How Hotels Can Approach Technological Sustainability

By Bill Lally President, Mode:Green | April 30, 2017

Green initiatives have become widespread across the hospitality market, often denoted from a sign that kindly asks guests to reuse your towels or use less water. These are small steps that hotels can take, but new technologies are making large-scale sustainability programs possible. This next wave is about more than material conservation; now the whole building is starting to get smarter through design, automation systems, sensor technologies and a fully integrated guest experience.

One of the first aspects that hotels consider when going green is the materials for the decor as part of the branding and custom experience. One example of this is the 1 Hotel franchise, which approaches sustainability from both design and technology aspects. The Central Park location features reclaimed wood, 100 percent organic cotton bed linens, LED bulbs, filters in all taps, sinks and showers, as well as an emphasis on cutting down on the use of paper. The property even has botanists on staff to support the plant life.

The hotel also offers a complimentary Tesla electric vehicle and bicycle valet service to help guests travel in an eco-conscious way. The green and earth-conscious design elements in hotels are aimed to appeal to guests and go along with the overall branding of the hotel as an eco-friendly franchise. But for hotels who don't have an overall green image, they can benefit from a sustainability program to save energy and costs. Some hotels can save tens of thousands a year on energy through automation. Behind the leafy decor of the 1 Hotel, there is an automation system that management, housekeeping and guests use both for convenience, as well as sustainable and operational efficiency.

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The temperature, entertainment and lighting devices in each room are tied into the system so they can be controlled remotely or pre-programmed to power on or off based on guest check-in or check out or in coordination with an astronomical clock. Scenes coordinate all of the devices for easy activation from management through the system when the room is set to be unoccupied or during long periods of inactivity, or by housekeeping to prepare the room for check-in.
Like design, the lighting in a sustainable hotel can benefit both management and guests.

Making lighting part of an energy savings program starts with using low-energy LED bulbs, but can become complex and much more efficient when tied into an automation system. Scenes in hotels can improve the guest experience to help them relax with soft lighting or be more productive with bright daytime lights, but can also keep usage down throughout the hotel. Switching to LEDs might be the first step in bringing energy usage down, but being able to shut down hundreds of bulbs that don't need to be running – or even setting them on a timer – can make a larger impact. With scenes, the lights can be scheduled to lower brightness at different times of day, or to automatically be shut off based on occupancy. This limits unnecessary device usage on a large scale to save energy across all of the rooms in the building.

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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.