Just How Green Will Disney's Aulani Resort Be?

by Glenn Hasek January 27, 2011 05:53

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts' Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa, is slated to open its first phase this August in Hawaii on the western side of Oahu. The new resort will pursue LEED certification. I have tried to get Disney to tell me what about the property will earn it LEED certification but have had no success thus far. It may be just too early for that. I will keep trying. In the meantime, there have been several articles written about the resort that provide some details about what will make the property "green" or sustainable. A Disney representative also sent me an Aulani fact sheet that provides some insight. First, the details on the resort. It will be set on 21 acres and will be 17 miles from the Honolulu Airport.

Upon completion, Aulani will have 359 hotel rooms and 481 Disney Vacation Club timeshare villas. Aulani will include an 18,000-square-foot spa, 14,545-square-foot conference center, and 48,685 square feet of outdoor venues. Eventually, approximately 1,200 people are expected to be employed at the resort.

According to Disney, an Aulani is a messenger who speaks on behalf of a chief and the name Aulani was chosen to describe a vacation experience that will also speak on behalf of the island culture. As the history and heritage of Hawaii are inspiration for Aulani, Walt Disney Imagineering will use its skills in design to help bring those stories to life. The Imagineering team has worked with local architects and cultural experts on Oahu and throughout the state as part of the creative process for the resort. The resulting design is a village celebrating the Hawaiian customs and traditions. Restaurants will feature food unique to Hawaii with ingredients from local farmers and fishermen. Excursions such as dolphin-spotting tours, horseback riding, sea kayaking, and catamaran snorkeling will be hosted by local experts. Images of Hawaii will be seen in everything from the bedspreads to the carpet. Disney commissioned 70 native Hawaiian artists to create works for the resort.  

Sustainability is certainly about respecting local cultures, employing local people and educating guests about the natural environment and how to preserve it. So far, Disney deserves credit for doing that. Whether or not Disney will take steps to truly make the resort energy and water efficient remains to be seen. Will they employ renewable energy technologies on an island so primed for them? I am eager to find out. Your thoughts?


Undersea Resort Planned for Philippine Island of Palawan

by Glenn Hasek January 25, 2011 04:29

What baffles me is how the plumbing will work; what will happen when you flush the toilet? Will everything flush up? What am I referring to? A $150 million underwater resort hotel planned for Palawan in the Philippines. According to an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, construction will soon begin on the resort that will include 24 undersea suites—or pods—called "Anemones." Also included in the project is a 50-room on-land boutique hotel complete with amenities such as a casino, spa, business center and an underwater restaurant to be named "Starfish." The restaurant will seat as many as 200 people in its 600-square-meter dining area. A "Seahorse Science Center" will be built for tourists and will serve as the resort's marine observatory and conservation center.

Dubbed "The Coral World Park," the project is expected to open in 2013 and is a venture of Singapore businessman Paul Monozca. The architect for the project is Jose Manosa. The undersea suites will be located 60 feet below sea level and offer a 270-degree view of the sea. The 15-foot-high pods will be built by a U.S. company that specializes in submarines. The project is expected to create thousands of jobs for the people in Palawan and neighboring provinces.

Will the resort actually harm the environment? Not according to the developers. They will work to replenish the coral reefs in the area and advocate conservation tourism in the country. They said no marine life will be harmed during the construction and operation of the resort.

I will be sure to keep you updated as I learn more about the project—especially the plumbing.


Boston Hostel, to Open in 2012, Will Aim for LEED Certification

by Glenn Hasek January 20, 2011 04:30

Hostelling International's Boston hostel, which has served the Boston community and welcomed visitors for 25 years, will open in a new location in 2012. The $44 million project, according to Hostelling International New England, will be funded through a combination of Federal New Market and Historic Tax credits, private financing, owner equity including the sale of the existing facility, and other private support. The new, highly energy efficient building will be located adjacent to public transportation and in the heart of Boston's cultural district and theater district. The facility, which will pursue LEED certification, is expected to bring 46,000 visitors to the city each year, 30,000 of whom will be international visitors.

The new Boston hostel will be a landmark building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It will incorporate many green technologies including a green roof, green elevators, solar hot water heating, and shared amenities for guests. Add to this the fact that the new hostel will be within walking distance of major tourist destinations in the city and the environmental impact of each guest will minimal.

Once the new Boston hostel is completed, it will join the Planet Traveler hostel in Toronto as one of North America's greenest hostels. I wrote about the Planet Traveler hostel in October 2010. See article.

For more information, click here


Volcanic Eruption Sparks Flow of Tourists to Iceland

by Glenn Hasek January 18, 2011 04:28

I am sure you remember the pictures from last April, when clouds of dust from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland disrupted air traffic to and from Europe. While the event initially stopped tourism to Iceland, it ultimately helped tourism. Turns out Iceland experienced a 16 percent increase in visitors the first 11 months of 2010 as compared to the previous year. Volcano tours began as Icelanders offered guided trips to view the volcano and the ash-filled valleys below. By summer, visits to the volcano rivaled attendance at the country's other best-know attraction, the famed Blue Lagoon spa. Even ABC-TV's bachelorette, Ali Fedotowsky, was helicoptered above the heat and smoke to view the immense power of Eyjafjallajokull during an episode of The Bachelorette.

"The eruption became our best advertising," says Einar Gustavsson, the New York-based tourism director for Iceland in North America. "There wasn't a daily newspaper that didn't cover the story. Google reported 16,000 stories in a single day."

According to Gustavsson, the volume of travel to Iceland is expected to be up 20 percent over 2010, helped in part by Delta, which will launch new service this spring. The U.S. carrier will become the third airline to serve the country, adding seats to those already provided by Icelandair and Iceland Express.

Today, the average visitor sees little evidence of the volcano, except for the small bottles of volcanic ash being sold in gift shops throughout the country.

It is fascinating how one act of nature--a volcanic eruption--can spark tourism demand while another--an earthquake--can devastate it. As with the success of any hotel, what it all comes down to is location, location, location. 


Shouldn't All Guestrooms be Allergy-Friendly?

by Glenn Hasek January 11, 2011 05:11

Several months ago, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts announced that it would add hypo-allergenic rooms to all of its full-service hotels in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean—totaling approximately 2,000 hypo-allergenic rooms in 125 properties. The program is offered by a company called Pure Solutions. Each room is treated comprehensively to minimize allergens and irritants from all surfaces and fabrics. Additionally, all mattresses and pillows are encased in a protective hypo-allergenic covering. The air in the room is continuously circulated through a medical grade purifier, filtering out up to 99 percent of impurities. The room is maintained and re-certified every six months. Hyatt calls its rooms Respire by Hyatt—Hypo-Allergenic Rooms.

Guests are charged from $20 to $30 extra a night to stay in the rooms.

I have watched the growth of Pure Solutions for quite some time. I knew from the start that they had a great idea. They have gotten a lot of national publicity for their system, including a recent article in The New York Times. It was only a matter of time before an entire brand latched onto the program. There are tens of millions of travelers with allergy issues who are looking for a place to stay where they can actually sleep through the night (see FreshStay.com for list of smoke-free hotels). Those travelers with allergies are willing to spend more for a good night of rest.

While a great marketing idea and a great service for guests, one has to wonder what in the world is floating around in the air in a typical hotel room. It is clear that hotels are not paying enough attention to indoor air quality (IAQ). Cleaning chemicals, floor coverings, furniture, glues, dust, pets and other items all impact IAQ. Of course smoking, which is still permissable in most hotels, albeit typically in a small percentage of guestrooms, also negatively affects IAQ.

Maybe it's time for all hotel owners to take a serious look at IAQ. Really, shouldn't all guestrooms be "pure" rooms? Your thoughts? 


Pay Attention to Proposed Version of LEED EB:O&M

by Glenn Hasek January 07, 2011 05:34

Those of you interested in pursuing the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance certification should pay attention to the draft that is currently open for public comment. And, you better hurry if you would like to make some comments; the comment period ends on January 14. I received a call from the director of sustainability for a hotel company recently and he expressed concern about one part of the proposed new version of LEED EB:O&M. The section he is concerned about pertains to one of the options hoteliers would choose for earning credit for energy efficiency. Option No. 3 is the option in question.

As Option 3 currently stands, a hotel would have to demonstrate an energy efficiency improvement of at least 20 percent, normalized for climate and building use, by comparing the building's site energy data for the previous 12 months with the data from three contiguous years of the previous five. Buildings without four consecutive years of site energy data would be ineligible. What the person who called me is concerned about is the efficiency improvement of at least 20 percent. He believes, and I agree, that the bar has been set too high, especially for larger hotels. What do you think? Is a 20 percent energy efficiency improvement really doable for all hotels that would be eligible for LEED EB:O&M?

Those pursuing LEED EB:O&M would also have the option of earning an Energy Star rating of at least 69, but that is not exactly easy either (see my recent column). Or, they could demonstrate energy efficiency at least 19 percent better than the average for typical buildings of similar type by benchmarking against national average source energy data provided in the Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool.

The bottom line is that it is not going to be easy, when the new version of LEED EB:O&M is in place, for hotels to earn that LEED designation. Now is your chance to add your opinion. Click here to access the LEED Public Comment page and the click on the "Expand" button adjacent to the EB:O&M Draft title.


Five Too Many Miami Teens Died Because of Carbon Monoxide

by Glenn Hasek January 04, 2011 08:30

The investigation is not final but it looks like carbon monoxide has killed five more hotel guests--five teens staying at the Hotel Presidente near the Miami International Airport on December 26. Their second floor guestroom was connected to the garage via an interior stairway where they left their car running. They went to the hotel to celebrate the birthday of one of the teens and left the car running because they previously had problems keeping the battery charged. A 2007 Florida law requires that carbon monoxide detectors be installed in hotel and motel boiler rooms but not in garages or guestrooms. Too bad for the Florida teens. They possibly could have survived the holidays.

In late 2006, a 26-year-old man died in a Florida hotel guestroom that was adjacent to a boiler room that had a carbon monoxide leak. That death led to the Florida law. I wrote about this incident in a previous column. In 2005, three women also died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a garage at a motel after leaving their car running.

How can one prevent such deaths from happening? Requiring carbon monoxide detectors in guestrooms and closable garages is certainly a good first step but adding "can't miss" signage where guests can't miss it also makes sense. Would the detectors have saved the teens? Probably. The signage? I suspect at least one of the teens would have seen it.

Don't assume guests, especially seniors and teens, will make the right decisions when it comes to leaving cars running in garages. Don't assume only boiler rooms create risks for carbon monoxide poisoning. Don't wait until it is required or a guest dies before minimizing your risk. Your thoughts?





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About Me

Glenn Hasek is the publisher and editor of Green Lodging News. He has more than 20 years of experience writing about the lodging industry. He can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com or by phone at (813) 510-3868.