Indulging on a Green Path

By Sandra Beltran VP of Sales & Marketing, Prohotel International | June 10, 2012

As the footsteps to the green movement increase in the hospitality sector, the intermingling with the luxury market is inevitable. Hotel guests are becoming more and more demanding of their host-to-be, conscious of the environment and its surroundings. So does this mean that you have to skimp on the pampering and the plush accommodations? The answer is no, there is a way that both can coexist and guests can rest assured that their conscious is clean as they vacation.

Luxury properties claiming to be green need to be held liable for sustainability. Management companies such as Prohotel International have been making this a major part of their operating philosophy for over two decades. The idea is to go beyond the call of duty; it's more than just building a hotel, it's about being socially conscious of how it will affect its environment. Luxury is more than just what you see, it's what you feel, touch, smell and experience and Green is more than just recycling. When you combine these two you are left with more than just a room to sleep in or a bottom line. You are left accountable for the responsibility of its surrounding and the life changing experience that the guests will take with them.

While the trend is to build on every inch of space to increase its ROI, conscious hotels have been careful to remain small and stay clear of massive construction. Properties are now being cognizant to preserve their large plots of land for nature, giving them the ability to integrate seamlessly into their environment. This gives the properties a lush feeling and allows the local flora and fauna to flourish.

Developers need to be socially conscious of their backyards; they must be respectful and careful not to disturb or disrupt the property's surroundings. From the moment of conception each of the properties should take into consideration their local inhabitants. An extensive study of the area needs to be conducted as well as an analysis of what materials can be sourced near by for construction. Considerations need to be made as to what areas need to be preserved and how local residents can be incorporated in the development of each of the projects. These are all a key factor in the business plan.

The first step to a luxury experience while vacationing is to have a sense of place. When you travel to a destination you should be able to feel that you have arrived into a different culture. The sensation of green should be wholesome and sincere to the cause. Prohotel International makes sure that their properties go beyond just saving water by limiting the number of times they wash the sheets or change the towels. They make sure to employ the people of the local town or villages and give them a sense of pride. In turn, the staff gives back to their guests by offering a genuine sense of homely hospitality.

Properties such as the Small Luxury Hotel, Casa Bonita in the Dominican Republic are doing their part. They are working with the local villages to transform their small stores into a showcase for guests. The local shops that sell jewelry made from the indigenous stones of Larimar are getting an overhaul, courtesy of the hotel, by painting them with bright colors and making necessary repairs to the store fronts. Guests of the hotel can participate in the upkeep of the shops and learn how the Larimar is worked. In addition, the hotel has built a hydro-plant that provides 30% of its energy. Guests are taken to visit the hydro-plant raising awareness of the viability of renewable energy practices. The organic garden at the property provides the fruits and vegetables for the restaurant and guests can participate in the planting and harvesting. Thinking outside the box, Casa Bonita created a river spa "Tanama," which means butterfly in the local native language. The spa is unique to the point that there is no elaborate structure. A pavilion built of local wood and palm was erected giving way for two treatment rooms. The spa's products are all locally sourced and no chemicals or preservatives are used. They consist of locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs and stones that are combined with natural oils. The result is a natural treatment that promotes wellness and relaxation. It leaves no impurities in the environment and keeps local farmers in business. The property is adjacent to the only UNESCO Biosphere reserve in the Dominican Republic and offers guests excursions to the site building awareness and celebrating the regions biodiversity. Casa Bonita is located on 160 acres and consists of 12 rooms. Plans for a modest future growth are in the forecast but with many studies being conducted to preserve its local inhabitants.

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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.