Ms. Kang

Eco-Friendly Practices

Bringing Hotel Owners Together to Establish Sustainability

By Grace Kang, Managing Partner, Greenview

It's that time of year when everyone is working hard towards their ambitious new year's resolutions. Here's one more I would like to recommend hotel owners and operators to put on their list for 2017. Join the Hotel Owners for Tomorrow (HOT) coalition to help advance sustainability for the hotel community. HOT is a no-cost initiative, bringing hotel owners, hotel brands, management companies, industry bodies, and other supporters in hotel development to build awareness and get the important discussion of sustainability started among the hotel community.

HOT launched at the Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific (HICAP) in Hong Kong in October 2016. Asia Pacific was selected as the first region to pilot the launch as it has the biggest pipeline of hotels, yet hotel owners in the region are less plugged in to the sustainability conversation. Launch partners included AKARYN Hotel Group, Horwath HTL Asia Pacific, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, ITC Hotels, the International Tourism Partnership, Kokotel, Marriott International, Meritus Hotels & Resorts, Nikoi Island, PATA, Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, Swire Properties, TAJ Hotels Resorts and Palaces and Wyndham Worldwide. Since the launch, more continue to join and HOT is expecting to grow significantly in 2017.

The HOT coalition is unique because it addresses sustainability for the hotel owners. As technology advances, owners hold the key to the ultimate long-term environmental performance of the asset. Especially at the early stages of hotel planning and development, hotel owners can incorporate sustainability to avoid future costs of regulation and identify opportunities for increased ROI on investments. The coalition provides a platform for owners to discuss and evaluate sustainability in investment decisions but also to examine opportunities to increase efficiency or implement new technologies to improve buildings that are not very efficient. Thus, hotel owners can make a difference by incorporating sustainability into both their investment decisions and asset management, use their influence to help build a better future, and raise awareness for others to follow. The coalition is also designed to provide recognition for their achievements in advancing sustainability.

The HOT Coalition is Simple - Commit to Five Actions to Raise Awareness and Spread Best Practices:

  1. Incorporate Sustainability From the Beginning of Investment Decisions

    The decisions made for a hotel built today will determine its footprint for the next 20 years. Numerous opportunities exist to incorporate renewable energy, efficient equipment and technology, and take advantage of funding models to maximize the return on your investment. More and more risks are emerging that will affect site selection, such as water stress, weather patterns, an regulatory issues. The more you discuss sustainability issues with everyone in the development and acquisition process, the more opportunities you will find and the better your due diligence will become.

  2. Evaluate One Renewable Energy Project and One Efficiency Project Per Property Per Year

    To combat climate change, hotels need to use more renewable energy, be more efficient, and become more electrified. New solutions emerge constantly and are becoming more cost-effective. Funding models, such as Green Bonds are becoming more innovative. We know a hotel has a hundred pending projects at any given time, but if you commit to at least reviewing and considering opportunities for your portfolio for renewables and efficiency projects, you'll find some valuable options. The more projects you review and implement, the more we can bring to scale and lower the cost.

    Many projects also have little or no capital cost involved, and just require a few operation procedures. And even if you decide not to implement, your review and feedback to stakeholders or vendors will be valuable to help them understand your needs.

  3. Routinely Monitor and Benchmark Sustainability Performance**

    You already know the importance of benchmarking occupancy, rates, guest ratings, and amenities. Extending this to sustainability is a logical next step. Is your property's energy usage higher per square meter than peers? Should it be? Has water usage spikes in recent months, and could this be because of a leak or open valve? Have you implemented the most common specifications and practices that most other peers are doing? Through monitoring and benchmarking, you will find numerous opportunities.**

  4. Support Brand Efforts**

    If you own a branded property, the hotel brand likely has many opportunities for you to participate in their initiatives. This can include software to help you implement green practices, low-cost solutions for things like soap donation, and support global volunteer day or program drives. These programs exist to provide value and help you improve your performance, often at no additional cost. Supporting them also may just involve letting staff participate during work hours occasionally.

  5. Share Your Best Practices

    Sustainability is about finding solutions and successfully implementing them. Most of the solutions (such as efficient Light bulbs or HVAC) are not aspects you compete against among your peers. As you undertake the other four actions, you will find solutions and working examples that relate specifically to your property, your locations, or your situation that may help others (including your other hotels in the portfolio) implement as well. Sustainability in business is also about demonstrating leadership. The leaders share their innovations and best practices, and HOT is the platform for you to tell your great story.

The HOT coalition includes and invites other entities such as the industry partners (hotel brands and management companies), network partners (industry bodies), and supporters (media and hotel development) for support. Each entity type plays an important role in the success of the coalition. Hotel brands and management companies for example, have direct relationship with owners. Their performance benefits from owner commitments. NGOs, hotel associations, or national tourism organizations benefit because HOT is also aligned with their mission and purpose. These network partners can provide credibility to the initiative and help disseminate it throughout their networks, further enabling signatories to be recognized. Finally, media organizations or entities that routinely engage hotel owners in planning, design, development acquisitions, and asset management of hotels can also stand behind complementary initiatives to support the hotel owners and to enable better discussions and share best practice.

HOT has received great support and feedback from the current signatories. Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas president Bernhard Bohnenberger said: "We are delighted to be a partner in Hotel Owners for Tomorrow. Sustainability lives at the foundation of Six Senses and is one of our highest priorities when it comes to building properties and operating them. We look forward to participating in this important initiative and making an impact through our actions." "At Marriott, one of our core values is Serve Our World and this includes supporting local communities and protecting the environment. To be able to do this with our owner franchise community - our key business partner, especially in this region, is why we helped form the HOT coalition," said Daphne Tan, Vice President of Owner Franchise Relations. "HOT allows us to strengthen that relationship and support our owners and franchisees who want to help make a difference with their investment."

Though many international brands and hotel operators have certain sustainability policies and programs in place, the evolving best practices of sustainability require more owner buy-in. Also, many hoteliers still think it's an all or nothing type initiative to be a "green hotel". For one, there are hundreds of sustainable best practices to adopt and new trends and innovation emerge on a regular basis to reach the ultimate state of being green. I recently watched the Minnesota Senator Al Franken ask Betsy DeVos about her views on student growth versus proficiency. Al Franken explained that he has been an advocate for growth. Growth is defined by how much students improve while proficiency is defined by how many students meet a certain score deemed proficient. I thought this was a perfect analogy for hotels in the green space. Al Franken advocates for growth as there are many factors that affect a student's proficiency just like there are many factors that affect a hotel's ability to be green. In hotel sustainability, both approaches are complementary. The HOT coalition and the five actions help hotels to take the growth approach and focus on progress by tracking and measuring year over year performance and implementation of best practices. There's room for every hotel to grow and do better to be more sustainable.

Whether you are proficient in sustainability or still growing, if you're a hotel owner and have hotels in Asia Pacific, we invite you to join the HOT coalition by emailing us at join@hotelsfortomorrow.org. You can choose not to join formally but still consider doing any one to all the five actions outlined in the coalition. We are piloting this launch in Asia Pacific for its significance in hotel growth and opportunities for hotel owners to get involved. HOT will plan to launch in the Americas and Europe soon. So, if your hotel or portfolio are located outside of Asia Pacific, sign up for email updates and stay tuned.

We will be sharing the best practices submitted by the signatories on the HOT website so we invite everyone to visit www.hotelsfortomorrow.org to learn and be inspired.

Grace Kang is Managing Partner of Greenview and has over 15 years of experience in the hotel industry in various functional roles, particularly in data analysis and reporting. She brings corporate perspective from working at top global hotel brands in sales strategy and development finance roles, both working with data for corporate reporting purposes. In addition to her hotel background, she gained Asia experience working at Samsung Card in Seoul, Korea, where she created a VIP travel program for the company’s top-tiered credit card members as well as led a team of marketers to increase Samsung Card’s e-commerce presence through business development. Ms. Kang can be contacted at +65 9623 1876 or grace@greenview.sg Please visit http://www.greenview.sg for more information. Extended Bio...

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