My First Impressions After Visiting Hilton Worldwide's First Home2 Suites Hotel

3/18/2011 By Glenn Hasek

A little more than two years ago, while attending the Americas Lodging Investment Summit in San Diego, I had an opportunity to attend a media event at which Hilton Worldwide unveiled its new mid-tier extended-stay brand—Home2 Suites by Hilton. The timing was not the best, just four or five months after the economy took a dive, but the launch has turned out to be a very successful one. Two hotels have already opened—one in Fayetteville, N.C. (see article), and another in Layton, Utah. According to Bill Duncan, global head, Home2 Suites, eight or nine Home2 Suites properties should be open by the end of this year; there are 77 currently in the Hilton pipeline.

I attended a media event this past week at the new 118-room Fayetteville property. It had its soft opening on February 3 and its official opening on March 15. The hotel was developed by LBA Properties and is owned by Apple REIT Companies, Inc. Since the launch of Home2 Suites, Hilton has been positioning its new brand as one that incorporates numerous sustainable elements. I was anxious to see them for myself. During a hotel tour, Shane Bussino, general manager, did a great job explaining the hotel’s green features.

First of all, the hotel’s interior design is colorful and unique. The lobby, called the “Oasis,” features seating areas that encourage interactivity. A large green couch, called a “banquette,” is the central feature in the lobby area and includes fabric that includes recycled content. The breakfast area includes an “Inspired Table” with a top made from material with recycled content. Throughout the entire property—in common areas and in guestrooms—countertops include recycled content.

Carpet Tile Approach

One of the striking features of the hotel is the colorful carpet tile that includes about 70 percent to 80 percent recycled content. In hallways and guestrooms, the replaceable carpet squares ensure that one bad stain will not destroy an entire carpet area; the one bad tile is simply replaced. “I can’t tell you how many times we flip-flopped about the carpet tile,” Duncan told me. My opinion is that it was a good decision to go with the carpet tile.

Look up and you will see energy-efficient compact fluorescents; the CFLs are also found throughout guestrooms. Guestrooms feature dual-flush toilets, an item Duncan says they struggled to find in an affordable commercial grade. Brand standard bulk amenity dispensers are positioned on the tub/shower wall and dispense soap and shampoo. Linens are changed every fifth day or upon guest checkout. LED lighting around switches in the guestroom bathroom and entry area eliminate the need to keep bathroom lights on at night.

Coffee served in the breakfast area is Rainforest Alliance certified. No Styrofoam, plastic utensils, or paper plates or dishes are used. The saline water in the swimming pool eliminates most of the need for chlorine. Guests who wish to recycle can place their recyclables in a reusable bag found in the guestroom. Recycling containers can also be found near elevators on each floor. There is also a recycling area called “Conserve 2 Preserve” in the breakfast area. In back-of-house locations, sensors turn lights off when they are not needed. Outside, a walking trail surrounds the property.

One Developer Pursuing LEED

While the Home2 Suites in Fayetteville is not pursuing LEED certification, one under construction in Lexington Park, Md., is being built to earn LEED Silver, one tier higher than basic accreditation (see article). Duncan says 16 LEED points are built into the Home2 Suites prototype.

What was my overall first impression of Home2 Suites? I was very impressed with its design and the incorporation of fixtures with recycled content. I am convinced that the building will operate efficiently with minimal waste, energy and water consumption—from the guestroom to the laundry. The new hotel I visited was not perfect. The owner of the Fayetteville hotel missed a big opportunity to reduce energy consumption even more by choosing not to install a guestroom energy management system. A couple of other picky things: I could not figure out how to set the alarm (another editor on the trip had the same problem in his room) and it took me several minutes to find the light switch on the bedside lamp; it is a tiny little thing positioned right by the two light bulbs (poorly designed and will inevitably result in someone touching the hot bulbs).

I asked the hotel’s general manager if the property is 100 percent nonsmoking. He said “no,” adding that a small percentage of rooms are set aside for smokers—especially important, he added, because of the hotel’s close location to a military facility (Fort Bragg). I was not aware that being in the military makes one more inclined to smoke. Does it? I can understand that there would be more pressure to accommodate smokers in North Carolina—the state that grows the most tobacco in the United States. Too bad though that Hilton did not make its Home2 Suites brand smoke free. A missed opportunity.

All in all, I applaud Hilton for launching a new brand with such a strong sustainability story. That, plus the building’s classy and flexible design and fast time from ground breaking to opening (nine months) will ensure the brand’s long-term success. I am curious to see how Hilton’s competitors will respond.

Earth Day & Earth Hour

Earth Day is coming up on April 22 and Earth Hour on March 26. If your property is planning to participate in either or both of these events, send details to editor@greenlodgingnews.com. This past week I learned that the RIT Inn and Conference Center in Rochester, N.Y., will be participating in Earth Hour. The Inn is inviting its guests and community to join in the event from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in Charades Lounge. Zugibe Vineyards, a Seneca Lake winery, will be offering tastings and the Inn will be offering light hor d’oeuvres plus food and drink specials. From 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., lights will go off in honor of Earth Hour and guests will enjoy a candlelit cocktail hour. Click here for more information.

Advertising Opportunities

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