Hotel Gardening: Tips to Keep the Green in Your Lawn and Wallet

By Ken Hutcheson President, U.S. Lawns | May 12, 2013

In today's economy, staying within budget while keeping a landscape looking beautiful can seem impossible. But a healthy, attractive landscape does not have to break the bank. Making smart choices, such as conserving water through efficient irrigation systems and tailoring a scope of work specific to the needs of a hotel property can help cut costs in the long term. Also, taking easy, extra steps to maintain the health of plants will lessen the likelihood that landscape renovation will be necessary. By utilizing the tips below, a hotel owner or manager can help preserve a healthy landscape that retains its maximum value while generating cost savings over the long-run. Keys to achieving a desired result rely in having an acute sense of awareness and understanding of the needs of a landscape and partnering with the right commercial landscape management professional.

Water Conservation

Wasted water is wasted money. With water demands rising and frequent droughts threatening supply, responsible water use is a smart business practice and an essential component of environmentalism. Irrigation audits are one way to ensure that a hotel property is realizing the maximum benefits of its irrigation system. After assessing a hotel's current irrigation system and identifying any inefficient components, a landscape professional will consider the area size, local climate, sun exposure and specific plant varieties in determining the most appropriate and cost-effective irrigation program for a property. Tailored systems cut annual water costs significantly and some systems even qualify for tax credits. Investment in an irrigation audit and implementation of the proper system are effective ways to maintain a beautiful landscape without draining unnecessary natural and fiscal resources.

Sufficient hydration is key to maintaining the health and appearance of a property's landscape. There have been significant developments in irrigation technology, which allows landscape professionals to design customized systems. Because these systems are based on a particular property's needs, they will produce not only reduced water usage, but lower ongoing maintenance expenses.

The "smart" controller is the most technologically advanced development in water conservation on the market today. Regardless of how efficient an irrigation controller's watering schedule is, it must respond to the always-changing weather conditions-specifically rainfall and evapotranspiration (ET)-to protect the health of the landscape and gain maximum efficiencies. ET is the amount of water lost from the soil through evaporation plus the plant's water loss (known as transpiration); both are dramatically affected by weather conditions. A smart controller uses current weather and ET information to water a landscape only when needed. Smart controller systems work with virtually any controller, converting a conventional irrigation system into one that is weather-smart and self-adjusts according to accurate real-time weather data. As the weather changes, a smart controller receives automatic hourly updates and prevents the controller from watering unless needed. This results in significant water savings and a healthier landscape.

For those who want to stay on the cutting edge of water conservation technology, the answer may be investing in moisture sensors. Moisture sensors are designed to detect the moisture levels in the soil, making it the most efficient method of watering. Moisture sensors will continuously measure soil and only allow a watering cycle when the moisture drops below a certain, customized, threshold. So while a "smart" controller that measures rainfall may still allow a watering cycle the day of or the day after a rain storm, regardless of rainfall amounts, a moisture sensor will accurately read the moisture level in the soil and will keep the watering system turned off until the excess moisture has dissipated. The biggest detractor of these moisture sensors are the initial purchase and installation costs; however, due to their extremely efficient ability to determine how much moisture is in the soil and how often watering is needed to maintain a beautiful landscape, they pay for themselves, saving precious dollars on water bills.

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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.