Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Green Halloween at the Radisson LAX

Savvy hoteliers use holidays to help put heads in beds—or at least in costumes. This Halloween at the Radisson Hotel at Los Angeles Airport, hotel staff are inviting guests and employees to celebrate Halloween in an environmentally friendly fashion. Upon arrival, guests will be treated to green apples and organic candy. Then, they can vote for their favorite Jack-O-Lanterns, decorated by hotel employees using only recycled items. The Jack-O-Lanterns will be on display beginning Thursday, October 29 in the hotel lobby near the main entrance.

The Concorde Lounge is spotlighting Bonterra Chardonnay and True Earth Cabernet organic wines, as well as Mothership Witt and Samuel Smith Lager organic beers. For breakfast, Palmira Restaurant is featuring heart-healthy options, including organic eggs made-to-order, all-natural organic berries of the day, organic Greek yogurt, and a selection or organic cereals and breads.

The Radisson Hotel at Los Angeles Airport just became a member of the Green Hotels Association and is currently expanding its sustainable practices.

What "green" special event(s) do you have planned for Halloween to help bring in new business? What about for Thanksgiving? Christmas? New Year's Eve? If you are doing something creative, let me know about it. I will be sure to share your plans with my readers.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Building the Case for Green Building

Let's assume you have been asked by your boss to put together a report to justify the construction of a green building. Where do you begin? I highly recommend including a recent article by Jerry Yudelson in your report. In "The Business Case for Green Buildings," Yudelson, the author of several books on green building, states that, "The business case for green buildings is solid, no matter whether one builds directly for a corporate client or construct speculative office or commercial space. By 2012, certified green buildings will hold the dominant market share of new commercial buildings. Now is the time to begin getting experience with this type of project."

In his article, Yudelson lists the 10 "Major Business Case Benefits of Green Buildings." They include:

1. Energy and water cost savings.
2. Increased building valuation from higher profits owing to such savings.
3. Possible incentive payments from government and utilities.
4. Increased rent and occupancy.
5. Productivity and health benefits for office occupants.
6. Risk management (economic, financial, market, legal, political, etc.).
7. Marketing and public relations.
8. Increase in reputation value for public companies.
9. Recruitment and retention of key personnel.
10. Access to capital from responsible property investing funds.

In his report, Yudelson successfully pulls together highlights from some of the most convincing recent studies that support green building. Be sure to check it out. Of course there are many good stories to support green building at as well.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Green/Preventive Maintenance Connection

Going green means nothing if preventive maintenance is not part of your routine. This past Sunday I stayed at a hotel in Portland, Ore., very close to the airport. It was my last night on vacation and I was tired, knowing that I also had to get up at 4 a.m. to get ready for a 6 a.m. flight back to Ohio. After entering my room, I noticed several signs--on the bed and on the towel rack--reminding me that I had the option of not having my towels and linens washed. I am always happy to see these, even though oftentimes, from my experience, housekeepers disregard the practice. I was only staying one night so there would be no need to inform housekeepers about my towel and linen intentions but, as I said, it was good to know the hotel's owner had some interest in saving water and energy.

After spending about 15 minutes in the room, I noticed a nasty odor. I could not quite figure it out. Then I saw it. In the bathroom there was a puddle of water on the floor. I looked up and the the paint on the ceiling above the tub was bubbled and flaking off in a big way. There was also some brownish, gooey droplets of some kind hanging from the ceiling. Lovely. What I had been smelling earlier was mold. Arrgh. It was pretty obvious nobody had been in this room for quite some time, and if they had been, they obviously had not bothered to examine the bathroom. So much for preventive maintenance.

I went down to the front desk to explain the situation and was promptly given another room--not a free night but another room. After packing everything up again I moved to the new room. By this time I was not a very happy camper. After just a few hours of restless sleep--the kind you get when knowing you have to wake up early--I headed for the shower. Another disappointment. This time there was no mold but a very "limp" shower flow. I suspect you can all relate to this but I really had to work to get wet and clean. Again, frustrating. The water pressure was fine but the showerhead was not. It was obvious nobody had bothered to check the showerhead in quite some time.

In one night, in two different guestrooms, I experienced two different maintenance issues. Whether or not the hotel was trying to be "green" meant nothing to me after my bad experience. At checkout I explained my overnight adventure to the gentleman at the front desk. I received no sympathy and no refund whatsoever.

Folks, let's not forget the importance of preventive maintenance. If you do not practice it, your guests will inevitably leave your property as mad as a hornet, never to return again. And your green message, if you have one, will mean absolutely nothing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Report Says 'Organic' is No. 1 Food Trend

If your guests are asking for more organic food options, there is good reason. According to recent research conducted by NPD Group, “organic” is the No. 1 top food trend expected to grow more important during the next decade. Forty-one percent of those responding to a national survey selected “organic” above other trend options such as “restaurant meals eaten in-home” and “Light/lite/diet/low calorie labels. The survey report, “A Look into the Future of Eating,” is a 10-year forecast of eating trends based on generational influences, population, and other trends. The survey took into account eating patterns at 2,000 households (about 5,000 individuals) over a 14-day period.

I am not surprised at all by this trend. It is now quite common for hotel chefs to procure local, organic ingredients for their menu options. Gardens are being constructed on hotel and resort grounds, and in urban areas some chefs have started rooftop gardens to grow pesticide-free herbs and vegetables. Kimpton now offers organic wine in its restaurants, and at least one Fairmont property, the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, offers organic produce, wine and coffee as an option in its Green Wedding package.

What are you hearing from your guests? Are they requesting organic options? I would love to know. Write to

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Good to Be Online in a Struggling Print World

This week I learned that Questex Media Group Inc., publisher of Hotel & Motel Management magazine, Hotel Design and more than 20 other publications, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. According to bankruptcy documents, the company has $321 million in debt and $299 million in assets. Questex's struggles are a reflection of the overall current state of the print publishing business. Newspapers, consumer and trade publications are all experiencing tough times. This week, Conde Nast folded Gourmet magazine. Also shut down were two wedding magazines: Elegant Bride and Modern Bride. I just received a copy of one of the leading hotel trade publications yesterday and it was barely more than 40 pages.

Not all trade publications are struggling but many are. One industry publication still makes a thud when it hits my coffee table. And my publication, Green Lodging News, is doing just fine. Being Internet-based, my company exists in a different world than that of print publishers. It certainly will be interesting to see if all of the lodging trade publications make it through this downturn. I suspect they will.

I worked for Hotel & Motel Management magazine from 1989 to 1996 and then again from 2000 to 2001. During both stints with the publication, the magazine experienced some tough times but also some great runs as well. One low point was when Robert L. Edgell, former chairman of Edgell Communications Inc., which owned Hotel & Motel Management at the time, took his own life in 1991. It was reported then that he may have paid $100 million too much for publishing company HBJ Publications. Another low point: Edgell Communications filing for bankruptcy protection in 1991.

There will always be a need for trade publications in our industry, just as there will always be periods of prosperity and struggle. My competitors all work hard and deserve success. Support them with your ad dollars and your readership support.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Do Green Buildings Enhance Productivity?

Are employees who work in green buildings more productive? According to green cleaning advocate Stephen Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group and Sustainable Tool, LLC, they are. In a release recently sent by Ashkin to Green Lodging News, he cited a September 2009 University of San Diego study that found that employees working in green buildings are more productive than their counterparts in non-green facilities. “The researchers identified a green building as one that is LEED-certified or Energy Star-labeled,” Ashkin says.

The comprehensive study involved more than 2,000 workers from 154 different green buildings. Formerly, these staffers worked in conventional, non-green facilities. For the study, researchers looked at two key measurements: number of sick days reported and self-reported productivity percentage changes. Among the findings:

• Forty-five percent of respondents reported an average of 2.9 fewer sick days in the new green location;
• Nearly 43 percent of the employees agreed they were more productive in green buildings; twelve percent said they strongly agreed they were more productive in green buildings and 45 percent noted little change;
• Ten percent actually reported an increase in the number of sick days after moving to a green facility.

“Some clarification is needed to explain the last two statistics,” Ashkin says. “Many of these folks reporting no changes or even an increase in sick days were in Energy Star-labeled buildings that do not have indoor air quality (IAQ) requirements. LEED-certified buildings do have IAQ standards and that makes a big difference.”

Ashkin goes on to add that these findings are similar to other studies conducted over the past few years. “They remind us of the many benefits of green buildings, which [are] not only fewer sick days and greater worker productivity, but enhanced employee retention, recruitment, and worker morale.”

What are your thoughts? Are those who work in green hotels more productive?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Waring House Benefits from 'Green Story'

After turning away business with just 17 rooms, the owners of The Waring House in Picton, Ontario, decided to add an additional 32 rooms—16 suites in two buildings. The recent additions are highly energy efficient thanks to geothermal heating and air-conditioning and a solar hot water heating system. Guests entering the new buildings through automatic doors notice that the second set of doors will not open until the first set has closed—further helping to save energy.

Other green features include a bio-filter septic system that returns water to the earth as pure water, mattresses with replaceable tops, flapper-less toilets, biodegradable amenities (content & bottles), and the use of natural cleaning products. When it was time to purchase new furniture for the property, the owners chose solid wood furniture made by one of Canada's oldest furniture manufacturers. Towels and robes are made from natural fibers. Energy-efficient electric fireplaces in guestrooms provide supplemental heat. The list goes on....

According to a representative of the property, The Waring House's green story is making a big difference as it attempts to attract group business. In fact, for some groups it has been a deciding factor. What is your property's green story? How are you telling it? At The Waring House, going green is THE story and front and center on the property's website. The Waring House is a good example of a small property doing what it can to minimize its environmental impact. Kudos to the owners for making smart, green decisions when it came time to expand and grow.