Lodging industry goes green for the green | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Lodging industry goes green for the green

Matthew Renda

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – The hotel and lodging industry’s burgeoning effort to incorporate green practices into the hospitality business model is a trend likely to continue, according to industry officials who attended a green lodging conference in South Lake Tahoe.

“Thousands of hospitality properties around the country and around the world are addressing energy efficiency, water efficiency and reduction of their carbon footprint for two reasons – it benefits the environment and it benefits the bottom line,” said Glenn Hasek, Publisher and Editor of Green Lodging News an online report covering the environmental practices of the hospitality industry.

Hasek gave a keynote speech at the West Coast Green Lodging Conference held Monday at the Embassy Suites in South Lake Tahoe.

Hasek said he first became interested in green lodging in 1991. At the time hotels would send out press releases if they began recycling aluminum cans, he said.

Today, hotels are using high-efficiency LED light bulbs, recycled steel, carpet made of recycled soda bottles and installing solar panels on their rooftops, he said.

“A concern for the environmental impact of one’s building and operations had been around for a long time – even as far back as the 1960s in some cases – but it has really only been in the last few years that it has exploded,” Hasek said during his presentation.

Hasek identified a number of reasons behind the explosion including the increased public profile of climate change, the increase of energy-related costs, impending government regulations, consumer demand, industry peer pressure and the drive for marketing advantage and environmental innovation.

Confirming Hasek’s assertions, Hilton Worldwide has begun implementing a sustainability framework capable of assessing each separate hospitality location for its energy efficiency, recycling and waste management, architectural design and employee training, said Randy Gaines, vice president of engineering.

“All of this helps reduce costs, grow revenue and manage risk,” said Gaines.

Anecdotally, consumers believe that green hotels are more attractive to them, but there is little proof to demonstrate travelers are selecting hotels based on green criteria, Hasek said.

“There has been little research to indicate whether or not consumers are seeking out certified businesses – especially hotels,” said Hasek. “This is an area ripe for research.”

However, Hasek believes consumer awareness will only increase in coming years.

“Last fall, AAA began marking green hotels in its 2010 TourBooks with an ‘eco’ icon,” said Hasek. “The online travel agencies – Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz and others – have also begun highlighting green hotels on their sites. Expect consumer awareness to change.”

The Lake Tahoe Prosperity Plan, an action plan designed to instill basin-wide economic vitality, targets environmental innovation and tourism services.

Tahoe’s lodging businesses should band together to market their sustainability practices to ecotourists and geotourists, said Alex Mourelatos, owner of Mourelatos Lakeshore Resort in Tahoe Vista.

“While people won’t go to a hotel in Tahoe specifically because of green practices, for some visitors it can be a differentiator,” he said.

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