This week the dual-branded Home2 Suites by Hilton/Hampton Inn & Suites will officially open in Huntsville, Ala. The property, which features 175 guestrooms (77 in Home2 Suites by Hilton and 98 in Hampton Inn & Suites), has been open for several months. I was invited by Hilton Worldwide to spend a night at each of the properties last week. My goal was to identify the efficiencies that come with a dual-branded property and check on the green attributes of each hotel. The hotel is owned by Apple Hospitality and managed by LBA Hospitality.
There are now approximately 100 dual-branded properties in the United States. Dual-branding eliminates redundancy in costs in many areas. For example, the Home2 Suites by Hilton/Hampton Inn & Suites includes a shared boiler room, laundry room, fitness room, and meeting space. To simplify laundry operations, the two hotels both use high-quality microfiber Home2 sheets that take little time to dry. “All towels are Homewood Suites/Hilton Garden Inn towels,” Home2 Suites by Hilton/Hampton Inn & Suites general manager Chrissy Wadsworth said. All 175 guestrooms feature the same guestroom energy management system.
The hotels have separate breakfast areas and both breakfasts are free. Occasionally, Home2 Suites by Hilton guests will gravitate toward the Hampton breakfast down the hall—not something Wadsworth wants her Home2 Suites by Hilton guests to do but it happens.
First Night at Home2 Suites by Hilton
I spent my first night on the Home2 Suites by Hilton side and was impressed. The extended-stay half of the hotel has the following green features: healthy breakfast options, dual-flush toilets, shampoo and soap dispensers instead of plastic bottles, both shades and blinds for guestroom windows, modular carpet made from at least 65 percent recycled content, energy-efficient compact fluorescents, LED lighting around switches in the guestroom bathroom eliminate the need to keep bathroom lights on at night, countertops made from recycled materials, saline pool, Rainforest Alliance coffee, and Energy Star rated appliances. In the breakfast area, real china and utensils are used and desk chairs in suites are made from 98 percent recycled materials.
Recycling locations are located on each floor on the Home2 Suites by Hilton side and in each guestroom closet there is a bag to insert recyclable items. A message on that bag, which includes recycling symbols in its design, says, “Our promise is to always provide our guests with earth-conscious products and services they can feel good about.” While that may be true, I was a little baffled about the location of the recycling bag—inside the closet. I suspect a more visible recycling container on the floor would be used more often by guests.
Guests staying at the Home2 Suites by Hilton are welcome to a light-touch cleaning every day (including towel replacement if they so choose) and a full cleaning every five days. Of course this approach saves energy, water, chemicals, labor, etc.
Second Night at Hampton Inn & Suites
I spent the second night of my visit on the Hampton side of the property. The green features were not quite as apparent as those found in the Home2 Suites by Hilton. Yes, there were water-efficient fixtures (no dual-flush toilets) but modular carpet tiles (easy to replace when one is stained) gave way, on most of the Hampton side, to the more traditional carpet rolls. The Hampton guestroom bathroom included the individual amenity bottles—not dispensers. I was told that Hilton is looking at more easily biodegradable amenity bottles to replace the traditional plastic bottles. There were no recycling containers—bags or baskets—in the guestrooms. Wouldn’t you want to have the same recycling process on both sides of a dual-branded building?
While Hampton guests have the option of having their towels replaced each day, Hampton prominently promises in signage in the hotel that it will wash every sheet and duvet cover every day. Here Hilton delivers what I consider to be a contradictory message: that they are offering their guests a green hotel but are still going to wash their sheets and duvet covers every day. I suspect many green travelers will be surprised by that approach—even if it is a Hampton brand standard.
I asked if there are plans to set aside premium parking for hybrid or electric vehicles. I was told that this is being tested at some Hilton properties and may be implemented at the Home2 Suites by Hilton/Hampton Inn & Suites in the next few months.
New Brand, Dual Branding Still a Work in Progress
It is clear that the owners of the hotel complex, as well as Hilton Worldwide, spent a lot of time considering the environmental impact of the building itself as well as those items that eat energy and water within it. Kudos to them. The dual-branded hotel is not perfect—and forgive me for being picky—but it is off to a good start. It is not easy launching a new brand—the first Home2 Suites property was opened just a little more than two years ago in Fayetteville, N.C. It is especially not easy opening a dual-branded hotel.
The 100 percent nonsmoking Home2 Suites by Hilton/Hampton Inn & Suites opens in a market where there are six other Hamptons and in a region with a low unemployment rate. Wadsworth said, “We need 18 housekeepers but have been running at 10.” Associates and managers are cross-trained on the two brands and chip in where needed.
I suspect what it mostly came down to when deciding not to implement identical green features in the Home2 Suites by Hilton/Hampton Inn & Suites was brand standards. Would your typical Hampton guest be offended by a dual-flush toilet? A dispenser in the shower? A recycling basket in the guestroom? A complete, optional towel and linen replacement program?
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