Thursday, May 28, 2009

How to Expand Your Online Social Network

Let's assume you have mastered the world of social networking and you routinely blog, tweet (on Twitter) and spend a fair amount of time on Facebook and LinkedIn. If you are doing all of these things, you can be sure that your friends and a portion of your target audience will stumble upon your entries and begin to link up with you and follow you. Is that good enough? Absolutely not. What can you do to increase the number of people who follow you on the various social networking sites? There are many things. Here are just a few ideas:

*When making an entry on a social networking site, be sure to link to your website and possibly even one of your other social networking sites (e.g., from your blog to your Twitter page).

*Add the Web addresses for your social networking sites to your e-mail signature and to all correspondence mailed to prospective partners or customers.

*Provide links on your own website to your social networking sites.

*If exhibiting at a trade show or other event, make sure your signage, brochures, etc. mention where to find you at the various sites.

*Create a giveaway promotion or contest that requires the winner to find clues at your social networking sites.

*Include your site addresses in every online or print ad that you purchase.

*Add your networking site addresses to the back of your business card.

*Convince your business contacts to link back to your sites from their sites. Of course you should do the same for those who help you.

These are just a few ideas. Please feel free to add to this list. Be sure to find me not only here but also at and

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Help Disadvantaged Women Dress for Success

At a Women in Lodging (WIL) Luncheon, held last fall during the American Hotel & Lodging Assn. (AH&LA) Conference in New York, AH&LA and Dress for Success Worldwide announced a national partnership to build awareness of and solicit donations to support Dress for Success Worldwide's primary mission of promoting the economic independence of disadvantaged women. Joi Gordon, CEO of Dress for Success Worldwide, and Vicki Gordon, chair of AH&LA’s WIL Executive Council, officially kicked off the new flagship initiative of AH&LA’s WIL Connect membership category, which includes a series of fundraising events and Hospitality Career Day suit drives at hotels across the United States this year. One event is being held today at the Hyatt Regency Philadelphia. Another one is planned June 25 at the Hilton Chicago.

At each Hospitality Career Day event, local WIL Connect members host a panel outlining the diverse career paths in the lodging industry, conduct sessions on building interviewing skills and professional image, and pair up with a Dress for Success client for mock interviews. Also at each Career Day event, job searchers are given an opportunity to select an interview suit to take home and use during future interviews. The suits are made available at no cost to the job seeker.

To date, Dress for Success has assisted more than 500,000 women referred by approximately 2,750 diverse nonprofit and government agencies including homeless shelters, immigration services, job training programs, educational institutions, and domestic violence shelters, among others. It is great to see AH&LA and WIL get involved in Dress for Success events. Sometimes a suit can make all the difference in the world in generating self-confidence and finding a job.

For more information on Dress for Success events and AH&LA’s WIL initiatives, visit the AH&LA WIL Connect Website.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Smoking Ban Fizzles Out in Texas

When it comes to smoking bans in public places, you had better not mess with Texas—or the powerful tobacco companies. According to a May 20 article in the Austin American-Statesman, a proposal to ban smoking in indoor workplaces in Texas is dead due to a lack of support in that state's Senate. The authors of the bill to ban indoor smoking were trying to push Texas to join the 27 other states that have passed comprehensive bans. The authors of the bill were trying to protect the many workers who are exposed to secondhand smoke each year. In the United States, 53,000 people die each year from secondhand smoke. You can bet a lot of those people are (or maybe "were" is the better word) in Texas. (See article on third-hand smoke.)

The proposal to ban smoking had the tobacco industry shaking in its boots. According to the Dallas Morning News, tobacco companies hired 40 lobbyists to fight the ban. It is so nice to know that public health is such a high priority for big tobacco.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, said it should be up to individual businesses to set smoking policies and that most people who are exposed to secondhand smoke are exposed in the home. (As if that is supposed to be a good thing?) Duell, who is a physician (a physician!!!), said he does not think people are getting exposed at the workplace. Maybe this guy should get out a little more often?

The House representatives who proposed the bill plan to keep fighting. Here's hoping they win the battle against stupidity—and the tobacco lobbyists.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

California Tops LEED Hotels List With Seven

Interest in the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification program continues to grow with 21 hotels now certified. California, with seven hotels, is the state with the most hotels represented. The seven properties include: Hotel Carlton, San Francisco; Montage Hotel Beverly Hills; Orchard Hotel, San Francisco; The Ambrose, Santa Monica; Northstar Village Phase 3, Truckee; GAIA Napa Valley, American Canyon; and Orchard Garden Hotel, San Francisco.

So far this year, six properties have been certified. In 2008, seven earned that honor. In 2007: four. One property was certified each year from 2004 to 2006. One also earned certification in 2000. In addition to the seven California properties mentioned above, the other certified ones include: Sandpearl Resort, Clearwater, Fla.; CityFlats Hotel, Holland, Mich.; Posada Del Mike Rapu, Easter Island; Hotel Terra, Teton Village, Wyoming; Element Hotel, Lexington, Mass.; Proximity Hotel, Greensboro, N.C.; Avalon Hotel and Spa, Portland, Ore.; The Palazzo, Las Vegas; The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Ga.; Unity Village Hotel and Conference Center, Kansas City, Mo.; Hilton Vancouver Washington; University of Maryland University College Inn and Conference Center, Adelphi, Md.; Len Foote Hike Inn, Dawsonville, Ga.; and the Kandalama Hotel, Damulla, Sri Lanka.

One property has earned LEED Platinum (Proximity), six properties have earned LEED Gold, seven have earned LEED Silver, six have earned basic certification, and one has earned LEED Bronze (Bronze category no longer available). Hundreds of other properties have registered to pursue LEED certification.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ramblings Before Leaving Las Vegas

I have been in Las Vegas for the last several days and am attending the Hospitality Design Expo & Conference. I have read so much about how hard Las Vegas has been hit by the economic downturn but it is difficult to tell by just walking along Las Vegas Blvd. and through the Strip's many hotels. There are still a lot of people here gambling, sight seeing, going to shows, etc.

It is obvious, however, that things are truly not so great here. The taxi driver who picked me up from the airport earlier in the week told me her income has dropped by 50 percent since last September. There are rock bottom rates at most hotels. CityCenter, MGM Mirage's $9 billion project on the Strip, has faced numerous financing troubles. MGM Mirage is $14 billion in debt. CityCenter will employ 12,000 people when it opens later this year. I learned Wednesday during the Green Day portion of the Hospitality Design Expo & Conference that 140,000 people applied for those 12,000 positions. That is certainly an indication of how dire the employment situation is in the Las Vegas area.

Comments earlier in the year from President Obama and his administration about exorbitant travel to places like Las Vegas certainly did not help the city's tourism industry. Many meetings have been canceled. The bottom line, however, is that a place like Las Vegas, located where it is and because of the reputation it has, will always be one of the first destinations to feel the impact of an economic downturn.

I certainly sympathize with the good people of Las Vegas who have been hit hard by this recession. Do I feel as bad for those who own and operate properties along the Strip? Not so much. Why? Here is just one example: If you walk along the Strip you will notice the temperature is much cooler close to many of the hotels and casinos. Why is that? Wide open doors—and I mean very wide open doors—allow air-conditioned air to flow out of building entrances as if money were no object. If those who run these operations have enough money to air-condition the hot Las Vegas air, they are definitely not ready for my sympathy.

Maybe I should not look for logic in a place like Las Vegas.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Let the Buyer Beware When Buying...Towels?

After writing a column and posting an article on "greener" alternatives to the traditional cotton or cotton/polyester blend towel, I received an interesting e-mail from someone who had a negative experience purchasing organic cotton towels. She purchased them from a vendor that had exhibited at a trade show in Las Vegas. Here is her story, in her own words (I will not reveal her name or the vendor):

"Thanks for the article on towels. I appreciate all you say and want to add that after dealing with some natural fiber products there is one more aspect that makes a green product green. That is not only are the workers treated fairly but does the company deal with sustainable integrity and honesty. I bought towels from a maker called (name removed) that imports from (name removed) Turkey. I bought the towels as they were supposedly organic and made in a certain weight. The vendor boasts that his are the best towels on the market. I never got my entire order and to this day have had no success in getting part of the order that was not shipped. This was even though the company was showing at a reputable market in Las Vegas. I was asked to send my money ahead to a Turkish Bank account and bypass U.S. banks. However, when I asked for the shipment and was told it would be sent I did not get it.

"The U.S. office owner was abusive and argumentative. I have had to take my complaints to the Turkish authorities and no one can do anything without me spending a lot more money—both here or in Turkey. Yet (name removed) sells to some large companies in the U.S. However, I am not the only one he has tricked. This has happened before to others. All I am saying is that if the process is not organic then the product and reputation of the company is spoiled by the way they treat their customers as well. Organic should mean that all persons in the process are happy with the outcome. I am out over $7,000 and my experience has taught me that even if a company is in supposedly reputable trade shows it may still be disreputable. Incidentally, I sent some of the towels he did send me to be examined in Turkey and found they were NOT the ones he advertised. This is also false advertising and again detracts from the product integrity. Thanks for listening and heeding my warning regarding this towel company."

Lessons learned here? ALWAYS ask for solid references. ALWAYS ask for documentation that proves a product is what it is. Does the company have an actual office with a street address? Has the product been certified by a reputable third party? ALWAYS think twice before sending money overseas. ALWAYS ask for samples before making a major purchase. Most suppliers in our industry are honest and reputable. Unfortunately, just because someone sells a green product does not mean that person can be trusted.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Green Hotels Should Target Green Events

After you have opened a green hotel or greened up the operations of your existing hotel, what organizations should top your list to target for new business? Certainly environmental organizations make the most sense—those most in tune with your own mission. Most cities today have numerous environmental organizations that meet on a regular basis. Why not invite them to meet at your hotel? Green Drinks International is one organization that has been growing quickly with new chapters around the globe. Find out where they are meeting in your local area. Most communities have Sierra Club chapters. Cities with zoos have zoo support groups. Does your community have a local U.S. Green Building Council chapter? If so, where are they currently meeting? Architects and designers also gather regularly. Why not invite them to your property? Are you currently pursuing the national or international level meetings that green organizations will be holding in coming years?

The Hutton Hotel in Nashville, that city's newest independent luxury hotel, and also one of its greenest, recently landed the North American meeting of The Climate Project (TCP), an international nonprofit organization founded by Nobel Laureate and former Vice President Al Gore. The group will be meeting at the hotel from May 14 to 16.

"The Hutton Hotel's commitment to sustainability and conservation made it the natural choice for us in terms of locations for our North American Summit," said Jenny Clad, executive director of The Climate Project. "We are excited to be hosting our event at the Hutton, Nashville's newest hotel in Al Gore's hometown, and to be bringing more than 500 committed TCP climate change ambassadors from across the U.S. and Canada to the area for this significant event."

Congratulations to the Hutton Hotel for winning this new business. Be sure to visit the Sales & Marketing and Guest Columns section of Green Lodging News for additional business boosting ideas.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What Exactly Makes a Towel 'Green'?

I have been spending quite a bit of time doing research for an article on towels. What I have been trying to figure out is whether or not there is such a thing as a "green" towel. There are so many things to consider. It is not just the types of cotton, organic cotton or bamboo that go into making a towel that matters. It is also how these materials were grown and manufactured. Was there any certification entity involved? Were the farmers paid fairly? Was the raw material grown and the towels manufactured so far away that the energy required to transport the goods cancels out any environmental advantage? Most towels used in the lodging industry today are made in Turkey, China, India and Pakistan.

Figuring out what is a green towel has not been easy. If it does not last as long as the standard cotton towel, is it green? If the price of an organic cotton, bamboo, or bamboo/cotton blend towel is so high that nobody will buy it, does it really matter? What I am beginning to learn is that there are some types of towels that require less detergent, less water, and less drying time to launder and dry. Any towel that can generate this benefit has got to be greener than most.

Be sure to look for my article on towels coming soon on Green Lodging News. There are a lot of vendors that are selling environmentally friendly alternatives to the traditional cotton or cotton/polyester blend varieties. Making sense of what they sell is a challenge but it can be done.