Mr. Tatum

Eco-Friendly Practices

Your Environmental Policy, An Untapped Asset (Part I)

By Tyler Tatum, Marketing Strategy Consultant,

You may not realize that a number of the initiatives you have started in your hotel in order to cut costs and survive during the last four tough years can actually be turned into marketing and sales tools. I am referring to everything you have pursued in order to reduce your waste, energy usage, and water usage. Many guests are currently looking for reasons to visit your property over the property next door. An increasing number of guests are looking for properties where they can feel their stay is in harmony with the environment. Just imagine if you could add 5% more loyal guests by publicizing your environmental efforts.

It is important to take a minute to remember the recommendations put forth in Part 1 (Identifying and formulating your environmental policy). First, you need to form an environmental team in order to capitalize and expand upon your current environmental efforts. The team should include a minimum of one key decision maker within your organization.

Second, use tools available to you to help identify and increase your sustainable initiatives. The Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies, or CERES, has a checklist called "The Best Practice Survey." The Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) has a number of great tools listed on their site. The Energy Star program promoted through the EPA has a host of great tools and tips. Most states have an organization dedicated to reducing waste.

Third, use the many tools listed above and in Part 1 to identify ten or twenty initiatives you plan to pursue. Assign your team the task of finding which of these initiatives you are currently doing, and investigate which new ones make the most sense for your facility(ies) over the coming year. Next, analyze the savings and create a document demonstrating your return on investment, which will allow you not only to negotiate a budget for future projects, but also to illustrate the success of your efforts to your CFO or General Manager. Finally, once you have some initiatives implemented, write them down in a statement you can present to your guests with your environmental policy.

Now that you have your environmental policy written down, this article will guide you through ways in which you can increase the number of guests at your property(ies). First, let's take a moment to understand the current market for environmentally friendly products.

A Gallup poll conducted in March 2004 found that 55% of Americans expressed concern that the United States government is doing too little to protect the environment. Fifty-eight percent said they felt the environment was getting worse. Sixty-one percent qualified themselves as "Active participants" or "Sympathetic, but not active" towards environmental initiatives, and only five percent are "Unsympathetic" (http://www.gallup.com/poll/content/default.aspx?ci=5848).

These statistics are similar to the company Project Planet's findings regarding guests' responses to their linens and towels reuse program. According to their website www.ProjectPlanetCorp.com, 65% of guests seek to patronize hotels with an environmental program, and 85% say they appreciate the hotel having an environmental program.

Regardless of whose statistics you find most related to your current situation, you are bound to find an increase in your occupancy when you start tapping into those guests who are concerned about your environmental efforts.

A key step in marketing your environmental policy is to have one member of your team identify what you are currently doing for marketing and sales. Have this person spend an hour with your head of marketing as well as an hour with your head of sales. Make sure they understand you are looking to work with their current efforts. Most important to note are where you are advertising, what message you are presenting to potential guests, and what materials you currently use for marketing and sales. Review these initiatives with an eye towards how and where you might add your environmental message. Bring all information back to your environmental team. If you are part of a franchise organization, make sure to investigate their current environmental marketing efforts.

Bring all information back to the environmental team. Laying everything out on a large table may be effective in visualizing your total current marketing and sales efforts. Key pieces of literature to identify and review are the marketing brochures for your property(ies), your website, the sales presentation materials used by your sales executive(s), literature posted at the front desk, and literature posted in the rooms (including information posted on the hotel's TV channel).

As you review this information, begin to visualize ways in which you can insert your environmental message. You may find that your franchise company currently has an environmental logo. Consider using the logo in your marketing with the tag line "We Support the Environment" or "Ask About Our Environmental Efforts." You also may wish to identify a key phrase to supplement the name of your hotel. If you are a resort property, you may want to consider a phrase similar to "Maintaining the Environment You Come to Enjoy."

It will be critical to explain your efforts to the person in charge of your marketing and / or sales efforts. You may offer to include him or her as a temporary team member during this phase of the project. Presenting a list of deliverables and allowing this person to give you feedback may help him or her feel more a part of the process.

Weave your environmental message into the marketing materials you are currently using. As we mentioned, a logo or key phrase may be a great way to quickly bring guest attention to your efforts. Include an offer for guests to find out more details, if they desire. It will be critical to maintain a smooth flow between your current message and your environmental message. You want guests to understand that your environmental message is a critical part of your overall efforts.

Creating a brochure listing your environmental policy may go a long way towards creating credibility with your guests. Include a list of all environmental practices and products within the hotel. As a part of materials sent to all prospects interested in hosting group events, include your environmental brochure. Allow your brochure to be downloaded off your website. Keep copies of the brochure at the front desk.

As part of your marketing, I would recommend creating a quick paragraph to be used by all employees in explaining your environmental efforts. Print this paragraph on business cards, laminate them, and give them to all employees. Employees can keep them in their pockets ready for use when a guest inquires. Business cards are check and easy to create. You can even get cards you can print from your desktop printer at your local office supply store.

One organization that has done a great job at marketing its environmental efforts is Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. Reviewing their marketing materials, their website, and visiting one of their hotels may help you. Fairmont has gone as far as publishing a book, "The Green Partnership Guide," listing its environmental efforts and its policies.

In the end, your most important marketing effort will be to identify organization currently promoting environmentally friendly hotels. You may wish to contact the following organizations: CERES (www.ceres.org), EPA Energy Star (www.EnergyStar.gov/hospitality), your state pollution prevention organization (http://www.epa.gov/p2/resources/statep2.htm), Ecological Solutions (www.greenerlodging.com), among others. These organizations are not only promoting conservation practices in hotels, they are also helping promote hotels that are environmentally friendly.

Review the list of companies on a website such as www.ceres.org and you may also find companies which would be worth asking your sales director to contact. These companies may be willing to put you on a preferred list where their employees are encouraged to stay. Your local pollution prevention organization may know of government organizations with similar lists of preferred hotels.

Once you have your environmental policy outlined, your three main sales and marketing tools are creating a lists of environmentally friendly hotels, corporations or government agency who promote employees to stay in environmentally friendly hotels; publicizing your environmental efforts in your marketing materials, print advertising, and web promotions; and, most importantly, arming your employees to field questions from guests.

In Part 2, we will discuss how to track and measure the impact of your environmental policy.

Tyler Tatum Marketing Strategy Consultant who maximizes clients potential with the best marketing strategy at the least cost. As General Manager of Project Planet, Mr. Tatum pursued a passion for the environment. The focus was to save saving his clients money, while reducing their environmental impact. To maximize the program, Mr. Tatum had to create excitement among hotel staff and guests while maintaining the best guest experience. While with Project Planet, Mr. Tatum increased the program by over fifty percent. He also launched three new regional designs. Mr. Tatum can be contacted at 404-783-0923 or TylerTatum@Bellsouth.net Extended Bio...

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