Home Publisher's Point of View Get Your Pedal off the Metal and Pay Attention to Fuel Efficiency

Get Your Pedal off the Metal and Pay Attention to Fuel Efficiency

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A buck sixty-nine. That is the price I paid for a gallon of gas when I last filled up. Admittedly, I got a 30-cent grocery store discount but that is still quite a drop from the $3.00+/gallon that we had all been paying earlier this past summer. You may not be as lucky but here in Ohio we typically pay some of the lowest prices in the United States for gasoline.

The price of oil has been plummeting lately. There are various reasons for it—a non-eventful hurricane season, last year’s mild winter, political factors and a general supply increase. We all stand to benefit from lower gasoline prices. Consumers will spend more time in hotels and motels and they just might be willing to pay a little more for the experience. As encouraging as the lower gasoline prices are, we should not get too comfortable. We all know we are just one event away from another price shock.

Keeping the reality of gasoline price swings in mind, what is your property doing to encourage conservation? Are your vehicles as energy efficient as possible? Have you invested in hybrids? Other alternative technologies? Do you have a preventive maintenance plan in place to encourage more miles per gallon? How often do you check vehicle tire pressure? Change the oil? Replace air filters? Get tune-ups?

What Some Companies are Doing

At Xanterra Parks & Resorts, the United States’ largest national and state park management company, the company created its own internal CAFÉ (corporate average fuel economy) standard to reduce the fuel consumption of its several hundred fleet vehicles. Xanterra’s CAFÉ in 2004 was 22.1 mpg, a 14.9 percent increase over 2002. Xanterra’s goal is to increase its average CAFÉ to 35 mpg by 2015.

In the past few years, Xanterra’s fleet of vehicles has grown to include four hybrid Toyota Priuses, 54 zero-emission electric vehicles, 20 buses retrofitted with hydrous alcohol injection systems that increase fuel economy by 19.7 percent, and two propane-burning passenger shuttles. The company has also bought other fuel-saving vehicles.

As Xanterra and other companies purchase fuel-efficient vehicles, some hoteliers are giving guests incentives to do the same. In Portland, Ore., the Hotel Vintage Plaza and 5th Avenue Suites Hotel are giving a 50 percent parking discount to guests who drive hybrid vehicles.

Earlier this summer, Renaissance Hotels & Resorts announced that it would offer complimentary parking to all guests who drive a hybrid. The program runs through the end of the year.

“We think this is a fun and constructive offer to our guests who are helping the environment by driving hybrid vehicles,” says Hank Biddle, senior vice president, Renaissance Hotels & Resorts North America. “Our hotels are finding new ways to conserve energy, and this is a unique way to involve the customer.”

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide just announced that guests who drive hybrid vehicles will be given premium parking spots at the company’s aloft hotels when they begin opening in 2008. The aloft team is currently in discussions with a number of car companies to provide a hybrid aloft “house car” at each location, available to interested guests.

Support Stronger CAFÉ Standards

It is imperative that hotel and travel companies encourage production and use of more efficient vehicles—no matter what the price of gasoline happens to be. Automobiles contribute greatly to global warming and air pollution. Of all the possible lobbying targets the travel industry could choose, CAFÉ standards should be one of them. When the next energy shock comes along, the travel industry will be in a much better position if travelers are driving vehicles that get high mpg.

As always, I can be reached at greenlodgingnews@aol.com, or by calling (440) 243-2055. I look forward to hearing from you.

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