Save Money, Save Service: Working Smart in Economic Hard Times

By Marjorie Silverman Honorary President, UICH, Les Clefs d'Or | August 09, 2010

In The New York Times (October 7, 2008) Joe Sharkey, wrote in an article entitled "Travel Industry Shaken by Economic Downturn":

  • "Cancellations of existing reservations are running about 50 percent above normal at full-service hotels," said Bjorn Hanson, an associate professor at the Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University.

  • "Third-quarter profit fell 28 percent at Marriott International, which is considered an industry bellwether because of its big global presence and its wide range of hotel brands, from midlevel lodgings like Courtyard by Marriott to five-star luxury hotels like Ritz-Carlton."

Eric Fox solemnly observes in his article "Luxury Hotels See Massive RevPAR Declines" INVESTOPEDIA, (November 18, 2008): "InterContinental Hotels which owns the InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn brands reported pronounced deterioration in business in October. Revenue per available room (RevPAR) in the U.S. fell 5.7% and was down 4.5% globally in October".

Inevitably this signals across the board cutbacks for the hotel sector of the travel industry. If the layoffs are draconian, the guest is all too aware of lapses in service: long waits at the front desk, phones jangling incessantly, tired staff with long faces, under-trained substitutes trying desperately to step up. All of us in the industry have experienced this spirit-crushing scenario.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.