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Mr. Hutcheson

Eco-Friendly Practices

Preparing Your Hotel Landscape for Spring

By Ken Hutcheson, President, U.S. Lawns

As temperatures start to warm up and thawing begins, many hoteliers across the country are thrilled to say goodbye to winter. In some regions, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest, this winter proved to be a hotelier's worst nightmare. With above freezing temperatures and blizzard-like conditions, it was difficult for some guests to even travel to their destinations. Keeping entranceways, parking lots and sidewalks clean and safe was another challenge many hotel owners and managers faced this winter. Now that winter has officially come to an end, it's time to prepare your landscapes for spring.

Below are a few simple tips to ensure your landscape is prepared for the upcoming season:

Protect and Invest in Your Curb Appeal

Hotel owners and managers know that their hotel's year-round curb appeal is extremely important in attracting the right guests to their property. The landscape is often a guest's first impression of your hotel (whether the guest realizes it or not). Because of this, hotel owners and property managers need to focus on creating a visual landscape that aligns with their hotel's brand image. For example, two to three star hotels/motels like the Quality Inn, Comfort Inn & Suites, Best Western, and Holiday Inn aren't trying to give off the impression that they're competing with high-end hotels. That's not to say that they don't care about their landscapes - they're just unlikely to create elaborate flower displays/arrangements or invest in high maintenance landscapes with expensive foliage. Despite this, these hotel managers and owners know that they still need to foster a crisp and clean landscape. Low cost and low maintenance landscapes are the ideal gardening solution for these types of hotels.

Talk to your contractor about what vegetation is right for your geographic location. This will help you determine which plants/flowers are right for your hotel. Keep in mind that durability and maintenance are two important factors to think about when choosing foliage. For instance, Snapdragons, Cleome, and Caladium are a few examples of vegetation that are suitable for all locations and they don't require much upkeep.

On the other hand, if you're a property manager for a high-end resort or hotel, the costs associated with your curb appeal are going to be higher. Four and five star hotel brands like The Ritz Carlton, The Four Seasons, The Park Hyatt, The Fairmont, and The Intercontinental, have a certain look and feel about them. Those property managers should work with their contractors to plant more extravagant flower displays in the public areas where the guests have access. There should also be a consistent theme throughout the property to uphold the hotel's brand. The pool area needs to express the same level of luxury as the entranceways and the lobby. While the costs are going to be higher to do this, it's necessary to meet the expectations of your customers. It's been proven that flowers in particular create an emotional impact on guests. In fact, a Rutgers University study showed a that there's a link between mood elevation and flowers. Flowers also work to enhance a destination's atmosphere. For example, a hotel in Hawaii would be full of tropical vegetation like plumerias and hibiscus, while a hotel in China would lean more toward Zen arrangements.

Create a Plan

Now it's time to get down to the dirty work and prepare your landscape for spring. Creating a maintenance schedule and renovation plan with your contractor in advance is the best way to not only keep your landscape in sync with the rest of the property but also to create a clean and safe environment all season long. For example, when a landscape architect first created the hotel's landscape, they likely had a long-term vision in mind. Since landscapes are constantly growing and evolving year after year, it's important to work closely with your contractor to protect the landscape's original design.

Likewise, just like any other living organism, landscapes too have a lifecycle and grow tired overtime, so this is also the time where your contractor will assess your property to see if the landscape requires any renovations. For example, if a hotelier had an oak or willow tree planted in front of their hotel five years prior, and now it's become a mature tree, what necessary improvements need to be made this spring to ensure the grass beneath it receives sunlight? Or if you have a tree that's blocking the pool area and leaves keep falling in the pool, your contractor needs to fix the situation. Working with your contractor on this part of the process will also help you stay on the same page should there be any potential problems down the road.

Having your contractor visit the site at the beginning of the season is also important for planning spring cleanup and assessing any damage. For example, they should check for insect and disease issues, trim and prune vegetation as needed, and repair any damaged irrigation components. While spring cleanup varies by region, this part of the process shouldn't take too long, as all landscapes should have been treated during fall prep.

During this time, you will also need to plan out when "non-routine" services are going to take place. Since services like agronomics, fertilization, pest control, pre-emergent pest control and irrigation must happen while hotels aren't at their peak hours, you will need to work with your contractor to designate a specific time for these services. If guests or pets come into contact with any of the chemicals used in these services, it can have dangerous affects, so it's vital that high-traffic areas are blocked off during this time.

Hotel owners and managers must also work with their contractors to designate certain times for routine maintenance to take place (i.e. mowing, pruning, etc.) If your contractor is mowing during the early morning hours, or late evening, it can negatively impact a guest's stay. The same holds true for any outdoor events like weddings, parties, or business functions. You never want the sound of a lawn mower to be competing with a guest's event. Letting your contractor know in advance, or simply giving them a heads up a week before the event will help mitigate any potential issues.

Take Advantage of Additional Services

The last item remaining on your spring checklist is to ask your landscaping company about the additional services they provide. It's not uncommon for hotel owners and property managers to hire other third-party companies to carry out services that their landscaping company could easily take care of. Tasks like parking lot sweeping, parking lot maintenance, pressure washing and porter services may be covered by full-service landscaping companies.

Your contractors are the perfect people to carry out these additional services because they have the most experience working on your property. Not only do they know every inch of the hotel's property, but often serve as the eyes of the property. For instance, since most hoteliers aren't on-site most of the time, the landscapers are the ones who notice when something needs fixing, such as cracked asphalt, a broken street light, a pothole, etc. In addition, your contractor is already aware of aspects of the property that can become risks during repairs (i.e. high-traffic areas and irrigation systems).

Consolidating your landscaping and property needs by working with just one company can tremendously help hotel owners and property managers stay organized and efficient. By avoiding hiring multiple companies to carry out different services, you will save both time and money. Since your landscapers are working on the property at a minimum once a week, it's easy for them to carry out extra services on a regular basis. Also, if they notice a potentially hazardous situation like an uneven hardscape surface, they can act quickly and repair it.

Prepare Your Budget

Before your spring preparation can be finalized, the budget needs to be addressed. Yes, discussing money can be awkward in any situation, but it's important for your relationship with your contractor to be bold enough to speak out about your budgetary needs. This way the hotel owner and landscaping professional can effectively prioritize and set the right expectations. Costs to keep in mind when talking to your contractor is the cost associated with routine-maintenance, non-routine maintenance, and any renovations that are needed. Renovations can be expensive, and they are often issues that need to be taken care of in a timely manner so they don't get worse. It's key when planning your year-end budget to have funds set aside for them.

Now that your spring plan is in place, it's time to execute. Ask your contractor to identify a main point of contact who will be working on your hotel property on a regular basis. This way you have one person to go to if you have any questions or concerns, which will ensure consistent communication and service.

Ken Hutcheson is President of U.S. Lawns. He joined the company in 1995 and has grown the organization from a regional 18-franchise network to a national network of over 250-franchises in all 48 contiguous states. U.S. Lawns is nourished by the values and passion of family-owned and operated franchise businesses. Mr. Hutcheson champions an entrepreneurial spirit and a teamwork culture. He’s skilled at developing employee, franchisee and customer bases that are anchored on a commitment to long-term relationships. His focus on the company’s Franchise Development and Support is central to the company’s steady national expansion and consistently high rankings on industry lists. Mr. Hutcheson can be contacted at 407-246-1630 or khutcheson@uslawns.com Please visit https://uslawns.com/ for more information. Extended Bio...

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