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Entrepreneur Determined to Grow New Green Hotel Certification Program

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HERMOSA BEACH, CALIF.—Guido Bauer, an entrepreneur with significant hospitality industry experience and who first studied tourism and hospitality management at the University of Munich in Germany, is working hard to build a Green Hotel Certification program for the global lodging industry. Bauer launched his program in November 2006 and already has established a foothold for it in the Caribbean. With two others selling Green Hotel Certification and two support staff on board, Bauer now has his eyes set on the United States and beyond.

Bauer says he started researching Green Hotel Certification several years ago after hearing over and over from his consulting clients in the Caribbean that there is a need for independent certification that is recognized on an international level. Bauer looked to the United Nations’ criteria for sustainable development and put together his plan. To achieve Green Hotel Certification, a property must complete online forms that document its establishment of an environmental management system and prove that it complies with environmental laws. It also must document accomplishments made in recycling, energy and water conservation, community involvement, sustainable tourism and more.

“The hotels must do everything in their power to operate sustainably,” Bauer says.

Onsite Training, Evaluation

Bauer or a member of his team spends from three to five days at each participating property to provide training and to evaluate the environmental program. An environmental policy is written for each hotel that participates. Hotels are encouraged to post their policies on their websites and are required to designate an environmental officer to help guide them through the certification process.

“We guarantee that we will have [the policy] done in six months,” Bauer says. “If the environmental officer works hard, it can be done in three to four months.”

Once all of the required paperwork is uploaded by the environmental officer, it is reviewed by an independent panel that consists of a dozen industry representatives including university faculty members and engineers.

Green Hotel Certification properties are required to participate in a carbon offset program and must give their guests the option of paying $12 during their stay to offset their travel. Bauer has partnered with Native Energy for this part of his program.

Matt Keene, the environmental officer representing Galley Bay, St. James Club, and The Verandah in Antigua, as well as Palm Island in The Grenadines, says his company signed on to the Green Hotel Certification program to help market its hotels, to reduce operational costs, and because being environmentally responsible is the right thing to do.

“These days, consumers are seeking out hotels that are eco-friendly and certified,” Keene says. “We want to attract those types of travelers.”

What Makes Them Unique

What separates Green Hotel Certification from the other programs out there? Bauer says his company is completely independent and the only one certifying to international standards—ones that can be recognized whether one stays in a hotel in the United States, the Caribbean or Hong Kong.

“After certification, participants can prove to anyone online or in print that they are up to the highest environmental standards and comply with environmental laws,” Bauer says.

The cost for a hotel to obtain Green Hotel Certification can run from $3,000 to $15,000, depending on the size of the property. Hotels must recertify on an annual basis to prove they have set new goals and met previous ones. An onsite visit by Bauer or another member of his team, typically lasting two days, is required for recertification.

The cost for recertification is lower—about 30 percent to 50 percent of the original cost. Certified hotels benefit by being listed at www.bookgreenhotels.com, a commissions-free site that points travelers directly to the properties’ booking engines. Hotels are also marketed at trade and consumer shows, directly to the meeting and incentive community, and in press releases to more than 2,000 media outlets. Finally, each certified property gets a certificate and statue to prominently display.

Go to Green Hotel Certification.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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