Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sustainability's Role in Defining 'Boutique,' 'Lifestyle'

Earlier this month, the Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association (BLLA) announced plans to develop a universal standard and criteria for defining boutique and lifestyle lodgings. I spoke with Frances Kiradjian, founder and chair of the organization, to learn whether or not a lodging's commitment to sustainability would be a criterion in determining whether or not it is considered a boutique or lifestyle lodging. Kiradjian told me that she was not yet ready to make a commitment that it would be required but she said, "My inclination is that yes, it will make it."

Kiradjian said BLLA's goal is to have its definition of boutique and lifestyle lodgings complete by the beginning of 2011. BLLA is surveying hoteliers, consumers and others in order to develop its criteria. The BLLA Advisory Board will make the final decision on the definition.

In the press release distributed about the new standard, BLLA did not mention that it is also developing a certification program for boutique and lifestyle properties. Within the certification program, Kiradjian said, there will be questions that address a property's green programs. Watch for more details at www.greenlodgingnews.com.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kentucky, Arkansas Step Up Green Tourism Efforts

The list of states with green lodging certification programs and/or green-oriented travel sites just keeps getting longer. The Bed & Breakfast Association of Kentucky recently launched its Green Lodging Certification Program and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism just launched its www.greentravelarkansas.com website. According to my count, there are now 29 states, two cities and one region that have some form of green lodging program or green travel website. (Click here for list.)

The Arkansas site lists green properties but there is no certification program yet in that state. Hotels and inns, to be listed, must follow some of the guidelines described by the American Hotel & Lodging Association in its Green Resource Center. Participants in the Bed & Breakfast Association of Kentucky's program are required to have an on-site audit and must report on their progress annually. "A third-party audit gives a level of credibility that self-certification cannot achieve," said Todd Allen, the Bed & Breakfast Association of Kentucky's Green Lodging Certification Committee Chairperson.

While the Arkansas site certainly lacks teeth when it comes to criteria for lodging inclusion, it is good to see the state beginning to emphasize the importance of sustainable travel. It is even better to see Kentucky launch a program with strict guidelines for participation.

If your property is in a state that currently has no green lodging certification program or does not promote itself as a green destination, don't you think it is time to lobby for change? Contact the leaders of your state hotel and lodging association and tourism office and ask why your state is being left behind.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hotel Plants Trees for a Job Well Done

When one or a group of your employees excel at something or reach a goal, how do you reward them? As part of the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego's Roots Rock initiative, staff who achieve high customer service survey scores have trees planted in their honor. This is according to an article posted on the San Diego News room website. Since the beginning of the program, 200 trees have been planted as part of the American Forests' Global ReLeaf program. It is not the first time the Hard Rock Hotel has joined up with Global ReLeaf. During Earth Day this spring, the hotel planted a tree for every guest.

According to the article, the tree planting program is just one of the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego's green initiatives. The property also recycles bottles and cans as well as kitchen grease and actively seeks out produce and fish from local vendors. The hotel also has a towel/linen reuse program, motion detectors to turn off lights, and the hotel's company car is a Toyota Prius.

I am sure your employees would first appreciate financial compensation for a job well done. In addition to that, however, having trees planted in their name is a great idea. The American Forests' Global ReLeaf program is just one program to consider. The Arbor Day Foundation is another great organization. They will even send you trees to plant. In what ways are you rewarding your employees and helping the environment at the same time? I would love to read your thoughts.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

First LEED Gold Hotel to Become Doubletree

According to two newspaper reports, The Gaia Napa Valley Hotel & Spa, the United States' first LEED Gold hotel, will become a Doubletree hotel by the end of the year. The current owner of the hotel in American Canyon, Calif., is Butterfly Effect Hotels LLC. The transition to a branded hotel is an interesting turn of events for the property that was the vision of Wen-I Chang, who also launched the Gaia at Anderson hotel in Anderson, Calif. I had an opportunity to speak with Wen a number of times several years ago and he always emphasized how happy he was not to have a connection to a brand. As the economy changes, so too can attitudes toward branding.

According to a report in the Napa Valley Register, the ownership group is expected to raise rates at the 132-room hotel by $15 to $20 a night. The hotel is currently running a 65 percent occupancy. The hotel, managed by Marin Management Inc. of Sausalito, Calif., will maintain its green features during the transition. The hotel has a solar photovoltaic system on its roof and includes touches such as chemical-free landscaping, 100 percent recycled tile, a guest van that uses alternative fuel, waterless urinals, and plates on guestroom doors that include the name of a wild animal, bird or flower. Inside the lobby is a real-time display of how much energy the hotel is using and saving.

Frank Huang, a partner in Butterfly Effect Hotels, expects the Doubletree branding to bring in 25 percent more business.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Faraway Inn's Recycling Helps Felines

I often hear from hoteliers and innkeepers about their recycling efforts. I recently wrote about the W San Francisco and its almost 80 percent waste diversion rate. I have reported about many other interesting projects, including composting and even holding an e-waste recycling day (the Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, N.C. did this). In the past week I heard from Doreen and Oliver Bauer at the Faraway Inn in Cedar Key, Fla., about their unique recycling initiative.

The Bauers are offering their inn as a collection point for spent inkjet cartridges, used cell phones and ipods, digital cameras and laptops. They mail the items to a company that properly recycles or disposes of them. In exchange for sending in the items, the inn receives a check made out to their favorite nonprofit organization. "To date, we have received $150 back for mailing in trash," the couple says.

The Humane Society of Inverness is the recipient of the money. The organization helps to neuter/spay feral cats. The Bauers kick in additional volunteer time to help the nonprofit. "Our island cats are spayed/neutered/vaccinated and given a clean bill of health before being released back into their environment to live out their lives kitten free," the Bauers said.

No matter the size of your property--the Faraway Inn has just five employees--you can still make a difference in your community and reduce the flow of waste to landfills. You can write to the Bauers at info@farawayinn.com to learn more about their efforts.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Electronic Publishing is Risky Business

When I started my career in trade publishing, things were much simpler. There was no Internet, no e-mail, and computers had a little more memory than a calculator (it at least seemed that way). While working for Hotel & Motel Management magazine, I was part of an effort to produce a print publication approximately twice a month. Things occasionally did go wrong but usually errors were minor. If you did not catch a mistake before the publication was printed, it was too late.

In today's world of electronic publishing, where everything is constantly "live" and can be updated or changed easily, it is easier to correct mistakes. However, the electronic world presents its own challenges as well and any travel-related business dipping its toes into electronic publishing needs to be careful.

As most of you know, I produce an electronic newsletter each week. I recently redesigned the newsletter along with the Green Lodging News website. As part of this transition, I began to work with a new company that distributes electronic newsletters. Everything went fine the first couple of weeks. Yesterday, however, I received an e-mail from the company claiming that someone on my list had been spammed with my newsletter. Turns out this person represents an organization called Spamhaus. I had never heard of Spamhaus and of course I do not intentionally spam anyone. In fact, anyone not wishing to receive my newsletter can opt out with one easy click.

Because of this one person making a spam claim, my account was shut down. I will certainly find another company to use but the lesson learned here is that no matter how clean your e-mail distribution list is, you are always vulnerable to spam claims--whether because of the efforts of a competitor, an unhappy customer or reader, or someone (a guest) who happened to forget that they signed up for your e-mail publication.

Electronic publishing is a risky world indeed. The lesson learned here? Always have a backup plan. Just one person clicking a spam button can stop you in your tracks.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Engineers--the Unsung Heroes

In gaining efficiencies in a hotel--especially a large hotel--it is often the director of engineering who has the most impact on whether or not an energy management, water or waste initiative is successful. Yet, engineers rarely get the credit they deserve. Why not? When was the last time you saw an industry association, at the national level, present an award to an engineer for reducing a property's carbon footprint?

I just had an opportunity to interview Brian Gorski, director of engineering at the Hyatt Regency in Boston. He has worked at the hotel since 1993. After 18 years at the property, Brian has a tremendous amount of knowledge about what makes the property efficient or inefficient. Thanks in part to Brian's work, the hotel was just awarded the EPA's prestigious Energy Star rating. Brian told me the hotel's electricity consumption has dropped by a whopping 42 percent since he started working there. At one time the hotel consumed 12.3 million kilowatts of electricity per year; now the property consumes just 7.1 million kilowatts annually.

There are many things that have contributed to the plunge in power consumption: training, investments in new lighting, a guestroom energy management system, motion detectors for lighting, variable frequency drives, new heating and cooling systems, and much more. Brian has helped lead the effort to update heating, cooling and other equipment that has seen its better days. The hotel's owners have spent about $3 million on updates over the last 10 to 12 years.

Behind the scenes of our nation's largest hotels, engineers like Brian are having a huge positive impact on reducing our industry's environmental footprint. If someone like Brian works in your hotel, be sure to give that person the credit and recognition he or she deserves.