Top 5 Environmental Management Strategies Affecting Your Hotel's Bottom Line

By Bill Meade Director, Tetra Tech | May 06, 2010

Why go green?

The environmental movement is not new to the hotel industry. The major hotel chains have adopted environmental programs, including corporate-wide targets to reduce energy use, water use, waste generation, and more recently greenhouse gas emissions. Federal, State, and utility resource efficiency programs target hotels and other commercial buildings to reduce electricity consumption. Many independent hotels have put in place customer-focused initiatives such as towel and linen reuse programs. The major motivation for the industry is cost controls in the face of rising utility rates. Utilities account for 5-15% of total operating costs for hotels, and cost-effective environmental management strategies can cut property-wide consumption up to 30% without major investments in physical plant, and up to 75% in targeted use areas.

However, most hoteliers have stopped short in their environmental programs with the misconception that guests equate quality with excess and that technologies guests will rebel against the poor quality lighting of compact fluorescent bulbs or low flow rates of efficient shower heads. Those trying to demonstrate their corporate commitment to sustainability have felt that a linen or towel reuse tent card on the nightstand proves the hotel management's commitment to "save the environment".

The reality is that guests are becoming increasingly environmentally-conscious and have a much better appreciation for technologies and practices in hotels that share their interests. At the same time, they have become intolerant of "green washing", with the most common complaint that housekeepers replaced the towel they intentionally hung to use again. Becoming recognized for your environmental programs in today's marketplace is more difficult today than it has been in the past. The early adopters have reaped the marketing benefits of being leaders in their industry. However, given public policy, government incentives, and rising utility costs, never before has the dual objectives of customer relations management and profitability been more aligned.

Understand Your Environmental Footprint

No two hotel properties are alike. They vary in terms of size, layout, facilities, amenities and services offered. They also vary in terms of utility rates, government incentives, and local environmental issues. Finally, there are differences in investment horizon and whether hotel owners or operators are responsible for improving a property's environmental performance. In other words, there is no "one size fits all" for hotels.

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Coming up in January 2019...

Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.