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Going Green a Major Theme at the American Hotel and Lodging Association
 Summer Summit.
By Steve Lackmeyer, The OklahomanMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

June 13, 2008--Hoteliers curious about what it means to go "green" were told to take a good look at the refreshment table outside the Venetian Room at the Skirvin Hilton, where the American Hotel and Lodging Association is holding its annual summer summit.

"I'm predicting now you won't be seeing those water bottles in two to three years," said Anthony Pollard, president of the Hotel Association of Canada's Green Key program.

Some hoteliers laughed -- but a packed room questioned Pollard and fellow experts in the "green" movement about the various standards and becoming more energy efficient.

Going green has been a major theme at this week's conference. Hoteliers earlier in the week quizzed representatives of the AAA and Mobile travel guides on how they might better feature and rank green hotels -- and also address demands by consumers and organizations seeking out lodging where sheets might be reused or rooms lit with florescent bulbs.

Hoteliers commented some consumers are "copy and pasting" green standards from Web sites and submitting questions unrelated to the hotel industry. Others worried about how they might be judged by different rating systems.

Pollard said Canada's Web-based Green Key system was designed by hoteliers for hoteliers. He said the system has been embraced by major chains and will have 1,000 member properties by the end of 2008.

Building consumer demand

Pollard said that hoteliers can start with simple steps -- changing light bulbs -- and then they can move onto energy audits and lists of materials and practices that can add up on a green rating scale.

"It's provided an excellent marketing opportunity for hotels," Pollard said. "They see the value, they want to participate.

"We're in business for one reason: that's to make money. If we don't make money at the end of the day, green or not, you're out of business. This shows how you can save money and make money -- it helps your bottom line, end of discussion."

Panelists admitted, however, that the array of green rating systems can be quite confusing. Mike Zatz, chief of the market sectors group at Energy Star, said that he looks for Energy Star rated hotels in every market in which he visits. And of the 300 Energy Star hotels nationwide, he said that Oklahoma City has two -- the Courtyard by Marriott hotels downtown and near Will Rogers World Airport.

Zatz said that he and his fellow panelists are not in competition -- but instead are working together to increase green awareness.

"A major priority for us is to build consumer demand for energy efficient or green hotels," Zatz said. "This will drive hotel operators to make the changes. We are seeing a lot of consumer interest in looking for green hotels when they travel."

Panelists reported that some state agencies and organizations across the country require employees to stay at green hotels when traveling.

Helping green building operations

Vicki Worden, vice president of commercial programs and product development at the non-profit Green Building Initiative, said her organization's online ratings evaluations are designed to bridge the gap between the early adapters of the green buildings and those exploring what it all means.

"It's like TurboTax for green building operations," Worden said. "You walk through questions on what to focus on. We use plain language. We have tip boxes that pop up if you don't' know what a question is getting at."

Worden said whatever competition that exists between the rating services is "healthy" and good for innovation.

She and fellow panelists advised hoteliers to look at all the ratings systems available and decide which ones best suit their individual organization's needs.

"There doesn't need to be one winner -- there needs to be a global winner," Worden said. "And that only happens if someone chooses to put multiple systems in place."


"I'm predicting now you won't be seeing those water bottles in two to three years."

Anthony Pollard president of the Hotel Association of Canada's Green Key program

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Oklahoman

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