Your Hotel Garden: Going Native

By Ken Hutcheson President, U.S. Lawns | July 15, 2012

When it comes to curb appeal, the importance of first impressions cannot be overstated. However, given the state of today’s economy, some property managers are faced with changing the way they landscape their properties. For the hotel industry, one of the biggest challenges they face when it comes to property maintenance is the balance between being aesthetically pleasing, environmentally friendly and staying within their budget.

To ensure all three objectives are met, speak with your landscape professional about the possibility of converting parts of a large property to include some native plants. Native landscaping uses plants, shrubs and trees indigenous to the region in which you are planting, to create a lower-maintenance landscape. The plants and trees that are used in native landscaping are acclimated to local weather conditions, so they typically require less chemicals and watering to maintain.

Transitioning towards a native landscape can seem like a daunting task, especially considering how instrumental a beautiful landscape can be in drawing guests to your hotel. However, there are a number of ways you can make this change without compromising aesthetics. Installing a native landscape does not mean you must remove all grasses, flowers and trees, and let the weeds grow wild, and vines overgrow, leaving your property with the air of neglect. The biggest misconception in regards to native landscaping is that it leaves your property looking messy or barren. That is far from the truth. In fact, some large resorts and properties actually embrace their “wild areas,” and are a destination because of that, whether in the woodlands, the grasslands or in the desert. But these are not the only options when it comes to native landscaping. Each geographical region has numerous plants and trees that are indigenous to the area, with a variety of colors and options from which to choose.

While there could possibly be higher costs at the initial onset of the transition, depending on how your property is currently designed, long-term benefits of making the change usually include lower water bills and less maintenance, which could mean significantly reduced annual operating costs. In addition, fewer pesticides and fertilizers are required for a natural landscape, which means you have a healthier environment.

Native plants provide diverse food and habitat for birds and small mammals. In heavily developed urban areas, even small patches of natural landscape can be critical in maintaining populations of native fauna and flora.

If you make the decision to convert parts of your property to a native landscape, it is important to plan carefully with your landscape professional when designing the new landscape. In areas that require irrigation, it’s imperative that the proper irrigation system is installed. Consider installing a “smart” controller, which is a computerized system that automatically adjusts watering times and amounts based on local weather conditions. For some areas, drip irrigation may be installed, which drips water slowly onto or at the base of the plant.

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Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.