Reduce Energy Costs While Increasing Environmental Sustainability

By Rowan Sanders Director of Marketing & Communications, Veolia Energy North America | June 10, 2012

Everyone in the hospitality industry understands that guest satisfaction is the number one priority and keeping guests happy requires a high level of service and comfort, which typically means consuming a high level of energy. And with energy costs at an all-time high during a difficult economy, hotels are facing the pressure of balancing the guest experience with the need to implement facility-wide energy saving measures.

To illustrate these costs further, according to the California Hotel & Lodging Association (CH&LA), the hospitality industry spends $3.7 billion a year on energy (see sidebar for other hotel energy use facts). According to the ENERGY STAR program, America's 47,000 hotels spend $2,196 per available room each year on energy, representing about six percent of all operating costs. The good news is that there are a number of green facility management measures that hotels, resorts and destinations can implement to dramatically reduce energy use and utility bills, helping to limit greenhouse gas emissions and preserve the environment all while improving the guest experience.

Energy efficiency can improve the service of capital equipment, enhance guest comfort, and demonstrates a commitment to climate stewardship. Hotels, especially full-service facilities, have a wide array of energy uses and a correspondingly wide array of savings possibilities. From lighting to cooling to cooking, even small steps can help save money and the environment.

Green Facility Operation and Management

Hotels operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year, hosting guests and offering various services and amenities. As a result, building upgrades can be especially difficult to implement as any downtime or disruption in hotels can negatively impact the guest experience and the bottom line. Measures that are effective in other settings, such as occupancy sensing, time-clock control, and thermostat setbacks, must be implemented with great care in a hotel so as not to detract from the experience of guests.
Nevertheless, the impact of rising energy costs (hotel utility costs have increased by an annual average of 12 percent in recent years) continues to lead hotel operators to actively identify greener facility operations and management techniques.

There are a number of low-cost measures that should be taken when it comes to optimizing facility operations and energy management. Simple, high-impact adjustments for hotel facilities can include installing energy-efficient lighting systems; swapping inefficient incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs; replacing neon signs with light-emitting diode (LED) exit signs; installing occupancy sensors on lighting and HVAC systems in back-of-house spaces, meeting rooms, and other low-traffic areas; installing high-efficiency air conditioning units; and adding attic insulation to older facilities.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. 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.