In late November I wrote a column (click here) asking readers whether or not their properties’ AAA Diamond ratings had ever been affected negatively by their green initiatives. I received a number of responses—some said their green initiatives had not been impacted while others said their ratings had been affected. I was prompted to ask readers this question because I had heard a number of times from hoteliers, innkeepers and vendors that AAA inspectors sometimes had issues with what would be considered green products or programs.
To clear up any confusion out there about what a property may or may not include that is “green,” I recently spoke with Michael Petrone, Director of Tourism Information Development for AAA in Heathrow, Fla. Michael certainly gave me the impression that AAA is more than willing to listen to any concerns you may have. “We try to be as flexible as we can,” he said. “We want to work with the industry and individual properties.”
One of the most common complaints I have heard is that ratings have been knocked down at Three Diamond or higher properties because of the presence of amenity dispensers. I asked Michael about this and what he told me makes sense. Amenity dispensers are fine as long as their design reflects the segment they are in. The good news for anyone considering amenity dispensers is that there are designs available for every market segment.
Michael said the confusion with Diamond ratings begins when people take them literally and look at them as requirements. The ratings guidelines should be interpreted more broadly, he emphasized. Lighting is another example where there is sometimes confusion. What matters most is the number of fixtures and whether or not bulbs illuminate adequately. Whether or not the bulbs happen to be incandescent or fluorescent is not what matters most (of course CFLs are preferred from a “green” standpoint). There was a time when AAA inspectors actually used light meters to measure foot candles but now they simply close the curtains or blinds (if inspecting during the day) and then turn on lights to test whether lighting is adequate.
In regard to the use of low-flow showerheads, whether or not newspapers are delivered to the door, whether recycling bins are placed in the guestroom, etc., what it all comes down to is how the guest experience is impacted and whether what is presented to the guest matches the expectations for that market segment.
AAA is ‘All Ears’
We all know AAA is not perfect and inspectors can certainly have their own biases but AAA, based on my conversation with Michael, is certainly willing to work with anyone that has questions regarding its rating process. Here are a few more things you should know about AAA and green lodging:
Last October, AAA announced that it would recognize properties that have been eco-certified with a bright green “ECO” icon in its 2010 TourBook guides. (See article.) Michael says this initiative has been well received by AAA members. A total of 2,100 properties now have the icon—7 percent of all AAA-approved lodgings. “We did not expect that many right off the bat,” Michael says.
Which green lodging certification programs are represented in the TourBook guides? Click here for a list. Not all certification programs are represented. If your property has been green certified but its certifying organization is not yet recognized by AAA, have a representative of the organization contact AAA. Michael says AAA is not currently “going out and seeking them.” AAA is selective about which organizations it will include and handling each on a “case by case basis.”
AAA is currently working to add “green” search functionality to its website. A property’s green designation can currently be seen within the site’s mapping software. Within a month or so, eco-certified properties will be recognized as “green” on their individual property detail pages. Complete green property search functionality will be added to the AAA site by the end of the year.
AAA at one time was viewed (and maybe still is by some) as an organization that should manage the green certification of all lodging properties. They DO have inspectors going to 30,000 lodging establishments, don’t they? Don’t expect that to happen. “That is not our mission,” Michael says. “We are not the experts to apply some very complicated criteria. You never know about the future but my guess is that we should leave it up to the experts.”
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Greening the Hospitality Industry Conference
Green Lodging News will be exhibiting at the Greening the Hospitality Industry Conference in Denver. The event will be held from February 9 to 11 at the Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center. If you will be attending the event, be sure to stop by. To learn more about the conference, click here. Green Lodging News is an official sponsor.
Advertising Opportunities in 2010
There are still some excellent Green Lodging News advertising opportunities available for 2010, including ad spots on the website and in the weekly e-newsletter. There are also many Green Supplier Spotlight dates available throughout the year. If your company has a product or products it would like to feature in Green Lodging News in 2010, be sure to contact me at (440) 243-2055, or by e-mail at email@example.com. The 2010 media kit is available by request or by clicking here. Thank you to all of those companies that consistently support Green Lodging News.
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