Thursday, January 28, 2010

Gaia Anderson One Point Shy of LEED Gold

According to an article in the Anderson Valley Post, the Gaia Anderson Hotel, Restaurant & Spa recently learned that it fell one point short of achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold from the U.S. Green Building Council. The property will have to "settle" for LEED Silver. Gaia Anderson's sister property, the Gaia Napa Valley Hotel & Spa, was the first hotel in the United States to earn LEED Gold status.

Wen-I Chang, the developer of the Gaia Anderson property and someone I have had the privilege of meeting several times, said he was shooting for LEED Gold. Why did the developer fall short of the Gold designation? According to the article, Chang's primary investor, the Far East Bank, pulled $1.5 million intended for an array of solar panels atop the Gaia Anderson property. Far East Bank also withdrew its financing for a third Gaia hotel planned for Merced, Calif.

Chang certainly has nothing to be ashamed of. LEED Silver is a great achievement. And, there still may be LEED Gold on the horizon, according to the article. Wen may add the solar panels later and then shoot for LEED Gold for Existing Buildings.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

DLA Piper Survey's Two 'Green' Questions

DLA Piper just released its 2010 Hospitality Outlook Survey. Results were based on responses from 109 top executives in the hospitality industry. Two green questions were included in the survey. In response to the first question, "Do you think that investment activity in 'green' certified hotels/sustainability will continue as a long-term trend?", 89 respondents said "yes," with 19 saying "no." (I would like to have a conversation with those 19. They actually believe that green hotel building is a fad?)

In response to the second question, "Do you think 'green' certified hotels are driving consumer choice?", just 25 respondents said "yes" and 84 said "no." In this case, the viewpoint of respondents is closer to that reflected in other surveys that have been taken over the last couple of years.

DLA Piper concludes its paper by stating: "Rather than looking at the bottom line, these responses seem to suggest that the U.S. hospitality industry has largely approached sustainability on its merits alone, discounting the financial performance of green hotels in the near term." How the authors of the survey paper came to this conclusion is beyond me. The questions were not posed to draw this type of conclusion.

To read the paper yourself, click here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

More Companies Lend a Hand to Haiti

In my last blog entry I listed some of the travel companies that are doing their part to help Haiti recover from the recent earthquakes there. I have since learned of other efforts. The following are some examples:

1. Orlando hotelier Harris Rosen, president and COO of Rosen Hotels & Resorts, is coordinating a Haitian outreach program with a goal of raising $1 million. All of the contributions received by the Harris Rosen Foundation will go toward relief efforts.

2. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is encouraging the 47 million members of its guest loyalty program, Priority Club Rewards, to donate their points to the American Red Cross. Rewards members can donate their points in 10,000-point denominations. Points will be converted into cash by IHG.

3. Members of Choice Hotels International's Choice Privileges program are being asked to donate points. For every 1,000 points redeemed, Choice will donate $5 to the American Red Cross.

4. Marriott International announced that it had donated $500,000 to the Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund. Marriott is giving 18,000 loyalty points to those loyalty program customers who donate $50.

5. Hilton Hotels Corp. said it will match total member donations dollar for dollar--up to $250,000--through its guest loyalty program.

6. Loews Corp. donated $25,000 to the Red Cross.

7. Starwood Hotels & Resorts said it will match donations to the Starwood Associate Relief Fund and UNICEF up to $100,000.

8. Hyatt Hotels Corp. is allowing Gold Passport members to donate 5,000 points for a $40 donation to relief efforts.

9. Delaware North Companies donated more than 17,000 bottles of water the day after the earthquake.

10. Carlson will donate $50,000 and will match employee contributions up to an additional $60,000.

Once again, it is great to see the travel industry respond so quickly to help the people of Haiti.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Travel Companies Pitch In to Help Haiti

Travel-related companies are beginning to do their part to help the victims of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti. Sandals Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International, announced the establishment of a Haiti Relief Fund to support disaster relief efforts. Guests staying at any of the Sandals Resorts, Beaches Resorts, Royal Plantation Resorts and Grande Pineapple Beach Resorts have been invited to make a financial donation on-property. Funds raised for relief will go to purchase emergency relief kits, food, tents, bottled water, clothing, medical items, and satellite telephones. Sandals Resorts International will also be providing linens, towels and non-perishable food items to earthquake victims.

Best Western International announced that Best Western Rewards members can contribute rewards points to the relief effort. Frequency program members can go to to make a donation of points that ultimately will translate to funds being donated to World Vision, Best Western's official charity partner.

Through March 31, the Sheraton Atlanta will donate $10 per night for every guest who stays at the hotel using one of two newly created "Haiti Relief Care" packages. The packages include free parking and one free appetizer at the hotel's fine dining restaurant.

Royal Caribbean Cruises just pledged $1 million in humanitarian relief in response to the earthquake. The company is also delivering goods and supplies via their cruise ships.

One lodging industry vendor, RJT Products, LLC, announced that it would donate $5 to the American Red Cross each time it sells one of its Travel Laundry Bags.

It is encouraging to see the travel industry step up during Haiti's time of need. It is going to take a gargantuan effort to put Haiti back together.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

HEI Uses Contest to Encourage Energy Savings

To get a team of employees, including managers, to work toward a common "green" goal, I have often wondered to what degree financial incentives would push the process. Would employees and managers be more driven or even work extra hours to implement the steps necessary to save energy and water and reduce waste? I have seen little evidence of owners linking environmental performance to compensation but I don't think it is such a bad idea.

During a conference I attended last year I suggested the idea of incentives and met resistance from some owners. Their thinking: We are already paying our managers and employees enough, especially in a recessionary economy...why should they need incentives to work hard?

Yesterday I posted an article about HEI Hotels & Resorts receiving a corporate Energy Manager of the Year award from the Association of Energy Engineers. Within that article there was mention of an incentive program launched at the beginning of 2009 by HEI. The company started a competition among its hotels. Prizes ranged from gift cards to flat-screen TVs. Associates were rewarded for reductions made in energy consumption. The program appears to be working as the company, through October 2009, had observed a reduction in energy consumption of approximately 8 percent when compared to 2008.

I believe incentives linked directly to savings, even if they take the form of a contest, are a great idea. They are obviously working for HEI. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

High Cost to Participate in S.C. State Program

In the last few years, many states--and some cities--have launched their own green lodging certification programs (click here for list). Some locations have been more successful than others. Florida, for example, just announced that it has added its 600th designated green lodging property. Kudos to Florida. Business models vary by location; in most cases the cost to participate is nothing or a small amount that is very reasonable. In at least one state, however, South Carolina, a business owner must be a member of the state hospitality association to get certified as a green property as part of the South Carolina Green Hospitality Alliance. Is that fair?

I recently received an e-mail from a gentleman whose company owns and operates 1,400 rooms. To become a member of the South Carolina Hospitality Association, his company would have to pay $7.50 per room. The total: $10,500. So, in other words, in a roundabout way, it would cost him $10,500 to have his properties certifed as green. Not exactly an incentive to participate in the South Carolina Green Hospitality Alliance, is it? The gentleman I corresponded with intended to check out national certification programs instead.

If you were in his position, what would you do? I will look forward to your comments.

Friday, January 8, 2010

An Eco-Resort for Point Roberts, Washington?

In 1949, according to Wikipedia, there was talk of Point Roberts, Wash., seceding from the United States and joining Canada. It never happened. Point Roberts is kind of a geographic oddity as it can only be reached from the rest of the United States by traveling through Canada or crossing Boundary Bay. What is the big deal with Point Roberts? According to The Bellingham (Wash.) Herald, a local chef, Steve O'Neill, plans to renovate an old industrial building into an eco-resort called the Blackfish Resort. The resort would have approximately 24 rooms and may incorporate solar panels for heating water, and wind turbines to generate electricity. The resort may even have exercise equipment that generates electricity. The owners would grow their own food on site and contract with other locals to produce additional organic items to serve in the resort's restaurant.

Also according to The Bellingham Herald, the resort owner is talking about putting video cameras on the roof of the building and under water to capture the antics of orcas and other sea life. Their activities would be broadcast on TVs in the resort building. Local officials are excited about the prospect of a new resort in their community given the area's slow economy. The developer said he hopes to start construction in 2010 and have the resort open by spring 2012.

If I have some pounds to shed in 2012 and feel like generating some electrons while exercising, I will certainly know where to go.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Some Thoughts on Airport 'Security'

As a frequent traveler I am not a fan of airport security but it is something I have gotten used to, just like everyone else, over the last decade. The x-ray machines, bag searches, taking the shoes off, the occasional German Shepherd sniffing around--they all add up to an increased sense of security. On Christmas Day, as we all know, a man tried to ignite a bomb while on board a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, proving that all of the billions of dollars invested in technology and security personnel over these last years is just not enough.

We should not be surprised that someone was able to get through airport security with a bomb. Humans are bound to make mistakes. Here are a couple of examples from my own family. My father-in-law was visiting from Argentina this fall. My wife and I took him to the airport so that he could get on his plane back to Argentina. Out of ignorance he walked right by the first security checkpoint without being noticed. The security guard was occupied with another person. Of course we called him back so he could go through the checkpoint but the incident proved how easily mistakes can be made. On a recent trip my niece's bottle of water was taken from her while going through security but they missed the two pairs of scissors in her purse. You get the idea. These types of things must happen every day.

As our government and the airline industry increase security procedures in the coming months and years--including adding x-ray machines that show our private parts in detail--let's hope they use a little common sense. Yes, we all need to be secure, but the travel industry is suffering enough as it is; people certainly don't need yet another reason not to travel. What do you think?