Home Guest Columns The Next Step for Green Hotels—Competitor Collaborations

The Next Step for Green Hotels—Competitor Collaborations


Hotels have come a long way in embracing sustainability over the last decade, and for good reason. Evidence shows companies focused on sustainability outperform their peers. In the first quarter of Travelocity’s green hotel website, bookings for green hotels were 65 percent higher than for their non-green counterparts. Apart from competitive edge, operators cite financial benefit, guest satisfaction, brand enhancement, and staff retention and productivity as benefits of green hotel operation.

The term “green hotel” has also evolved. Originally the term was a “catch all” for properties with almost any innovation that reduced water, waste, energy or chemicals, while saving money. But that bar has risen rapidly. No longer considered innovations, a green hotel is expected to do all the above, and also work to preserve sense of place, support its community, celebrate all things local, and educate staff and guests on sustainability.

From off the grid hotel operation, to wildlife habitat restoration projects, to support for local schools, to farm to fork and trawl to table F&B, hotels have stepped up to the challenge. The benefits to the individual property, to staff and guests, and to the surrounding community are enormous.

Now consider how much more could be achieved, if instead of going it alone with individual green initiatives, hotels formed collaborations with other hotels—yes, competitors—to work with local agencies, and included their guests, to find solutions for larger community needs. The concept plays into a popular global travel trend, “giving getaways.” Guest satisfaction is higher when offered a simple way to give back, or support the regions where they choose to travel.

Maine has two great examples of hotel/agency/guest collaborations that have had success targeting community needs, and helping with solutions.

Hospitality for Habitat

Innkeepers all over the state of Maine collaborate each May on a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity, to help build homes for Maine families. The fundraiser, Hospitality for Habitat, is sponsored by the Maine Innkeepers Assn., and is simple to carry out. Participating innkeepers slash their room rates by a whopping 50 percent for any guest willing to write a $35 donation check to Habitat for Humanity. It’s a win win. Guests have an opportunity to visit some of the state’s finest B&Bs, inns and hotels at greatly reduced rates, innkeepers benefit from increased business during a traditionally slow tourism period, and all enjoy supporting a great cause. Maine innkeepers, together with the help of their guests, have raised over $100,000 to help Habitat for Humanity get deserving Maine families into homes.

Out of the Blue

Celebrating food that is local, and exposing a sense of your hotel’s community, with support for regional vendors and producers, is an important part of sustainability. The locavore movement is wide spread and popular, and guests tend to be vitally interested in the source of the food served.

Out of the Blue is a Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) collaboration between chefs and local fishermen to raise consumer awareness around lesser known and undervalued, but perfectly delectable, Gulf of Maine seafood. The program offers support to Maine’s struggling fishing industry. Imagine the Maine brand without a fishing industry! Out of the Blue introduces guests to underutilized species that are abundant, delicious, and fresh from the Gulf of Maine. By having chefs serve under appreciated seafood, over fished populations get a break. The program goals are to achieve better dock prices for fishermen for fish with limited demand, to support the health of the Gulf of Maine, and the sustainability of an industry that is vital to Maine tourism. GMRI supports the program with information cards on Maine’s fishing industry for dining room guests, and this great “fish story” adds to a uniquely Maine, and memorable culinary experience.

Benefits from both programs resulted in publicity and increased revenues. The collaborations quietly speak volumes about the participating hotels’ commitment to sustainability, and engage guests in simple but meaningful ways to enhance customer satisfaction.

Any hotel can do this. Simply identify a local need, reach out to the agency best equipped to spearhead a program, and work with competitors to achieve a solution.

Rauni Kew is green program manager at Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, a member of the Maine Innkeepers Assn., and GMRI’s Out of the Blue, underutilized seafood steering committee. She can be reached at rkew@innbythesea.com or by phone at (207) 799-3134. The Inn by the Sea is a Maine DEP Green Lodging Environmental Leader, and has earned LEED Silver for its SPA addition.