hands-free, motion-sensing electronic faucets were installed in airports in the 1950s. Over the decades, they have made their way into more commercial locations such as hotel properties, and today they are the fixture of choice in many facilities. There is a good reason for this. Faucet handles specifically can be a hotbed of germs and bacteria. According to one study by the Hygiene Council, which does ongoing evaluations to monitor infection threats, 60 percent of faucets and faucet handles fail tests of basic hygiene standards and criteria due to heavily concentrated levels of bacteria, often from feces. Another study by the council found more than 6,000 bacteria per square inch in an examination of 35 bathroom faucet handles. Toilet seats, in comparison, were found to have 295 bacteria per square inch.
If you had to stay in a hotel room with an unpleasant smell, poor air circulation or loud noises from the air-conditioning unit, you would likely want to change rooms. You might even vow to avoid the hotel or add negative feedback to a review site to warn other travelers. Today, it’s easier than ever for hotel guests to share details of their unpleasant experiences on the Internet using social media. Negative reviews can be extremely damaging to a hotel’s reputation and the bottom line. A successful hotel operation will ensure that service and customer satisfaction are at the forefront to keep negative experiences from ever occurring. One way to keep guests happy is through proper maintenance of air-conditioning (A/C) units, which can cause unpleasant odors.
As the hospitality industry continues to incorporate responsible and sustainable practices, facility management programs can find a surprising ally to help navigate some of the new challenges and requirements—your pest management professional. Energy management, water conservation, lighting, waste management, recycling, air quality, LEED compliance—today’s hospitality management has much more to consider to be successful than in days past. Pest and vermin control have always been part of providing a great environment for your guests; but many businesses don’t realize that a qualified pest management professional (PMP) can also help provide support in areas such as sustainability, green programs and LEED.
Prior to the economic collapse of 2008, environmental sustainability was gaining momentum within the hospitality and development industries of the United States. As these industries struggled to regain lost ground, sustainability took a back seat. To fully understand why this occurred and how to shape the future of sustainability in industry, we must consider culture in addition to economy. The definition of sustainability according to Webster’s: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. It is an outdated notion that we can build without regard to the impact of the environment and the community. If we look at the world from a global perspective, how do we ensure that we are not depleting the resources?
If your hotel advertised that it is so green that it no longer uses cleaning chemicals at all to clean guestrooms, do you think potential guests would make reservations years in advance? Not care if cleaning chemicals, green or otherwise, are used or not? Not even consider making a reservation in your hotel property? If your answer is the last—not even consider making a reservation in your hotel—you are probably not alone. The concept of chemical free cleaning, as it is called, is still very new; however, don’t be surprised if it becomes more and more common and prevalent in years to come. So, what is chemical free cleaning? It can have slightly different meanings depending on who is defining it. But, it essentially refers to cleaning methods, procedures, or systems that leave surfaces looking clean as well as removing or eliminating germs and bacteria.
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