Has Your Property Seen the Greener $ide of Sustainability?

By Rob Howell General Manager, Shawnee Inn & Golf Resort | May 04, 2014

Sustainability. Reducing Your Carbon Footprint. Greening Your Property. Environmental responsibility. No matter how you phrase it, the movement to embrace environmentally conscience practices is no longer a fad; it is a fact, that almost no lodging facility can continue to ignore. As conscientious hospitality professionals, we must make changes to our operations that ensure our business is environmentally friendly. Most hotel companies large and small started these efforts years ago. Towel and linen reuse programs, recycling plans, energy efficiencies, and other simple steps to show our guests that we were mindful about how our company affects the world. As time passes and we need to deeply ingrain these programs to reduce our carbon footprint into our operations, how do owners and operators ensure that they are seeing the greener $ide of sustainability?

The first thing we must do as operators is commit to our sustainability programs. It is easy to introduce new and exciting environmental initiatives but it is important that we remember to finish the job. Implementing a robust environmental plan is not only an investment of hard currency, but it is also a monetary investment of time and energy. Educating our staff and giving them the proper tools to manage these green projects ensures that we are not operating in a vacuum. Most importantly, however, we have to remember to educate our guests about the programs we have in place. Engaging your property's guests through education is the keystone in any successful environmental plan for the hospitality industry. This will make certain that as an operator you are closing the loop. If you are implementing these sustainable programs, you must tell someone. The grass-roots communication and training plan must be in place to realize the maximum amount of profitability for your efforts and to justify your property's monetary and labor investment.

Why you may ask? Why expand your environmental programs? Why commit to your existing plans? Why can't you just settle with the savings of water, soap and labor by washing less? Why can't you just enjoy the "good feelings" being generated by the presence of a recycling can? Limited investment, limited thought; equals a limited return.

You can ask yourself, why I am I pursuing a "Green Seal" or a "Green Certificate" or some other standard of showing your guests (or potential guests) that your property is green? Are you working hard to implement an environmental plan because you are actually committed to increasing your sustainability? Are you implementing these programs because you think it is "the right thing to do?" Are you applying these principles because everyone else is doing it or is it for some other reason? It is important that you are committing to your plan for the proper motivation. Your guests are educated and they will know when you are faking it. In some ways, it is better for your business to invest elsewhere rather than investing in a half-hearted sustainability plan. To find the most satisfaction as an operator, and to realize the maximum potential of the greener $ide of sustainability, you have to commit. You must put feet, head and heart in the game.

How Do You Measure?

Sustainability can drive more profit to the bottom line through increased savings on expenses or by delivering more top line revenue. Are you driving more revenue by an increase in return guests that are embracing your sustainable programs? At the historic resort where I work, we have a farm where we grow produce for our restaurants. We could just stop there, but we also serve dinners in the farm and take daily tours of the farm. Our farm is located on our golf island. The farm's location allows us to cross market our golf course to our guests who take the tours. This one endeavor, our farm, produces a difficult to measure benefit through public relations and additional marketing. Although we receive several guest comments about the farm through our internal comment program, social media and travel rating sites, interpreting the monetary value of these tidings is limited. It produces a measurable benefit for being a unique location for events and defrays our cost to purveyors for goods. The other option is to realize a decrease in expenses directly related to these efforts.

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Coming up in June 2019...

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.