LEED Certification and Other Green Initiatives Can Be Hotel Marketing Coups

By Carl Rizzo Partner, Cole, Schotz, Meisel, Forman & Leonard, P.A. | March 13, 2011

Co-authored by Adam M. Goldstein, Associate, Cole, Schotz, Meisel, Forman & Leonard, P.A.

In the United States, hotels represent more than 5 billion square feet of space, nearly 5 million guest rooms, and close to $4 billion in annual energy use (1). However, as of January 2010, only 40 hospitality properties have achieved so-called LEED ("Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design") certification. While an additional 900 hospitality projects have registered with LEED and are working towards certification, this number pails in comparison to the more than 35,350 commercial LEED registered projects.(2) While LEED certification may not be as popular in the hospitality industry as compared to other industries, in recent years, there has been a growing emphasis by businesses, across all industry segments, consumers and the news media, placed upon the topic of "green initiatives." In fact, many hospitality companies have already instituted green initiatives or green practices. Whether or not a hotel chooses to seek LEED certification or instead make modest environmentally friendly changes, ownership would be wise to market any such green initiatives to the public.

LEED is a voluntary, third-party green building certification program that awards points to buildings for satisfying certain green building criteria. In order to be LEED-certified, a building has to implement a plan to reduce building operating costs, its environmental footprint, and resource consumption such as water and energy use. LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council ("USGBC"), a non-profit organization, and is intended to provide building owners and operators a basic framework for identifying and employing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.

Under the LEED umbrella, there are several specific certification programs or rating systems, which are specific to different types of projects. These certification programs/rating systems include:

  • new construction;
  • existing buildings;
  • commercial interiors;
  • core and shell;
  • schools;
  • healthcare;
  • homes; and
  • neighborhood development.

LEED for New Construction and Major Renovations and LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance are the programs which have the most applicability to hospitality projects. While the USGBC is exploring a LEED rating system specific to hospitality, to date, none has been developed. LEED for New Construction provides a framework for green design and construction of new developments, whereas, LEED for Existing Buildings provides a roadmap for hotel owners and operators to improve operational efficiency and minimize the environmental impacts from existing hotel operations.

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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.