Top 5 Environmental Management Strategies Affecting Your Hotel's Bottom Line

By Bill Meade Director, Tetra Tech | May 06, 2010

Why go green?

The environmental movement is not new to the hotel industry. The major hotel chains have adopted environmental programs, including corporate-wide targets to reduce energy use, water use, waste generation, and more recently greenhouse gas emissions. Federal, State, and utility resource efficiency programs target hotels and other commercial buildings to reduce electricity consumption. Many independent hotels have put in place customer-focused initiatives such as towel and linen reuse programs. The major motivation for the industry is cost controls in the face of rising utility rates. Utilities account for 5-15% of total operating costs for hotels, and cost-effective environmental management strategies can cut property-wide consumption up to 30% without major investments in physical plant, and up to 75% in targeted use areas.

However, most hoteliers have stopped short in their environmental programs with the misconception that guests equate quality with excess and that technologies guests will rebel against the poor quality lighting of compact fluorescent bulbs or low flow rates of efficient shower heads. Those trying to demonstrate their corporate commitment to sustainability have felt that a linen or towel reuse tent card on the nightstand proves the hotel management's commitment to "save the environment".

The reality is that guests are becoming increasingly environmentally-conscious and have a much better appreciation for technologies and practices in hotels that share their interests. At the same time, they have become intolerant of "green washing", with the most common complaint that housekeepers replaced the towel they intentionally hung to use again. Becoming recognized for your environmental programs in today's marketplace is more difficult today than it has been in the past. The early adopters have reaped the marketing benefits of being leaders in their industry. However, given public policy, government incentives, and rising utility costs, never before has the dual objectives of customer relations management and profitability been more aligned.

Understand Your Environmental Footprint

No two hotel properties are alike. They vary in terms of size, layout, facilities, amenities and services offered. They also vary in terms of utility rates, government incentives, and local environmental issues. Finally, there are differences in investment horizon and whether hotel owners or operators are responsible for improving a property's environmental performance. In other words, there is no "one size fits all" for hotels.

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.