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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Hotel Group Meetings: The Need for Speed

2017 was a banner year in the Hotel Group Meetings marketplace and that trend is expected to continue throughout 2018. Planners are experiencing a renewed sense of confidence due to a reinvigorated economy and increased job creation, which typically provides a boost in corporate meetings. Given this promising outlook, planners are maintaining a fast and furious pace, and they are utilizing an array of technologies to speed things up. For example, planner requests and proposals are expected to be turned around quickly; the mantra seems to be “as soon as possible, or sooner!” To that end, the use of electronic Request for Proposals (eRFPs) to source hotels and venues has increased in recent years, bringing many timely benefits to the Meetings industry. As a result, in order for hotels to attract and book meetings, they have to be willing to operate with a sense of urgency, which is the new baseline for success. Once on property, the need for speed doesn't diminish. Poken is a cloud-based event management platform, which enables attendees to easily and quickly connect, network and share contact info. ClickShare is a wireless presentation system that permits others in the meeting room to share their laptop with the presenter screen at the push of a button. Skype is useful in order to engage with remote participants in real time, and dedicated apps are being routinely used to drive registration and communication before, during and after a meeting. Finally, text messaging is replacing emailing and phone calls simply because it's quicker. The September Hotel Business Review will examine issues relevant to group meetings and will report on what some hotels are doing to promote this sector of their operations.