Benchmark Misses the Mark with Top 10 Meeting Trends List

by Glenn Hasek February 28, 2012 04:31

A big thumbs down to Benchmark Hospitality International's just released "Top 10 Meeting Trends for 2012." Why? The just released ASTM International standards for green meetings appear nowhere on the list. The hospitality industry has been waiting for the standards for about five years. They are finally here but they are apparently not important enough for Benchmark. Here are the first eight of 10 trends Benchmark considers more important: 1) Luxury is Back! 2) At last, meeting demand is growing and is the strongest it’s been since 2008. 3) Meeting size is trending up and space is at a premium. 4) 21st century meeting space is different! 5) Meetings technology has leapt into the 21st century! 6) The meeting package is coming back strong! 7) Slowly and carefully meeting pricing is trending up. 8) Teambuilding budgets are continuing their comeback.

The final two trends: 9) We’ve seen this before, we’re seeing it again. As the economy strengthens, corporate America is once more renewing its focus on ensuring it has the best trained sales and management teams possible, and so is ramping up training budgets. 10) Increasingly the meeting destination is as important as the meeting venue. As an aside, at the end of the press release announcing the 10 meeting trends, Benchmark finally mentions socially responsible meetings.

For the folks at Benchmark and everyone else, eight of the nine standards that measure environmental performance in the meetings, conventions and exhibitions industry are now available from ASTM International. The approved standards cover the evaluation and selection of the following topics as they relate to sustainable meetings, events, trade show and conferences: ASTM E2741, destinations; ASTM E2742, exhibits; ASTM E2743, transportation; ASTM E2745, audio visual (A/V) and production; ASTM E2746, communication and marketing materials; ASTM E2747, on-site offices; ASTM E2773, food and beverage; and ASTM E2774, meeting venues. A ninth standard on accommodations (ASTM WK22056) is still under development and will be available at a later date. To see more information, including the scopes of the standards, click here. Be sure to follow Green Lodging News for information on the standards. I now have access to the complete versions of the eight available standards and will be commenting on them soon.

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Just Two Hotel Companies on Energy Star Leaders List

by Glenn Hasek February 23, 2012 04:51

The Environmental Protection Agency just released an updated list of its Energy Star Leaders. There are just two lodging companies on the list: Accor North America and Saunders Hotel Group. Energy Star leaders are companies that have improved the energy efficiency of their building portfolios by 20 percent or more. Last year, President Obama announced a nationwide call to action to improve the energy performance in buildings across the nation by 20 percent by 2020. EPA’s Energy Star program has helped its Energy Star Leaders achieve the President’s goal by providing them with a proven energy management strategy, which includes a focus on ongoing performance measurement and whole-building improvement. Energy Star Leaders have cumulatively saved more than $150 million on utility bills and prevented greenhouse gas emissions equal to the electricity use of nearly 95,000 homes. Energy Star Leaders must meet one of two energy efficiency improvement milestones. The first milestone requires a 10 percent improvement in energy performance across their entire building portfolio, and subsequent recognition is given for each 10 percent improvement thereafter.

The second milestone, known as “top performer,” requires the buildings in an organization’s portfolio to perform on average in the top 25 percent of similar buildings nationwide. To be eligible for Energy Star Leaders recognition, organizations are required to track and submit energy performance data for all buildings and fuel sources through EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool. Accor North America was a Top Performer in 2006. Saunders Hotel Group was a Top Performer in 2005.

The complete list of Energy Star Leaders has grown to more than 200 organizations, including school districts, national retailers, commercial real estate companies, healthcare systems, supermarket operators and hotel managers that have achieved energy efficiency improvements across more than 11,400 buildings covering nearly 730 million square feet in the United States. With help from EPA’s Energy Star program, thousands of businesses and organizations are improving the energy efficiency of the places where we work, play and learn and are saving billions of dollars while preventing millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere each year.

Click here to access a complete list of Energy Star Leaders.

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Coming Soon to Your Community: Earth Day, Earth Hour

by Glenn Hasek February 21, 2012 05:15

In just two months--April 22--people around the world will celebrate Earth Day. The first Earth Day occurred in 1970. The idea came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif. Here at Green Lodging News, I have reported each year on what hotels and hotel companies have done for Earth Day. If your property is planning to mark the day in any way--with a tree planting, special rates, volunteer activity, etc.--I would love to hear about it. In an article last year I wrote about some of the activities that were planned. Many of them were very unique. In New York and Chicago, The James properties gave away complimentary MTA and CTA transportation cards for guests upon request. At the Hotel Monteleone, a press conference was held on Earth Day to unveil an ecological quilt, “Beyond the Horizon,” commissioned by civic activist Penny Edwards. At the Embassy Suites Houston-Downtown, management purchased renewable energy credits for every room that was occupied on April 22.

At Bucuti Beach Resort in Aruba, Earth Day began with guests and employees joining to pick up litter along the beach. Guests received a free Bucuti T-shirt for participating.

In less than two months on March 31, Earth Hour will be marked around the world. In 2006, World Wildlife Fund-Australia inspired Sydney-siders to show their support for climate change action in the first ever Earth Hour event. Then in March 2007 in Sydney, 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights out for one hour to take a stand against climate change. In 2008, the plan was to take Earth Hour to the rest of Australia. But then the City of Toronto, Canada, signed up and it wasn’t long before 35 countries and almost 400 cities and towns were part of the event.

Last year Earth Hour was marked at many lodging establishments around the world. Starwood Hotels & Resorts participated for the third consecutive year. Individual Starwood properties turned out the lights--as many as they could--for an hour. At the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers, every guest received an Earth-shaped chocolate lollipop with a message attached encouraging participation. Fairmont Hotels participated for the fourth consecutive year last year. The Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park offered a special cocktail, the HUMing Bird, made of organic botanic HUM liqueur, freshly squeezed lemon, organic puree and ginger. A dollar from every cocktail was donated to the Grant Park Conservancy, the hotel’s Eco-Signature Project. These are just a couple of examples of Earth Hour activities.

Contact me to let me know how your property or company will be celebrating Earth Day and Earth Hour this year. Leave your comments here or write to editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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New Jersey Hotelier Takes PPA Approach to Solar Financing

by Glenn Hasek February 16, 2012 05:50

I had an opportunity to chat with Rishi Shah yesterday. Rishi is the general manager of the Wyndham Philadelphia-Mount Laurel Hotel. In about four to six weeks Rishi and his family, the hotel's owners, will unveil an impressive 756-kilowatt solar installation in the parking area of their hotel. The 3,150 solar panels will sit on 10 carports that were newly built to support the panels. I will be writing about the solar installation soon for the Green Lodging News website. Aside from the spectacular solar installation, what is most intriguing is that Rishi and his family paid nothing for it. As part of a power purchase agreement (PPA), US Solargy arranged the financing for the system built by SolarMax Technology. SolarMax will sell electricity from the system to the hotel's owners. The PPA approach to solar for electricity and hot water heating is becoming more common and certainly worth checking out if you are considering using the sun's power to your benefit. Rishi says he negotiated a rate for 15 years. It will only escalate with inflation. Knowing what he will be paying for that electricity will help him predict cash flow over time.

Rishi says US Solargy lined up the investors and took advantage of state and federal incentives. The solar installation is expected to provide 50 percent of the electricity needed by the full-service hotel. The installation at the hotel included the new carports, creating quite the conversation piece for guests. "A lot of our customers love this approach," Rishi told me. "It has been a great process so far." To learn more about the PPO concept, click here. And, if your hotel has taken a similar financing approach to renewable energy, I would love to hear about it. Leave your comments here or write to editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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Readers Weigh In on Amenity Dispensers

by Glenn Hasek February 14, 2012 03:59

As many of you know, this past week I posted an article on amenity dispensers. So far I have gotten good response. I would like to share some of the best reader comments with you. When asked what she dislikes about dispensers, one reader said, "The designs are just not right. They all look very institutional, not lovely. In a small property, the cozy, maybe elegant, or quirky feel cannot be manifest with dispensers. Much more important: the function of many is difficult. Most designs take two hands to use. Many use a key system for refilling, some of which are tricky to operate or break easily. What I really like are the old chrome and globe dispensers with a drip dispenser one can simply push from underneath with the hand that is receiving the soap or shampoo or conditioner. The problem with the ones I have found (which are NOT found through any companies selling the amenities) is that the sizing is such that we must dilute the product to ensure it drips properly. So sizing the dispenser for thicker amenities would help a lot, but we have no control over that."

Another reader at a resort said, "Our ownership has said no each time I have presented this option. They believe it lowers the standard and has a locker room effect, even though AAA replied to my email and said as long as individual amenity bottles are available upon guest request, it would not affect the rating. I also believe the quality and ‘hardiness’ of the dispensers could be improved. Many of them feel like they would fall apart after some use." One CEO, after trying dispensers for a while, removed them. He said, "There is still a negative guest perception and when that is overcome, I am happy to go back to the dispensers."

One general manager of a New York luxury hotel said he would recommend phasing in dispensers at luxury properties, still offering the individual bottles along with the dispensers in the first phase and then finally removing the bottles in the second phase. One general manager had some good things to say about dispensers, saying, "There is some hesitation that the system is not quality oriented; I would disagree. High end spas and fitness centers have been using them for years. The customer seems to appreciate the effort toward conservation."

One innkeeper shared, "We like them a lot because we don’t have the waste (and expense) of individual amenity bottles, plus the guest can use as much or as little as they want of shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel. We can also supply a quality product since we buy it in bulk, and we have switched to undyed product so while they all look alike, the dispenser easily tells the guest which product to use. The use of undyed products is a further part of our green initiatives." One owner and general manager said the elimination of bottles and their caps would reduce the risk of slip and fall injuries in bathrooms. One general manager of a Marriott hotel, who was adamant about the specific name of his property not being used, said he has tested dispensers at his property without brand permission and the response was great. He would love to have them in every room.

If you would like to share your input, leave a comment here or send an e-mail to editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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List of Top 10 States for LEED Green Buildings Released

by Glenn Hasek February 07, 2012 04:24

Almost every day I receive a request for the current list of LEED certified/registered hotels. I just put in a request to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for the most recent list. Be sure to check back here for it soon. In the meantime, you may be interested in some recent news from USGBC in regard to the top 10 states for LEED certified commercial and institutional green buildings per capita, based on the U.S. 2010 Census information. Keep in mind that this list includes more than hotels. The District of Columbia leads the nation, with more than 31 square feet of LEED certified space per person in 2011, with Colorado being the leading state, with 2.74 square feet per person in 2011. Other top states include Illinois, Virginia and Washington, with 2.69, 2.42 and 2.18 square feet of LEED certified space per person, respectively. These states are followed by Maryland, Massachusetts, Texas, California, New York and Minnesota. One of the most notable newly certified projects in 2011 is the Treasury Building in Washington, D.C.

Other notable recently certified projects include the LEED Platinum Casey Middle School in Boulder, Colo.; the iconic Wrigley Building in Chicago; Frito-Lay in Lynchburg, Va., which earned LEED Gold for the operations and maintenance of an existing building; the LEED Silver Hard Rock Café in Seattle; Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Md.; Yawkey Distribution Center of The Greater Boston Food Bank in Mass.; the LEED Gold Austin Convention Center in Texas; SFO's LEED Gold Terminal 2 in San Francisco; the LEED Platinum Hotel Skyler in Syracuse, N.Y.; and the LEED Platinum Marquette Plaza in Minneapolis.

In December 2011, USGBC announced that LEED certified existing buildings outpaced their newly built counterparts by 15 million square feet on a cumulative basis. For the full list of LEED certified projects visit usgbc.org/press.

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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.