How Hotels Can Approach Technological Sustainability

By Bill Lally President, Mode:Green | April 30, 2017

Green initiatives have become widespread across the hospitality market, often denoted from a sign that kindly asks guests to reuse your towels or use less water. These are small steps that hotels can take, but new technologies are making large-scale sustainability programs possible. This next wave is about more than material conservation; now the whole building is starting to get smarter through design, automation systems, sensor technologies and a fully integrated guest experience.

One of the first aspects that hotels consider when going green is the materials for the décor as part of the branding and custom experience. One example of this is the 1 Hotel franchise, which approaches sustainability from both design and technology aspects. The Central Park location features reclaimed wood, 100 percent organic cotton bed linens, LED bulbs, filters in all taps, sinks and showers, as well as an emphasis on cutting down on the use of paper. The property even has botanists on staff to support the plant life.

The hotel also offers a complimentary Tesla electric vehicle and bicycle valet service to help guests travel in an eco-conscious way. The green and earth-conscious design elements in hotels are aimed to appeal to guests and go along with the overall branding of the hotel as an eco-friendly franchise. But for hotels who don’t have an overall green image, they can benefit from a sustainability program to save energy and costs. Some hotels can save tens of thousands a year on energy through automation. Behind the leafy décor of the 1 Hotel, there is an automation system that management, housekeeping and guests use both for convenience, as well as sustainable and operational efficiency.

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The temperature, entertainment and lighting devices in each room are tied into the system so they can be controlled remotely or pre-programmed to power on or off based on guest check-in or check out or in coordination with an astronomical clock. Scenes coordinate all of the devices for easy activation from management through the system when the room is set to be unoccupied or during long periods of inactivity, or by housekeeping to prepare the room for check-in.
Like design, the lighting in a sustainable hotel can benefit both management and guests.

Making lighting part of an energy savings program starts with using low-energy LED bulbs, but can become complex and much more efficient when tied into an automation system. Scenes in hotels can improve the guest experience to help them relax with soft lighting or be more productive with bright daytime lights, but can also keep usage down throughout the hotel. Switching to LEDs might be the first step in bringing energy usage down, but being able to shut down hundreds of bulbs that don’t need to be running – or even setting them on a timer – can make a larger impact. With scenes, the lights can be scheduled to lower brightness at different times of day, or to automatically be shut off based on occupancy. This limits unnecessary device usage on a large scale to save energy across all of the rooms in the building.

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Coming up in April 2018...

Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.