24 – A Beginner’s Guide to Going Green For Hoteliers

by | May 1, 2019

In this episode of Suite Spot, we discuss the growing trend of going green in the hotel industry. Priscilla Osorio, Marketing Content Manager at Travel Media Group, joins host Ryan Embree to give advice to hoteliers on how to implement sustainable initiatives at your property without breaking the bank.


A recent Lodging Survey conducted by the AHLA, American Hotel and Lodging Association, in partnership with STR reports indicated that one of the most popular trends among travelers were green initiatives at hotels. In this Suite Spot episode, Ryan and Priscilla brainstorm several ideas for hoteliers looking to get started with green initiatives at their hotels, but might not have the budget to invest in major renovations. From starting a recycling program to selling reusable water bottles and straws to guests, this episode serves as a great beginner’s guide to going green.
If you have some innovative ways that your hotel is going green we would love to hear from you. You can also submit a question by calling or texting 407-984-7455.


Episode Transcript
Our podcast is produced as an audio resource. Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and human editing and may contain errors. Before republishing quotes, we ask that you reference the audio.

Ryan Embree: Welcome to Suite Spot where hoteliers check in and we check out what’s trending in hotel marketing. I’m your host. Ryan Embree.

Ryan Embree: All right. Hello and welcome everyone to another episode of the Suite Spot. This is your host, Ryan Embry. We’ve got a great episode for you today and in today we’re going to start with the, What’s News. Before I kind of introduced the topic, we’re going to talk about a AHLA survey that was recently conducted partnering with STR, which the, the content and data and analytics was just released in March of 2019. And in the survey, just really gathered some analytics and data in the hospitality sector and was talking about how hotels are advancing guest experiences and some of the top hotel industry trends. And as you can imagine, one of the hot topics was trying to focus efforts on getting millennials. Oh, I’m sure we’ve all heard that from time to time how important that segment is and trying to convert them.

Ryan Embree: But today we’re actually going to talk about another topic that was brought up and that is going green. And it’s an incredibly popular trend. In fact, it was pretty astonishing stat here as of 2018 25% of all U.S. Properties, so a quarter of all U.S. properties had received green certification, which is the gold standard of hotel sustainability. Now to put that in perspective, in 2016 this percentage was only at 16% almost 10% higher and just a span of two years. So hoteliers are starting to understand the importance, brands are starting to understand the importance of this going-green trend and customers are starting to appreciate that. And from this data we’re going to look at some more statistics within the Suite Spot here, but we’re really going to focus on maybe not so much for the hotelier that has enough capital to go ahead and redo their entire hotel and is sustainable or greenway or if you’re familiar with lead certification, this is maybe for the hotelier that’s just looking to put some new initiatives, almost like a beginner’s guide to going green tips and best practices for hoteliers.

Ryan Embree: With me today, I thought we would bring in Priscilla Osorio who recently wrote a blog article in the Travel Media Group blog, which is titled Promoting Healthy Lifestyles at Your Hotel. And I thought this would be a perfect transition into this kind of going green, a topic that we have for today. So first and foremost, I want to welcome Priscilla to the podcast once again.

Priscilla Osorio: Thanks, Ryan.

Ryan Embree: Tell me a little bit about this blog article, some of the ideas, and maybe we can go back and forth on some best practices for this kind of going green and getting started with going green.

Priscilla Osorio: Yeah. So the idea of the article was to promote a healthy lifestyle at your hotel. And I think a common misconception is that in order to provide sustainable practices and eco-friendly solutions it is really costly. However, in the article we kind of touch upon smaller ways that you can, you can be a bit more sustainable and eco friendly. And one of those was providing like a local level of food products at your hotel. You could just provide fruits and vegetables from, let’s say like you can buy them at a local farmer’s market or just locally sourced products. And the chances are that these locally sourced products are more likely to be produced in sustainable practices when it comes to their cultivation. And ultimately you’d be helping locals and the environment in doing so.

Ryan Embree: And I think travelers appreciate that too. I mean, we’ve seen the popularity of, of farmer’s markets and you know, again, travelers, millennials, you know, really whatever segment you want to look at, they’re looking for that kind of authentic and personalized experience. So the fact that you’re sharing that with them and saying that all of your, you know, not all of your foods, but some of your food is locally sourced. I think that’s a big selling point for hoteliers when it comes to, you know, their hotel.

Priscilla Osorio: I mean, as a traveler myself, it’s, it’s always nice when you’re traveling whether it’s for business or, or just for fun, you’re kind of going and you know, you’re going to give yourself like rewarding yourself, let’s say if you’re going on a vacation. So it’s, if you’re rewarding yourself, it’s nice to know that you can be rewarding the environment and just giving back a little while, while you’re receiving.

Ryan Embree: And I’ll say on the same hand with that, another thing that I’ve experienced and when I travel for businesses, you feel like sometimes when you’re out of your own home, you’re not eating the healthiest. So having healthy options at a hotel actually is a benefit for the, for the traveler because they might feel, “hey, listen, I don’t have to eat out every single night or what I’m eating is not kind of the best for me.” So I think there’s also some moral victory there too with eating at, you know, healthy.

Priscilla Osorio: Yeah, and essentially the ultimate goal as a hotelier would be to have the traveler satisfied and leave a good review and providing these good locally sourced products or food and stuff could definitely be something that you want them to mention throughout their reviews and such.

Ryan Embree: Let’s talk about kind of what goes, you know, very close to obviously the food, but also, you know, we talk about a water bottles. I know straws is also a huge issue right now. Um, you know, we’re seeing a lot of bans as far as, you know, plastic straws. I know plastic bags is now a hot topic. Um, you know, especially in places like New York or California. One of the tips that I suggest to hoteliers is even selling reusable water bottles for purchase at the property. Explaining what that is. Don’t just, don’t just sell it to sell it. Explain why you’re, you’re selling these reusable water bottles. Say it’s, you know, for a green effort and movement at the property that you’re looking to cut down on those plastic water bottles. And obviously that comes hand-in-hand with providing water fountains or water filling stations at your hotel, which could come at a cost. But again, I think it’s just those simple little tweaks can really go a long way in the traveler’s eyes.

Priscilla Osorio: I definitely agree with that. If you can afford it, it’d be really nice to have like a water bottle filling station. Once you, once you have that, it’s kind of like a one-time purchase and then you just have to replace the filter each year. When it comes to having that and then proposing that travelers buy those reusable water bottles, you’re essentially asking them to spend more money. I think yeah, a great way to ask them to spend more money, but it’s for a good cause. Getting them educated is a good way to kind of like spread education about being ecofriendly.

Ryan Embree: Yeah. And it feels like almost like the customer or the traveler joins the movement with you, right? If they’re purchasing a reusable water bottle at your hotel or even straws, you know, we’ve seen those reusable straws. Now instead of going with the plastic straws, if they buy that, it’s almost like they’re buying in to that movement, which again, is great for the earth, but also, you know, we want that review at the end. So if they feel like that’s a unique experience, they feel like, you know, that’s, that’s helping, that could be very beneficial and possibly generating that positive review.

Priscilla Osorio: I definitely have seen a lot of biodegradable and compostable straws, and I think it’s important to kind of understand why we’re making these changes. For example, here at our headquarters, it’s in Florida, so we have a lot of lakes, we have a lot of ocean side, and I’ve often gone to restaurants and have already seen these new straws being implemented. It’s really helpful because one, if these plastic straws end up in the water, which oftentime they do, it’ll help animals inside the water if they’re biodegradable or compostable and they break down, let’s say in 90 days. As opposed to kind of being there for over a thousand years. So, not only does it help the animals in the water, but it also kind of helps make our Earth look better if, let’s say they end up on the side of the road or something. You know, no one really wants to see trash on the side of the road, but if it breaks down then it kind of helps out. So I think going back to hotels, it’s really important to know that if you’re going to have straws and if your travelers are going to eventually use them and take them out, you might as well be providing the best ones for, for yourself and for the environment.

Ryan Embree: Agreed, and I want to switch gears to a statistic that I found pretty incredible, but also, you know, when I thought about my recent travels and my past hotel stays, it kind of makes sense. And that is that linen and towel reuse programs are pretty much being implemented everywhere. It’s anywhere from 94 to 99% of chain hotels. 83% of independent hotels are offering these programs. That’s a big step, which also is saving the hotelier actually sometime as well with replacing those towels. You know, it cuts down on costs with laundry and linens promoting that is also going to save you time, money and then also it’s a part of those going green efforts there. Yeah. Another topic that we mentioned when we talk about saving money even when we’re talking about those linen/towel programs is water-savings programs. And I know you had mentioned to me off air kind of about, you know, landscaping. Just a quick statistic before you get into that, about two thirds of chain properties are already using some type of water savings program.

Priscilla Osorio: First of all, it’s, it’s really exciting to hear that two thirds of these properties are using water-saving programs. So thumbs up to that. As we know, most hotels have landscaping that they need to take care of, and just something as simple as changing the fertilizer to organic fertilizer can make a big difference. This being said, organic fertilizer feeds the soil and the plant as opposed to traditional fertilizer, which just feeds the plant and then kind of messes up the soil. So ultimately, you might be spending a few more dollars on organic fertilizer, but in the end you’ll be saving so much more money because you would have to be replacing the soil less and less.

Ryan Embree: You talked about in your blog upgrading your hotel’s exercise experience. Now, we know that that exercise equipment treadmill, weights, that comes at a very, very high cost. So what are some less expensive ways to kind of upgrade your hotel’s experience that you talked about in that blog post?

Priscilla Osorio: Water bottle filling stations are, are definitely a really good way to kind of implement it into there. I know most hotels require having a water station or something available for the people who are in their gym facilities. And so providing that is definitely great. Also providing towels so people could use them to kinda like clean, clean the equipment or kind of just touch up themselves after they’ve been sweaty.

Ryan Embree: I think another cool program, um, that I’ve heard hoteliers really participate in, which again is not going to break the bank for hoteliers,ir is almost having a checkout system for yoga mats or other exercise equipment that travelers can actually take to the rooms. Now obviously, the hotel that you’re at would have to, um, you know, have the space in order to do that in their room. But I thought that was really cool that you could almost have a checkout system there for those hoteliers. Maybe business travelers that don’t have time to necessarily do a full workout at your gym or your workout facility, but just want to do something quick in the room. And again, it might just be one of those things where they just feel more comfort, you know, knowing that, hey, I grabbed a yoga mat. I might not necessarily use it, but you know, I have the option to do that. Customers, appreciate those little small things.

Priscilla Osorio: Yeah. And I think, I think providing a program like that where it’s something as easy as just purchasing, let’s say a few yoga mats, it’s definitely going to boost the customer satisfaction and at the end of the day you really want the customer to just be happy and, and come back again and influence other travelers that your place is definitely a great place to stay because it provides all of these, all of these great eco-friendly solutions.

Ryan Embree: One thing that I think is very important when we’re talking about the going-green movement is also getting your staff involved because, you know, asking the traveler to maybe buy a reusable water bottle and then that that traveler sees your staff, you know, with a plastic water bottle that’s kind of sending mixed messages there. So I would really encourage, you know, if you are going to start something here, maybe start with your staff and then grow from there. You know, even something as simple as the amount of printed invoices, we know that at checkout we’re almost printing all of our invoices to our travelers whether they want it or not. And a lot of those invoices end up in the trash. So getting an email saying, “hey listen, we’re trying, you know, we have a green movement to kind of cut down on our paper, you know, is there a way that we could actually email you your invoice versus print you out a physical one?” When you ask it like that instead of just saying, give me your email. That’s asking for a purpose. When you’re asking for emails, the customer is understanding why you need their email and they’re much more willing to give that to you. That’s just the small little tweak to your SOP that could really have an impact on your green efforts at your hotel.

Priscilla Osorio: That’s great that you mentioned that because educating within your hotel is essentially what you have to do first in order to educate outward. So, one thing you can do is definitely have like a recycle bin or a compost bin and incentivize your staff to, you know, reach goals and log how many bags they save per week. And maybe at the end of the month you can give them a, you know, free pizza party or lunch or something. And having these sorts of incentives can kind of give them that sort of excitement in order to participate in eco-friendly solutions. And so maybe even they’ll be participating in these sustainable practices at work and then that can eventually rub off into their personal life and so on. And it kind of ultimately spreads, and it would feel rewarding as a hotelier to know that that’s something that you, you impacted not only the world, not only your travelers, but really like the lives of multiple people, especially your employees.

Ryan Embree: Yeah I love that idea. You know, getting your, getting your staff involved, is the foundation of translating that to the customer. So, so your staff is better prepared to explain to a traveler what’s happening at the property. A great example is showers with those faucets, some of them are low flow in order to conserve water. And you know, you have a traveler that comes up and says, “Hey, listen, you know, my shower’s not working properly.” Now you’ve empowered that employee to explain the reason why that’s happening to the traveler and that that problem is solved. The customer hopefully understands that it’s not, it’s not an issue. It’s, it’s actually a program or a initiative that the hotel is implementing. I love, absolutely love that idea of just really empowering your employees with the knowledge of your green programs at the property. And the last thing that you touch on in this blog, and uh, this will be the last thing before we transition to kind of our expertise, digital expertise that is, is the local partnerships. We had some really great ideas in this blog post. Tell us what that means. You know, how is that promoting a healthy lifestyle promoting with local partnerships?

Priscilla Osorio: Ultimately local partnerships, their practices are as generic and brand standard. Let’s say if you purchase something from, from a big name company or a big name grocery supermarket, chances are that they’re not providing all of these green initiatives. And so ultimately you’re just going to be providing the better product and a healthier product if you’re shopping locally.

Ryan Embree: I think another part of that partnership would be, you know even businesses like, you know, yoga studios or if your, if your property is maybe a little bit smaller, you don’t have a full-size gym. Maybe figuring out a partnership there with that gym giving some sort of discount. Again, referral traffic is amazing and if you can offer your travelers something unique by partnering with the local yoga studio, that’s going to bring that personalized aspect that right now hoteliers quite frankly are battling with against an Airbnb or a, you know, other vacation rentals out there.

Priscilla Osorio: If you definitely don’t have the means to provide exercise facilities. Then definitely outsource and find because there’s always going to be people out there and businesses that are willing to help, so long as you’re willing to help them and increasing, increasing the exposure of their facilities can ultimately help increase the exposure of your hotel.

Ryan Embree: As I mentioned before, you know, this is, this is just from our kind of experience with talking to hoteliers, being in the industry, kind of knowing what goes on in the operations day to day to kind of show and give some tips. You don’t necessarily have to rebuild your whole hotel to feel like you’re going green at the property. It’s these small little best practices, tweaks and tips that me and Priscilla were talking about today. And saying that, our hotel expertise really lies in the digital space, the social media marketing, the reputation management, websites. So I thought it’d be good to really show, um, you know, our listeners, how can they use digital marketing to share and maybe forward their going green efforts at the property.

Priscilla Osorio: Yeah. So, um, one of the best ways to do so is by, by going on social media and having more than one medium. Like, so if you have, you should have Facebook, and Twitter, and Pinterest, and Instagram and all of these are great ways to just kind of market your, your new practices of, of sustainable waste, food, energy, water, and ultimately these are resources that travelers can see and travelers can spread the news and it’s word-to-mouth marketing that is just going to end up benefiting your hotel in the long run.

Ryan Embree: Absolutely. I mean, if you’re putting effort into these programs and some of them you know, are requiring costs as well, you want to make sure that that’s being spread. This isn’t something you know, that you want to contain to just your onsite travelers. This is a selling point for your hotel. Advertise, market your efforts going green, uh, on your social media platforms. You know, if you have a shuttle at your property that runs to downtown, you know, that’s a green initiative. You’re providing a ride-share program for travelers. So, you know, this is what customers are wanting to see. This is, they’re wanting to see healthy lifestyle, they’re wanting to see options, they want to see personalization. So advertise that really, you know, kind of shout that from all your social media sites. I think another great way is planting a tree on property. Even a post like that could gain a lot of momentum as far as likes, shares, reposts. Um, talk about if you guys do volunteer work.

Priscilla Osorio: Yeah, that would be a great way to just kind of outsource and show travelers that “hey, your place is making the best practices and, and your place is somewhere that they would want to stay.”

Ryan Embree: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, when we talk about websites, if you’re an independent hotel, you know, this is the type of stuff that you need to be using as far as content verbiage, high definition photos. You know, if you have some healthy food options, get some pictures of those healthy food options. You have local partnerships with a yoga studio, you know, grab some pictures from there. One of the actually interesting things that happened to me the other day was when I was traveling was I was actually offered customer loyalty points for the particular brand that I was staying at if housekeeping, essentially would not come into the hotel room.

Priscilla Osorio: Wow.

Ryan Embree: So I would be rewarded with brand points. So check with your brand, see if they’re running these types of things because it’s not only saving you time, saving you money, and then also it’s kind of better for everyone, like you said, with that, that healthy lifestyle.

Priscilla Osorio: Yeah, it builds incentives for the travelers too. So everyone, it’s kind of a win win, all in all.

Ryan Embree: So, and as we talk about reviews, I think it’s really important, again, you know, your front desk needs to be obviously asking about details of the stay, not just that checkout but throughout the entire state. We really hone in on that on a lot of the episodes that you hear. You know, when we’re talking about going green efforts, if you hear a guest mention, uh, you know, obviously if they’ve had a positive experience at your hotel and you hear them mentioned one of your green initiatives that you’ve implemented, they say something to the effect of, “I really love that you guys provide these reusable water bottles and have water filling stations here.” If you hear something like that, make them an advocate on review sites, tell them, you know, we really are happy to hear that you’re using these initiatives. We’re trying to spread the word as much as we can. If you could go to TripAdvisor and when you leave that positive review mention that we sell these reusable water water bottles, it would really go a long way because as a traveler you’re going to have a much bigger trust factor in it coming from a peer and a fellow traveler rather than maybe something you see on a business page like Facebook. Just from a standpoint of saying, okay, they’re just trying to lure me in, but if you hear it from a fellow traveler, now all of a sudden there’s a bigger trust factor there.

Priscilla Osorio: Yeah. travelers, travelers, definitely best influence other travelers and ultimately that’s definitely the goal. And I think it kind of starts with um, asking travelers to kind of spread the word and also share them on your own social media sites and such.

Ryan Embree: Awesome. Well. So as we wrap up, you know, I really want to challenge you at the hotel, you know. Really think about these initiatives and when you are considering going in on some of these going green efforts or movements, think about what this does for your local community. When you’re partnering with these local businesses, when you’re using organic fertilizer, this is all about getting more travelers to your property, to your community, and to your area. So if you’re investing and putting your time and effort really behind these initiatives, it’s only going to help not only your hotel, the aesthetics of your property, the local area, it’s just going to be stronger with these partnerships. So again, I challenge you, you know, if you haven’t started anything yet, it’s nothing that we need to to throw hundreds of thousands of dollars behind and maybe it’s just starting a recycling program and it kind of builds from there. So I would again challenge you to really take a look at this.

Ryan Embree: I really love this episode. You know, I would love to hear from our listeners if you have any really cool green initiatives that you guys provide for your customers or are implementing at your property, we’d love to hear it. You, you can reach us or if you have any questions at (407) 984-7455, you can text or call that number. We hope you enjoyed this episode and we will see you next time on the Suite Spot.

Ryan Embree: To join our loyalty program, be sure to subscribe and give us a five-star rating on iTunes. Suite Spot is produced by Travel Media Group. Our editor is Anne Sandoval with cover art by Bary Gordon and content support by Priscilla Osorio. I’m your host, Ryan Embree, and we hope you enjoyed your stay.


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