NEWTON, MASS.—Since the official launch of TripAdvisor’s GreenLeaders/GreenPartners program on Earth Day this year, the number of participants in the program has more than doubled—from 1,000 to more than 2,100. Hotels and B&Bs in the United States are currently eligible to participate. The program’s cost is certainly an attraction—it is free—and exposure of one’s green practices on a website that sees 200 million visitors a month is also a huge incentive to participate.
Jenny Rushmore, director of responsible travel at TripAdvisor, told Green Lodging News that as fast as the program has been growing, it has the potential to be significantly larger. Only a small portion of U.S. lodging establishments on TripAdvisor have signed up so far and the program has yet to be extended outside of the United States. While Rushmore would not provide a timeline for international expansion, it is in TripAdvisor’s plans and could be as early as later this year.
Representatives of U.S. properties on TripAdvisor are eligible to complete an application. A comprehensive Survey Guide includes the questions. The Survey Guide includes Filter Questions, Required Questions, and topical areas including: Energy, Water, Purchasing, Waste, Site Questions, and Innovation and Education. Questions in the Survey Guide are weighted according to the environmental importance of the green practice, and the scale of that practice’s impact.
Must Meet Basic Requirements, and More
GreenLeaders are properties that meet basic requirements of the TripAdvisor GreenLeaders program—including having seven required green practices in place—and achieve a minimum score of 30 percent on the survey. The seven required green practices include: tracking energy on a regular basis (at least quarterly); using at least 75 percent energy-efficient light bulbs; having current and active towel and linen re-use plans in place; recycling at least two types of waste; provide staff training on green practices; and offer guest education on green practices. These properties receive a TripAdvisorGreenLeader badge on TripAdvisor, and their green practices are showcased on their property’s page. TripAdvisor GreenPartners, by comparison, are properties that have the seven required green practices in place, but do not achieve the minimum score to qualify for TripAdvisor GreenLeader status. TripAdvisor GreenPartners receive a badge on their property’s amenities section.
GreenLeaders achieve one of four levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. The higher the level, the greater the impact of a property’s green practices. According to Rushmore, 25 percent of current participants are GreenPartners, 25 percent have reached Bronze status, 25 percent have reached Silver, 20 percent Gold, and just 5 percent platinum.
One-half of the rated properties so far represent chains; the other half are independents. The states with the most GreenLeaders/GreenPartners: California, Florida, New York. The top cities by number of hotels: New York City, San Francisco, Chicago. The city with the highest percentage of its TripAdvisor hotels in the program: Boston, with 20 percent. The chain with the most represented: Hilton (300 properties), followed by Marriott (200), and IHG (150).
Properties Located Throughout United States
Rushmore says that prior to launching GreenLeaders, she expected participants to be concentrated in certain cities. That has not been the case. “The biggest city only represents 2 percent of the program,” she says. “The properties are really spread out around the country.”
All participants must reapply on an annual basis to ensure their continued enrollment in the program, and to maintain the TripAdvisor GreenLeader or TripAdvisor GreenPartner award on their property’s page.
It took TripAdvisor a year to launch its program. It put it together with the assistance of The Cadmus Group along with U.S. EPA, the United Nations Environment Programme, the U.S. Green Building Council, and other industry stakeholders. Rushmore says the development process was open and transparent and the program was tested and launched in increments. TripAdvisor will occasionally make updates to its program.
“We will continue working with our stakeholders to make sure changes make sense,” Rushmore says.
Unique to TripAdvisor is its posting of comments from travelers. Rushmore says TripAdvisor has already received more than 8,000 comments about properties’ green practices. “We are working on the process to get them to show up on TripAdvisor,” she says.
Also unique to TripAdvisor is its “green filter” that allows a site visitor to search only on those properties that are GreenLeaders. Rushmore says in the fourth months since GreenLeaders was launched, that green filter has been used 100,000 times.
More Marketing Benefits
In addition to the aforementioned online benefits to being a GreenLeader or GreenPartner, Rushmore says TripAdvisor provides a press kit to hotels to use to promote their participation. Some GreenLeaders have been promoted in social media and at least one hotel, The Lenox Hotel in Boston, is prominently displaying its GreenLeader status on signage outside of the hotel. More than 1,800 properties have received their actual certificates so far.
As with other green certification type programs, there is an audit component. Traveler feedback may trigger an audit and the auditor, The Cadmus Group, will conduct audits throughout the year to further ensure claim accuracy and program integrity.
“We have had some reports of inaccurate information that have led us to audit,” Rushmore says. “We inform a property they are going to be audited. If they don’t agree to the audit, they are dropped from the program.”
Click here for more information on how to participate in TripAdvisor GreenLeaders.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at email@example.com.