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When I was in fifth grade, my teacher tried to convince me to run for student council president. I passed because I thought I did not have what it takes to speak in front of a group of students. Instead, I agreed to serve as the campaign manager for a classmate, thinking that I would not have to…you got it…speak in front of a group of students. Well, I was wrong. I did have to go from classroom to classroom to speak on behalf of my candidate. I gave my speech in a southern accent and in a dramatic fashion, kind of Gomer Pyle-like as I recall. After witnessing such performances, my teacher took me aside and scolded me for not running for president. I had given the best speeches of anyone in that small political arena. I will never forget that life lesson.
The green lodging event season is heating up. In just two weeks I will be attending the Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS) in Los Angeles. This annual event, held January 28-30, will feature an entire track of green sessions. Topics will include: “How to Develop a Green Hotel,” “How to Convert Your Property to a Green Hotel,” “How to Operate a Green Hotel,” and “How Cool is Green?—Sizzle and Sustainability at the Same Time.” The keynote speaker `at the event will be Emma Duncan, deputy editor, The Economist. The focus of her session: “Cleaning Up: Business and Climate Change."
When the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association (JHTA) announced last month that it would support energy surcharges of up to $10 per night at its member hotels, almost immediately a flurry of statements were issued by hoteliers in that country. What did they say? No, we’re not going to do it. It was if they were caught off guard. “This is not a charge we want to pass on to our guests,” said Richard Whitfield, managing director of Jamaica’s luxury Half Moon resort, in an article in Caribbean Travel News. Ian Kerr, Sunset Resorts’ managing director, told Travel Weekly: “We have decided not to pass this charge along to our guests at this time. We will become even more committed to overall energy efficiency and conservation.”
Even though this column was posted before the New Year, many of you will be reading it in 2008. So, let me start off by saying “Happy New Year!” to all of you. From a green perspective, 2007 was an exciting one for the lodging industry. In years to come, it will be remembered as the year when environmentalism truly began to take hold. I certainly would not describe what happened in 2007 as an explosion of interest but it most certainly was a sizeable boom.
One of the most impressive parts of Starwood Capital Group’s new eco-luxury “1” Hotel and Residences concept is the commitment to give back to the local community. In fact, when up and running, each property will donate 1 percent of its revenue to local environmental organizations. Allocation of funds will be guided by a steering committee that includes representation from the Natural Resources Defense Council. I know of no other new eco-brand that has made such a financial commitment.
You have probably seen the cartoons where there is a devil on one person’s shoulder and an angel on the other, with each tiny character trying to convince the person to do what it believes is right. Well, that scenario has been playing out with me this holiday season as I walk the aisles of my favorite electronics stores. The little devil on one side has been pushing me to buy a flat screen TV; the little angel (eco-angel, I guess) has been telling me to wait. Guys, I am sure you can relate to this. Ladies, maybe some of you as well. Quite the quandary, wouldn’t you agree?
What do Aspen Skiing Co., The Rezidor Hotel Group, Xanterra Parks & Resorts and the Boulder Outlook Hotel & Suites all have in common? Each produces a corporate sustainability report—something still very rare in the lodging industry. Outside the industry, corporations such as Procter & Gamble, Dell, and even Wal-Mart generate them. Why are they so uncommon in lodging? I believe it is a reflection of how far our industry still needs to go to not only implement sustainability programs but also document them, measure their progress, and establish short- and long-term continuous improvement goals.
In the midst of the holiday season, it is a good time for the lodging industry to show its heart. In the United States, the industry has had another good year, with the average U.S. room rate surpassing $100 for the first time. I would not be surprised at all if industry pretax profits exceed those of 2006: $26.6 billion. We all have a lot to be thankful for. So tell me, what are you doing to give back to your community this holiday season? I would like to know. Call or e-mail to tell me. I will include as many of the replies as I can in next week’s column.
To my knowledge, just four U.S.-based companies announced new 100 percent nonsmoking policies this year—Choice Hotels International for its Comfort Suites brand, Gaylord Hotels for its three properties, Walt Disney World Resort for its owned and operated hotels, and Shaner Hotels for its 20-plus properties.
Three wire stories caught my interest this week and they all had the same theme: compostable cups, plates and utensils. In the first article, a restaurant called the Grille Zone in Boston was featured. It composts all of the items described above. In fact, there are no trashcans in the eating area and the restaurant produces an average of just 15 pounds of waste per day. The restaurant does not even own a dumpster.
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