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Marketing "Greenness" to the Luxury Traveler
A Case Study:  Bardessono, Yountville, Napa Valley


(California's First LEED Platinum Hotel, One of Two in the World)


By Jim Treadway, General Manager
December 29, 2011

 
When Bardessono Hotel, Restaurant, and Spa was conceived, the vision was simple - to be the greenest and best luxury hotel in the world.  Period.  Clearly, this was not an easy undertaking.  On February 2, 2009, at the absolute bottom (almost to the minute) of the Lodging Industry’s economy, Bardessono opened in Yountville in the heart of Napa Valley, California.  This 62 room property was developed at a cost of over $1,000,000 per key, enabling it to quickly join Auberge, Calistoga Ranch, and Meadowood in the elite group of Napa Valley’s finest luxury hotels. 
 
Its differentiation was two-fold - its “greenness” and its location within the town of Yountville, considered by many the most desirable location in the Valley, and home to arguably some of the finest restaurants in the United States, including Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry.  Bardessono was developed and then operated to LEED Platinum Certification standards, and not long after it opened, earned that certification officially from the U.S. Green Building Council. It currently is one of two LEED Platinum-certified hotels in the world, and with revpar commensurate with its market-leading luxury positioning.  How it was developed and how it is operated are the subjects for another story.  Suffice it to say that the 72 geothermal wells, 972 solar panels, the materials used in construction, and the green operating practices all speak volumes to its extreme eco-sensitivity.  But that’s not what this is about.
 
It’s about marketing and the consumer response to “green” luxury.  When MTM Luxury Lodging, now part of the Personal Luxury Resorts & HotelsSM by Benchmark Hospitality International, opened Hotel 1000 in Seattle in 2006, the property began as the most technologically-advanced hotel in the world.  Hard to believe, but true nonetheless.  The PR, as a result, was phenomenal.  When MTM opened The Liberty Hotel in Boston, the story there was the conversion of an 1851 iconic county jail into a luxury hotel, and again, the PR was phenomenal.
 
In 2009, Bardessono’s opening PR thrust was its “greenness,” the result being much more media attention than what just another new luxury hotel would garner.  We were an instant hit among environmentalists.  Groups and individuals, rooted in environmentalism all came to see us.  Good for occupancy.  Not as good for ADR.  
 
Within a year, it became crystal clear to us that our lead story might not be the right one for our targeted customer.  With our “in-your-face” approach to marketing our greenness, we lost sight of the need to focus on our location, extraordinary luxury, and staff ratio of two per room and the resulting attentive service we consistently deliver.  Some prospective guests, used to the finest things in life, were stuck in the conventional wisdom at the time that “green” and true luxury are mutually exclusive.  They conjured up visions of minimalism and discomfort.  In some respects, the initial media attention we received for our “greenness” worked against us.  Our guests seek a great hotel experience first, and can get one at comparable rates elsewhere.  Our “value add” to them is the knowledge that the carbon footprint they leave behind in Napa Valley is about half the size it would be at another hotel.
 
So into and throughout 2011, our marketing and its messaging have been all about being a world-class hotel  Our greenness has become a secondary message….an “oh, by the way…….we’re one the greenest luxury hotels in the world, as validated by our LEED Platinum certification.”  The customer response has been excellent as evidenced by Bardessono being named by TripAdvisor the #1 Hotel in America for “Relaxation and Spa”, and the #5 Hotel in the World.
 
While the “green” message is secondary, it is still an important one.  When groups and individuals are weighing their options with respect to the Napa Valley’s finest lodging, those with even a shred of an environmental conscience choose us.  A good example being an “A list” film celebrity, who wanted to do her latest movie media launch in Napa Valley, and when she learned about our eco-sensitivity she chose us because of her strong environmental awareness and support for like-minded organizations.
 
While our guests are here, we subtly make them aware of their support for the environment by association with discreet physical messaging, as well as staff dialogue.  When we pique their interest, we can go into the role of being “full on” educators.  If we sense disinterest, we move off the subject of the environment and move on to what we believe will interest them.  Most often wine and food.  Go figure.
 
The moral of this is remarkably simple.  Know your prospective and existing customers.  Market to them as individuals -- not as market segments. Promote your hotel on the basis of its merits and what each of your customers wants and needs, either consciously or sub-consciously.  Your “greenness” is a value-add, and is appealing to more and more travelers.  Its ability to drive revpar is increasing. 
 
But in our world, it’s all about luxury first – how we market it, then how we deliver it.  This is the foundation upon which Benchmark Hospitality’s Personal Luxury Resorts & Hotels is built.  Being green is increasingly good for business, and much more importantly, it’s good for the world in which we live.
 
About Jim Treadway  
Jim Treadway serves in the dual roles of vice chairman of Benchmark Hospitality International’s Advisory Board and general manager of Bardessonoo in Yountville, Napa Valley, California, one of Benchmark's Personal Luxury Resorts & Hotels properties.  Previously founder and chairman of MTM Luxury Lodging, he is well known and respected in the hospitality industry for his 23 years with Westin Hotels and Resorts, at which he rose to the position of president of the North American Division.
 
Jim is a leader in the U.S. hotel industry and has been a frequent speaker at industry events. He has guest lectured at Cornell, Florida State, Washington State, Nova University, and the University of Washington. He is a former board/executive committee member of AH&LA and the Seattle CVB, as well as past president of Washington State's Hotel and Lodging Association.  Jim is a founding member of Seattle's Lodging Roundtable and the Yountville Business Roundtable. He is a past Chairman of the Board of IndeCorp, now known as the Preferred Hotel Group. Jim currently serves on the board of Merrill Gardens, L.L.C., which owns and operates 50 retirement and assisted living communities across the U.S.  He's an active volunteer with The Pathway Home organization at Yountville's Veterans Home, which assists returning traumatized combat veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars integrate back into society.
 
Jim is a third generation hotelier, whose lodging roots began with Treadway Inns in New England. He attended Dartmouth College, served in the Marine Corps, and later graduated from Cornell University in Hotel Administration.
 
About Bardessono
The Bardessono opened in February 2009 with 62 guest rooms, restaurant and spa in Yountville, California, the heart of the Napa Valley. We pledge to care for an uncommon set of priorities: for the environment, for each other, for our guests, for the property and for the community nearby. Together, these priorities represent a vision for unprecedented and attentive service. 
 
Bardessono, www.bardessono.com, which is a Personal Luxury Resorts & HotelsSM property of Benchmark Hospitality International, is the recipient of numerous awards for excellence, including:
 
- Condé Nast Gold List 2012
- Best of Wine Tourism 2012, Accommodations in Napa Valley, from Great Wine Capitals
- #1 Hotel in US,  #5 in World, TripAdvisor’s Best Relaxation & Spa Hotel, 2011 Travelers Choice Awards
- Fodors Top 100 Hotels in the World 2011
- Condé Nast Top 200 Hotels in the US 2011
- CA Hotel & Lodging Assc., Good Earthkeeping Award 2011
- Michelin Guide Recommended (hotel & restaurant), 2011, 2010
- Andrew Harper Readers Choice Top 20 U.S. Hideaways, 2010
- Travel+Leisure Best New North American Hotels 2010
- Time Magazine Green Design 100, 2009

About Benchmark Hospitality International

Benchmark Hospitality International is a leader in the management and marketing of resorts, conference centers, hotels, and Personal Luxury Resorts & HotelsSM.  The independent company, launched in 1980, is a worldwide organization operating properties in major metropolitan and resort destinations.  Benchmark's international headquarters is located in The Woodlands, Texas, near Houston. Benchmark Hospitality is also a founding member of the International Association of Conference Centers.  The company's eastern regional office is in New Jersey, western regional office is in Washington, with international offices in Tokyo, Japan, and Santiago, Chile. For the location of Benchmark's properties and additional information, visit www.benchmarkhospitality.com.
.
Contact: 

Ken Ellens
KEN ELLENS COMMUNICATIONS
201-758-2864-Phone  /  201-951-9511-Cell
KenEllens@aol.com



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