An Overview of Sustainability Focused Company‐University Partnerships

By Rani Bhattacharyya Community Economics Extension Educator , University of Minnesota Extension- Center for Community Vitality | December 19, 2010

Market turmoil, the Gulf Oil Spill, and increasing public scrutiny of irresponsible land use planning all have been issues forcing travelers and hospitality professionals alike to think hard on how their purchasing dollars are impacting the environment and others. As a result, the need for performance based reporting has never been in greater demand. To meet this need, hospitality professionals and other travel service providers are grappling to define what social, economic and environmental responsibility means to their customers and their bottom line. I've focused this article on three key trends that are helping to catalyze the formation of sustainability focused company- college partnerships in the last few years. By also highlighting a few of the program approaches and course topics, I hope that property and brand managers can identify a program specialized enough to help your employees understand and incorporate environmentally and socially responsible business practices into your operations.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act launched in February of 2009, many state level economic development agencies were awarded green job training funds to support the growth of green construction and facility management industries. A requirement for receiving support through these programs was to develop apprenticeship curricula that would help transition students into careers where environmental engineering and construction skills are needed. Many technical colleges and workforce centers have been developing programs to meet this requirement. Below are a few examples of programs that were developed with direct or indirect support from Act or other private sector matching funds.

The Asian American Civic Association in Boston has developed a Building and Energy Efficient Maintenance Skills (BEEMS) Program and the Energy Efficient Technician Apprenticeship Program (EETAP). EETAP's course work is based on the requirements of the Building Maintenance Institute's for Building Analyst Certified Professionals. Upon completion of the BEEMS and EETAP courses, students have a fundamental understanding of cleaning, plumbing, carpentry, electrical work, and basic computer skills, in addition to energy auditing and shell weatherization.

The Southern California Green Jobs Education Initiative is a partnership between Southern California Edison (a regulated utility company serving Southern California) and over ten Southern California Community Colleges to provide skills training in the following fields: renewable energy system installation, maintenance and operation of green transportation technologies, water conservation /wastewater management, and sustainability planning/ environmental compliance monitoring. By helping the community colleges develop and implement these new curricula, SCE is also helping to build an employee pool of professional who can manage on-site environmental systems and reduce SCE client carbon and water footprints.

The Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) is the largest community college system in the country and includes nine college campuses located across Los Angeles area. With support from the Act, the District has partnered with the City of Los Angles' Green Business Program to provide career transition and employment opportunities between the Districts new Green Technology Program and hotels and restaurants that have signed the City's Green Business Program Pledge. Course topics being proposed include: certified energy management/ auditing certification, waste water management certification, watershed bioengineered remediation, and a variety of renewable energy system certifications.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.