CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA.—A month after the official launch of the Institute for Healthy Destination Accreditation (IHDA), more details about the nonprofit and its certification programs are being released. Green Lodging News spoke with Mary Ellen Rose, PhD, co-founder and Chief Science Officer of IHDA, to get more details. Already, six U.S. hotels/resorts, all inaugural founding members, have been IHDA approved. They were accredited as Approved Healthy Destinations. One property has earned Certified Healthy Destination status, a much more difficult level to reach. According to Rose, the organization expects to have 300 hotels on board by December.
Unique to the IHDA’s accreditation and certification is what is considered. IHDA reviews and evaluates hotels and resorts for their health-related programs, services, facilities, amenities and personnel. Utilizing the PIECES® system for audit processes, the Approved Healthy Destination status indicates that leisure and business travelers can, at a minimum, expect that Healthy Hospitality Best Practices are documented for guest review and are part of the Healthy Guest Experience™. “PIECES®” stands for Physical Health, Intellectual Health, Emotional Health, Community Health, Environmental Health, and Spiritual Health.
Rose developed the PIECES® model during her doctoral work at American University in 2001. Along with Pete Hyland, co-founder and President of IHDA, she has worked the last several years to put IHDA together. In assembling the criteria for accreditation and certification, Rose said they asked themselves, “What are the things that can affect health that can be evaluated?” One goal, she added, was to “help the hospitality industry align with what is going on with public health.”
Completion of Online Questionnaire Required
Those properties seeking Approved Healthy Destination accreditation must complete an Approved Healthy Destination Membership online questionnaire outlining the Best Practices in Healthy Hospitality. This assessment tool demonstrates they meet the basic standards regarding programs, services, amenities and facilities contributing to the Healthy Guest Experience™. The IHDA accreditation team then evaluates the destination’s Best Practices and determines whether or not it qualifies for Approved Healthy Destination status. If the hotel or resort property is approved, the annual membership fee is $850.
Those Approved Healthy Destinations that choose to apply for Certified Healthy Destination Status are required to complete the IHDA Self-Report Audit (SRA). The SRA is an electronic inventory and evaluation tool which provides IHDA with information specific to an organization’s health-focused programs, services, amenities, personnel and facilities. The completed SRA is then reviewed and tabulated by the IHDA Certification Team.
Following the SRA, an On-Site Audit (OSA) is then scheduled. The OSA is a thorough destination examination conducted by the IHDA Certification Team. Rose says 3,000 data points are examined. The OSA involves a comprehensive site visit and management interviews. The OSA establishes the validity, reliability and quality of health-promoting elements revealed in the SRA report.
Following the OSA, the confirmed data is applied to a science-based health matrix applying numerical values to the destination’s health processes and programs which determine both issuance and level of certification. All of this is compiled in a detailed report and presented to the destination upon completion. Properties are designated Certified at either the Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum levels. Rose says there is a minimum cost of $7,500 to go through the Certified Healthy Destination process.
“Every aspect of health and wellness is reviewed and justified and looked at from quality and health-applicability aspects,” Rose says. Housekeeping practices, amenities, waste management practices, air filtration, safety and security, and community involvement are just some of the areas examined.
Benefits of Certification
Accredited and Certified properties receive many benefits: Member listing in IHDA’s consumer-directed online Healthy Travel Directory; customized member profile pages within IHDA website; itemized listing showcasing the destination’s Healthy Hospitality Best Practices; consistent exposure in IHDA Travel Healthy Newsletter and through IHDA’s media platform; ability to feature specific health initiatives and promotions in IHDA Travel Healthy Newsletter; access to health resources specifically designed for the hospitality industry; IHDA support with development and implementation of health promotion programs; access to post-consumer feedback from Healthy Traveler database, and approved IHDA Healthy Destination logo usage on all promotional and resort materials.
Travelers interested in staying at or learning more about IHDA properties can sign up for a Healthy Traveler membership or Healthy Traveler Elite membership at the IHDA website.
Rose says IHDA plans to have a conference in mid-2015 for those owning and operating its certified lodging establishments and other stakeholders in healthy travel.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at email@example.com.