Friday, October 31, 2008

Atlantic City Convention Center's Sunny Day

Thursday, November 6 will be a historic day at the Atlantic City (N.J.) Convention Center. The first section of a large array of photovoltaic solar panels will be installed on the center's rooftop. When completed at the end of 2008, this will be the largest single-roof solar power array installation in the United States. The solar power system will be comprised of approximately 13,321 modules/panels and is part of a 20-year power purchase agreement with Pepco Energy Services of Arlington, Va.

This 2.36-megawatt rooftop solar power system will cover two-thirds of the main roof of the convention center or about 290,000 square feet. The generation of renewable energy from the Atlantic City Convention Center solar project will avoid release of 2,349 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.

The solar panel project is one of a series of green initiatives at the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority (ACCVA). The ACCVA is a founding member of the Convene Green Alliance, a grass-roots, industry initiative spearheaded by several associations that seek to affect positive environmental practices through national, regional and local outreach and education. The ACCVA is also planning a wind turbine at the Atlantic City Convention Center as part of their ongoing green initiatives.

Here's hoping for a sunny day in Atlantic City on November 6—and for many days to come.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bad Bad Bedbugs Everywhere

Seems like everywhere I turn these days I run across something having to do with bedbugs. In recent days I have learned about numerous companies that offer natural remedies for bedbug infestations. (No, heavy metal music is not one of the remedies being offered; it just gets them fired up and chases away every other guest in your hotel.) Seriously, I really should not joke about bedbugs; they are no laughing matter. Just two weeks ago, The Daily Times in Farmington, N.M., reported that the owner of a Days Inn was spending $63,000 to get rid of the little critters. "We are replacing everything," said Rez Chowdhury, who owns the bedbug-infested structure. (See article.)

I will be writing about natural bedbug solutions soon. Be sure to watch for the article that will include everything from bug-sniffing canines, to heat treatments, to tiny sensors, to natural oils. When I go to sleep tonight, I will try not think about the fact that female bedbugs can lay up to 500 eggs in a lifetime. The size of the eggs? A speck of dust. Yikes!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rosen Hotels Adds Green Meetings Website

Rosen Hotels & Resorts of Orlando has launched a website aimed at providing information on hosting eco-friendly meetings. The site,, is designed to help meeting planners reduce the environmental impact of large meetings and conventions. Information includes 10 tips for holding greener meetings, web links for more about going green, and green-meeting information from Rosen Hotels. Rosen’s three convention properties—Rosen Plaza, Rosen Centre and Rosen Shingle Creek—are all recognized under the Florida Green Lodging Program, an initiative launched in 2004 to designate properties taking steps to conserve natural resources.

While Rosen's site is a little light from a content perspective, and could use a little proofing, it is a concept other hotel groups may want to consider as an increasing number of corporations demand green meeting space.

Friday, October 24, 2008

More Travelers Preferring Smoke-Free Hotels

J.D. Power and Associates recently released its 2008 European Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study results. The study, now in its fourth year, examined the overall satisfaction of European hotel guests based on seven measures (in order of importance): costs and fees; guestroom; hotel facilities; food and beverage; check-in/check-out; hotel services; and reservations. Forty-five hotel brands were measured and ranked in four segments: upper upscale, upscale, mid-scale, mid-scale full service, and economy. (Click here to see study.)

What was the most interesting finding from a green lodging perspective? The number of European hotel guests who say they prefer a nonsmoking hotel environment has increased considerably during the past two years—from 69 percent in 2006 to 84 percent in 2008. Hotel guests who reside in Spain are the most likely to report a preference for nonsmoking hotel environments—with 93 percent saying they desire nonsmoking hotels—compared with residents of other European countries. According to J.D. Power's North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, which was conducted earlier this year, nearly nine of 10 U.S. travelers (89 percent) now prefer a smoke-free hotel environment. That is up from 79 percent in 2006.

With so many travelers now preferring smoke-free environments, what is stopping hotel companies from eliminating smoking altogether? Are they afraid to lose business from that tiny percentage of travelers who still like to light up in their guestrooms? What do you think?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's Blue Skies and Sunny for Platinum Proximity

Green Lodging News reported almost two weeks ago that the Proximity Hotel in Greensboro had received word that it and its Print Works Bistro had been awarded a LEED Platinum rating by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The hotel is the first in the United States to reach the Platinum level—a well earned honor and one sure to interest every type of media imaginable for months. Even prior to that announcement, the Proximity Hotel had already received media coverage in publications such as Travel & Leisure, Southern Living, Fortune, Outside, The New York Times and Travel Weekly. The hotel is appealing because it features some highly unique attributes. For example: a solar thermal system on its roof meets 60 percent of the 147-room property's water heating needs. The hotel is also led by a guy who gives a great interview: Dennis Quaintance, the CEO and CDO (Chief Design Officer) of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels, the company that owns the Proximity.

If you would like to see why the media is paying attention, turn to the Weather Channel on Tuesday, October 28 at 7 p.m. The Proximity Hotel will be featured.

Monday, October 20, 2008

More Thoughts on Hotel Certification Programs

Travel Weekly reported last week what I had known for quite some time (and mentioned in a previous blog entry)—that the American Hotel & Lodging Association had abandoned its plan to pursue a nationwide hotel-specific certification program to measure and rate the extent of a property's green programs. Joseph McInerney told Travel Weekly that getting involved in an independent certification process is too complicated and costly. The AH&LA's decision begs the question: What next?

I have heard rumblings from a couple of different organizations about starting a national certification program that would be separate from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, Green Seal, Energy Star, and all the others. I am waiting to see if they actually happen. The one thing I have not witnessed is a clamoring for another national certification program—by our industry or by consumers. What I am seeing most is efforts by individual states to set up their own programs. Maybe those types of programs will gain the most traction in the next year or two? What do you think? Does the U.S. lodging industry really need another certification program? Or, are there more pressing matters at hand?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

UF Professor Takes Pulse of Caribbean Efforts

The accommodation industry in the tourist-heavy Caribbean region has started on an environmentally conscious or “green” campaign to lessen stresses on natural resources, according to a recent University of Florida (UF) study. The study found that two-thirds of 197 hotels in 19 countries in the English-speaking Caribbean are taking steps to protect the environment, from changing linens less often to urging guests to recycle. It also found that success in environmentally-friendly reform often was pegged to a “green champion,” an individual in the workplace who pushed for green practices.

“This is a real effort by hotels at all levels to try to minimize, to reduce, to mitigate their influence on the environment,” said Mechelle Best, who completed the study for her doctoral dissertation at the College of Health and Human Performance at UF and who is currently assistant professor at California State University at Northridge.

Even if hotels did not begin comprehensive environmental programs, they still enjoyed benefits—such as reduced resource use and decreased operating costs—from the green practices that were put into place, the study also found. Environmental management or “greening” can range from a comprehensive system undertaken by a hotel, to informal practices undertaken by individuals on an as-needed basis, Best said. To read the complete article, click here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Environmentally Friendly Hotels Site Hits 3,500

One of the things I have most enjoyed about being in the hospitality industry is making new friends. I am fortunate in that I have made many new industry friends since launching Green Lodging News in July 2006. One of those, I am happy to report, is Kit Cassingham. Kit runs the highly popular website I learned today that the website just topped 3,500 hotels. If you run a green property and are not currently listed on Kit's site, get moving. The website is one of the most visited green travel sites in our industry and gets more traffic, I freely admit, than Green Lodging News.

The popular site allows a traveler to search for green places to stay by property name or location. Using the Advanced Search, one can check off green criteria to narrow one's search. Some of the criteria include: bulk soap and amenities, water conservation, guestroom recycling bins, and composting. The site makes it easy to submit new properties for consideration.

Kit's site links back to Green Lodging News. Ya gotta love that. Kit, congratulations on hitting the magic 3,500 number!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lyndall DeMarco Departs ITP

According to a report in TravelMole, Lyndall DeMarco, Executive Director at the International Tourism Partnership (ITP)—a part of the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF)—has left her job to spend more time in her home country of Australia. Green Lodging News wishes DeMarco the best. She has played an instrumental role in spreading the message of sustainability throughout the travel and tourism industry.

Said Ed Fuller, Chairman of the ITP Governing Council and Trustee of IBLF: “Lyndall is leaving at a time when ITP is flourishing. She has taken the organization from a single focused environment initiative to one that embraces every aspect of sustainable tourism. From the Green Hotelier Magazine, to the Sustainable Hotel Sitting & Design Guide and the Youth Career Initiative, Lyndall has made her mark on our industry. She has made a difference to the lives of many individuals through her personal generosity and by inspiring us as industry leaders to move social responsibility up the corporate agenda. Her leadership, enthusiasm, energy and dynamic style will be greatly missed.”

To read the complete article, click here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Chipotle Goes Green in Gurnee, Illinois

Chipotle Mexican Grill will open a green restaurant in Gurnee, Illinois with a 6-kilowatt wind turbine on-site that will generate a portion of the restaurant’s electrical needs. “The wind turbine is a symbol of our intent to design and build our restaurants more efficiently and environmentally friendly,” Steve Ells, founder, chairman and CEO of Chipotle said. “We want to incorporate some elements of sustainable design into all of our new restaurants.”

In addition to the wind turbine which will generate about 10 percent of the restaurant’s electrical power, the free-standing restaurant will feature: use of recycled drywall, recycled barn metal, and primers and paints that contain fewer chemicals; a variety of energy and water conservation elements inside the restaurant, including LED lighting, highly efficient faucets and toilets, and Energy Star rated kitchen equipment; a 2,500-gallon underground water cistern that will harvest rainwater to irrigate the landscape; native plants outside that will require less watering and fertilizer; and asphalt in the parking lot that will reflect the sun’s heat, rather than absorb it, making the entire site cooler.

Chipotle will seek LEED certification for the new restaurant, which would make it among the first LEED-certified restaurants in the country. Chipotle is a participant in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Retail pilot program. Chipotle is also seeking LEED for Retail certification for a Minnetonka, Minnesota restaurant that is part of a pre-existing building and shopping center. That restaurant will include energy efficient plumbing, lighting, and other green initiatives. Chipotle also operates two green restaurants in Austin, Texas (certified by the city of Austin).

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Energy Costs Heading in Two Directions

With the price of oil plummeting by almost 50 percent since the summer, and gasoline prices dipping below $3.00 a gallon in many areas of the country, those planning on traveling in the coming weeks will finally have some relief. But will the lower cost of oil be enough to offset the shock Americans have had to their retirement accounts? Not by a longshot. (My retirement account has lost 28 percent of its value in the last year.) The lodging industry needs to continue to brace itself for some difficult times.

Complicating things for hoteliers this winter will be rising energy costs. In its final winter fuels outlook, the U.S. Department of Energy this week projected that natural gas prices would rise 17 percent, heating oil 12 percent, electricity 5 percent and propane 9 percent. Businesses and consumers alike are getting squeezed from all directions.

If you own or operate a lodging establishment, there is no better time to take a serious look at your operations to identify where there is the most potential for energy savings. Compact fluorescent light bulbs, towel and linen reuse programs, and proper preventive maintenance are a few examples of simple things that can be done. There is so much more, however, that one can do to reduce costs. Check out the "Money-Saving Tips" and other sections of Green Lodging News for ideas. Do you have an idea to share? Add a comment to this blog posting.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Two More Element Projects Announced

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide's Element brand keeps growing and growing. Starwood recently announced an agreement with Mutual of Omaha to open an Element hotel in Omaha, Neb., in late 2010. Element Omaha Midtown Crossing will be part of a million-square-foot, mixed-use project that combines luxury condominiums and apartments with restaurants, retail and entertainment venues. Almost at the same time it was announcing its new Omaha project, Starwood announced that an Element hotel will be built in Orlando, Fla. It is also slated to open in late 2010. It will be located close to downtown, theme parks and Orlando’s business community.

ECI Investment Advisors, with offices in Chicago, Omaha and Richmond, Va., is the Omaha hotel's developer. Aimbridge Hospitality, a hotel management company based in Carrollton, Texas, will manage Element Omaha Midtown Crossing. Champ Hospitality of Carrollton serves as the hotel development consultant and The Weitz Co. is the general contractor on the project. The new-build hotel in Orlando will be owned by JHM Hotels and developed by JHM Enterprises Inc.

Element is Starwood's newest hotel concept and the first hotel brand to mandate that all hotels pursue the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) LEED certification.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Million Reasons to Attend the IH/M&RS

At this year's International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show in New York City, I will be moderating a session entitled, “Energy Miser All Stars: Conservation Lessons from the Best.” The session will be held Saturday, November 8 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center from 3:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. The session is part of a day-long series of events that are part of the Hospitality Leadership Forum. If you are planning to attend the show this year, please be sure to attend the "Energy Miser All Stars" session. The three panelists—Jeff Hanulec, director of engineering, The Westin Copley Place; Raymond M. Kemph, CEM, director of engineering, InterContinental Chicago O’Hare; and Joe Kinney, chief engineer, New Yorker Hotel—will share how they have collectively been able to reduce operations-related costs by more than a million dollars from 2007 to 2008. How have they been able to do that? Find out by attending the session or by reading Green Lodging News after the show.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Casino Workers' Health Up in Smoke in Pa.?

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board recently announced that the agency and the seven operating casinos in the state that it overseas are prepared to follow the guidelines of the state's Clean Indoor Air Act, which took effect on September 11. The act not only prohibits smoking in most public places, including restaurants and the workplace, but also prohibits smoking on at least 75 percent of the casino floor. Penalties will be imposed for individuals who smoke in prohibited areas.

Here is where things get funky. The new law provides a process that would enable a casino to increase the smoking area to include up to 50 percent of the floor. How could that happen? If a report from the Department of Revenue shows the average gross terminal revenue (GTR) per slot machine in the designated smoking area exceeds the average GTR per slot machine in the designated nonsmoking area, the licensee may increase the designated smoking area in proportion to the percentage difference in revenue.

In other words, if a casino happens to attract a large volume of smokers, and those smokers are freer with their spending, floor workers and everyone else will ultimately suffer more from second-hand smoke as the smoking areas grow. That makes a lot of sense. It is nice to see that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is so progressive when it comes to the right to breathe clean air.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Keep Asbestos in Mind Before Renovation

In recent days I posted an article on Green Lodging News that discussed the importance of paying attention to potential asbestos issues when renovating a hotel. Click here for that article. Asbestos is a leading cause of mesothelioma cancer and should not be taken lightly—especially when the safety of your employees and your guests is at stake.

Coincidentally, just before the asbestos article was sent to me, I came across a story in The Salem (Mass.) News about problems with asbestos at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites Boston-Peabody in Peabody, Mass. The state of Massachusetts' Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) discovered asbestos at the site while construction crews were renovating the property. Because of the discovery, the DEP disallowed employees and guests from working or staying at the 183-room hotel. Guests staying at the hotel during the closure had to be relocated—not exactly the kind of PR you dream about. According to the article, hotel management had not sought or obtained a permit to do any kind of asbestos abatement.

For any hotel built or remodeled before or in the 1980s, assume the presence of asbestos. You will save yourself the types of problems encountered by the owners of the Holiday Inn mentioned above.