I’m always searching for new ways to excite the industry about eco-friendly or sustainability initiatives that will benefit not only the environment, but also the financial health of our industry. Recently, much has been said regarding the use of amenity dispensers in hotels as a green product alternative to individualized amenity bottles. Proponents and skeptics abound on each side of the divide, as with many other alternatives to the tried and true business methodologies. Regardless of which side you (or your brand) find yourself, one thing above all is a clear indicator of the potential for this sustainable alternative: Cost savings.
What’s in a Bottle?
Amenities are a crucial portion of our business. Guests impose value on them that goes beyond the basic usefulness of the product. With TSA regulations and baggage fees on airlines now a staple of business and leisure travel alike, knowing an amenity such as shampoo or lotion is awaiting you at your destination potentially reduces the outward cost of traveling. Aside from not having to pack additional items for a planned stay, many guests enjoy having an item that they can “take home” from their trip. I don’t know about you, but I certainly have amassed quite a collection of bath soaps and shampoos over the years- Each with the insignia of their hotel-of-origin displayed proudly on the front. There exists a pass along effect of these amenities. Your brand has the ability to enter the homes of these individuals. Regardless of the rationale, these items have become expected by our customers.
So, why would anyone want to switch to an amenity dispenser system? Who would want to potentially affect guest satisfaction by removing those coveted souvenirs from a guest room? Why would you want to diminish the added value these small tokens of hospitality afford you? The answer is as simple as the “Complimentary Guest Items” line item on your budget. We all are in recovery mode from the economic downturn of the recent years. Where occupancy had been low, we are now seeing growth and gains. ADRs are increasing, RevPar is on the rise and many of us are actually in sight of achieving budgets. In times like these, every single dollar saved can potentially tip the scale.
Not Your Father’s Dispenser
Think back to high school. Do you remember the locker room and its antiquated soap dispensers? Older dispenser models like this can conjure images of sub-par motels, locker rooms, gyms, or public restrooms. Obviously, this is not exactly the type of “welcome home” we are aiming to offer our guests. In recent years though, the amenity dispenser design and style has completely rebounded from its lackluster origins. Stylish designs and finishes have replaced poorly made pump systems that were messy and difficult to maintain. The dispensers available today are compact, efficient and incredibly stylish.
Not only has the actual hardware been improved, but the contents have as well. Brands such as Tommy Bahama have offered high-end, quality products as a dispensable option for hotel brands. Trends such as this afford a hotel the option to provide an equally luxurious hotel experience while doing so with a more sustainable green technology. Distributors are becoming wise to the needs of hoteliers to maintain top quality products that are stylish and desirable to guests. Companies such as Pineapple Hospitality offer a vast selection of products and dispensers to suit the needs of the most discriminating clientele.
Waste Not…Spend Not
Waste is a large portion of the entire guest amenity program within our industry. Millions of plastic bottles are manufactured each year for these programs. A large portion of these bottles will never be recycled. In many cases, the majority of these items are thrown away with product still inside of them. Once discarded, these items sit in landfills creating a huge amount of non-biodegradable waste. Put simply, there is a large environmental case for the use of dispensers.
On average, a green hotel can have a daily cost of anywhere from $0.35 to $0.94 per day room amenity cost. Of the thousands of bottles disposed of each day, fewer than 5 percent of them ever see a recycling program. This cycle makes for one scenario: very expensive waste. Once the initial cost of hardware and product is factored, a dispenser product in a guest room can reduce daily operating costs to less than $0.20 per room!
Any dispenser system in a hotel room will reduce ordering costs, product usage and waste. Most dispenser products are ordered by the gallon, which can translate into an average savings of 30 percent to 70 percent on annual amenity costs! By condensing the size and quantity of guest amenities in this manner a hotel can conserve labor costs and valuable storage room as well.
Join the Club
Though amenity dispensers have had great success in Europe and Canada, US hoteliers have been less apt to adopt this sustainable product idea. However, some of the newest hotel brands have implemented this as a standard in all of their properties. Aloft, for instance, offers all of their guest amenities via dispenser. So do Element, Home2 Suites by Hilton, Drury Hotels and Four Points by Sheraton. Despite these brands and companies’ efforts, they’re part of the less than 5% of the market that is estimated to be utilizing dispensers. However, the trend is gaining steam and more brands are piloting “test dispenser” programs in their properties to gauge cost-reductions and guest satisfaction.
Regardless of the speed, the possibility for amenity dispensers to grow toward a more socially accepted standard is completely viable. Our guests are learning that every choice they make impacts their own carbon footprint, and this includes the choices in hotels. By offering our customers the option to choose a green hotel with a sustainability initiative in place, we are assisting in changing the mindset and culture of the business.