Beginning Your Sustainability Journey: Lessons Learned From Sofitel

By Cerise Bridges Certification Specialist, Green Seal | May 20, 2018

Hotels can be like small cities with complex infrastructures and intricate moving parts. "Going green" on such a large scale can be daunting, but the benefits are undeniable and the tools for success are out there. For some firsthand guidance on how to start, what to expect, and where to find help, we tapped Rex Umbay, Director of Engineering at the Sofitel Los Angeles, a recently Green Seal-certified gem in the heart of glamorous Beverly Hills.

Cerise Bridges: Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience and insights with us, Rex. Let's start with the basics. Could you give a quick snapshot of the building - the year it was built, recent renovations, etc.?

Rex Umbay: The building was originally built in 1988 as a Sofitel, part of the AccorHotels Group, and was fully renovated in 2006. Soft renovation projects have been taking place since then, including a full renovation of our food and beverage areas (bar and restaurant).

CB: When did the hotel begin to go green and why was it important?

RU: AccorHotels has been pioneering green initiatives and leading sustainability in the hospitality industry since 1994, when its Environment Department was created. In 2002, the Sustainable Development Department was formed, and in 2011, an action plan came to fruition as the Planet 21 program. Planet 21 consisted of 21 sustainable key actions and granted 4 levels of certification to hotels successfully executing certain initiatives. It is at this time that the Sofitel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills made eco-friendly initiatives its number one priority - and nothing has changed since then. Being green is still our own hotel's main objective -- we have a great responsibility to balance our activities with eco-friendly practices. This positive environmental impact starts at the property level. Now, more than ever, we are working on sustaining and improving our green initiatives.

CB: What is one thing you've learned during the process and do you have any advice for hotel managers who are just beginning the process of greening their properties?

/ SLIDES
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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.