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This past week I attended the Hotel Association of Canada’s (HAC) annual conference in Toronto. In case you did not know, HAC runs the most widely accepted green hotel rating system in the world—the Green Key Eco-Rating Program. While at the conference, I took some time to chat with Walter Willett, director of business development for HAC. Walter explained that the rating program now has 740 hotels participating, up from 620 in November and 300 a year ago. By the end of this year, it is likely that more than 1,000 Canada-based properties will be Green Key members.
American Idle. No, not the show, which I admit I do not watch. American Idle, as in idling your vehicles. Do you do it? I recommend avoiding it as much as you can. I received an e-mail from a reader last week that dealt with vehicle idling. Here is what she wrote: “As a flight attendant, I am constantly staying in hotels and taking shuttles from the airport to the hotels. The hotel shuttles and private shuttle services constantly run their engines while they wait for passengers, while loading bags and otherwise. In the dead of winter or summer it might be understandable, but otherwise not. I have spoken to the van drivers and their response is that they just don’t care or their boss instructed them to keep the vans running. Help!”
Las Vegas’ travel and tourism industry received some good news and some bad news last week. First the good news. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the city drew a record 39.2 million visitors in 2007, an almost 1 percent increase when compared to 2006. Now the bad news: A pair of researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, reported that there is a 50 percent chance Lake Mead—the primary source of water for Lake Vegas—will run dry by 2021 if the climate continues to change as expected and future water usage is not curtailed.
Attracting the best and brightest talent that schools have to offer has always been a challenge for the lodging industry. The industry has a reputation, whether accurate or not, for demanding long hours and not offering competitive salaries. According to some experts, it is not going to get any easier, especially if your company fails to convince prospective employees of your commitment to environmental responsibility.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS) in Los Angeles. I had never previously attended ALIS. It was exciting to see so much attention paid to green hotel building and operations. The event’s organizers did a great job selecting the speakers and moderators for each of the green panel sessions (four total). Each of the sessions was well attended. The relationship between business and the environment was the focus of the keynote speaker, Emma Duncan, deputy editor of The Economist, and the top executives of companies such as Global Hyatt Corp. and Hilton Hotels Corp. addressed sustainability during the “Hotel Leaders Outlook” segment.
Interior designers or anyone else who specifies or purchases items such as fabrics, wall coverings and floor coverings have had good reason to be excited lately. Increasingly, companies are offering sustainable options that are recyclable and that include high percentages of post-consumer and/or post-industrial recycled content. In the carpet world, product that is recyclable, and that has recycled content, has been available for quite some time, and manufacturers have been leading all industries in their commitment to sustainability. Interface FLOR, for example, has a goal of achieving a zero environmental footprint by 2020. Since 1999, Milliken & Co.’s carpet manufacturing plants have sent zero waste to landfills.
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.
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