Lessons in Water Conservation: A West Coast Perspective

By Joseph Ricci President & CEO, TRSA | March 13, 2016

Water is our most precious resource, and no one in the U.S. has been more aware of this fact than residents of the American West. A severe drought has strained resources in the region for more than four years. California, in particular, has experienced one of the worst droughts on record, threatening the state's agricultural business and forcing Governor Jerry Brown to declare a drought State of Emergency in 2015.

Hotels have been front and center in efforts to conserve water, as properties that surpass mandated usage are subject to surcharges levied by local water municipalities. Hotels account for approximately 15 percent of the total water use in American commercial and institutional facilities, according to the U.S. Environmental Protections Agency (EPA). Most of that water goes to landscaping, kitchens, restrooms and laundries.

Laundry operations needed for towels and linens make up 16 percent of water use in a hotel and are a large source of potential water waste. How have hotels addressed the drought and sought to conserve water? The strategies range from simple operational improvements to investments in more efficient washers and recycling technology that promise more significant, long term solutions.

Beyond the Minimum

Hotels certainly are not newcomers to water conservation measures, but many of these measures were limited to linen and towel reuse programs. These well-publicized and familiar programs give guests the option of having their linens and towels laundered, and the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) estimates these programs can reduce consumption by 51,840 gallons annually in a 300-room hotel. These programs also bolster a hotel's "green" reputation, a savvy marketing tool to attract and retain today's environmentally conscious consumer.

But these practices also are an example of what the AHLA identifies as "minimum" practices for running eco-friendly operations. As the four-year Western drought has demonstrated, hotels need to take more profound, long-term measures, which are now spreading throughout hotels in the Golden State.

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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.