AH&LA Survey Shows Most Green Practices Becoming More Common

8/17/2012 By Glenn Hasek

Every two years the American Hotel & Lodging Assn. (AH&LA) releases the results of its Lodging Survey. This year’s survey was funded by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation (AH&LEF) and conducted by STR. An impressive 52,155 U.S. hotel properties were polled and there was a response rate of 23 percent. I have written about previous surveys numerous times on Green Lodging News (search using “lodging survey” on the Green Lodging News website).

This year’s survey certainly indicated that green lodging is alive and well. The percentage of respondents indicating that they either have or are working toward a green certification is 49 percent. That is up from less than 30 percent in 2004. When asked if their properties have a water saving program, 75 percent said they do. That is up from 46 percent in 2008 and way up from 20 percent in 2004.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they have a recycling program. That is up from 50 percent in 2010 and 32 percent in 2004. The percentage of those saying they have a linen/towel reuse program stands at 76 percent this year, down from 88 percent in 2010 but still a strong number. In 2004, just 52 percent said they had a linen/towel reuse program. When asked what portion of guestrooms are nonsmoking, the average was 87 percent. This is up from 74 percent in 2006 but slightly lower than the 91 percent in 2010.

Survey Included New Questions

For the first time hoteliers were asked whether or not their properties use LED lighting. Averaged over the seven chain scales in the survey, 68 percent said they do. For the first time hoteliers were asked whether or not they provide electric car charging stations. Averaged over the seven chain scales in the survey, 6 percent said they do.

For three surveys in a row, roughly the same percentage (23 percent) said they have energy management sensors in guestrooms. While a believable number, I am curious to know why this technology is not making headway when it is such an easy way to reduce costs and energy consumption. Likewise, in four of the five surveys that have been done since 2004, 6 percent indicated they provide liquid soap dispensers in bathrooms. What is stopping this product from gaining acceptance in our industry?

As strong of a study this year’s lodging survey is, it does have its holes and somewhat baffling results. For example, for the second survey in a row an unusually high number of respondents reported that they offer allergy-friendly rooms at their hotels (34 percent). I cannot believe the percentage is that high. Besides, what exactly is an allergy-friendly room? How would you define it? Of course I am familiar with PURE Rooms but is that how everyone defines an allergy-friendly room?

Likewise, an unusually high percentage of respondents (20 percent) said they offer air purifiers in guestrooms. Do you offer these? Do you believe the percentage is that high?

Questions Missing from Survey

Absent from the survey are any questions pertaining to green cleaning practices. I believe it would benefit our industry greatly to learn more about the pervasiveness of green cleaning. Also absent from the survey are any questions specific to eco-friendly amenities (besides dispensers) and green laundry operations (use of ozone systems, eco-friendly dry cleaning services). Also missing: questions about green purchasing and green meetings.

You can read about additional findings in the article I wrote about the survey. AH&LA members can download a copy of the 2012 Lodging Survey, which covers many other lodging categories besides the environment, via the Members Only section of the AH&LA website. Individual data points are available for purchase through the AH&LA Information Center at (888) 743-2515.

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