|July and August mean a lot of things to a lot of companies, but for those in hospitality sales and marketing, it's the start of the Requests for Proposals season. RFPs (Request for Proposal) ask the standard questions about room count, location, amenities, ratings, ADA compliance, etc., but questions regarding a property's eco-friendly practices and procedures are rapidly becoming the norm.
In 2007, after gathering recommendations from their association members, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) introduced a series of environmental questions on its Hotel RFP form. The members indicated that business travel buyers are driving green hotel initiatives in much the same way they insisted on Internet connectivity, luxury bedding, and flat panel TVs. Fast forward five years and these questions have not only become standard, but corporate travel programs and associations have whole sections on their RFPs dedicated to finding out every detail about a property's sustainability practices.
And the trend is growing.
These RFPs are asking hotels to describe their top carbon offset initiatives that are visible and actively communicated to their guests. For example, these RFPs require hotels to list recycling programs that are in place, the hotel's use of environmentally friendly cleaning solutions, or if there is a water conservation program being practiced. Additionally, questions are often asked about a hote'sl participation in environmental certification initiatives such as Energy Star or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Some RFPs even go a step further and inquire about environmentally friendly design and construction practices.
Since large companies often want to be able to report that their own carbon footprint is in good standing, they are looking closely at their travel programs. These group and business transient customers are asking the hotel chains that they do global business with to provide detailed sustainability metrics.
Here are some sample questions relating to sustainability that you may find on an RFP:
1. Is your building LEED certified?
2. Are any staff members LEED accredited professionals?
3. Do you have an Energy Star score of at least 60?
4. Are there bike racks within 200 yards of the building?
5. Is there a preferred parking for mark carpool vehicles or alternative fuel vehicles?
6. Do roofing surfaces minimize heat by using highly reflective material and/or vegetation (ie. green roofs)?
7. Does the building have an indoor air quality management program in place?
8. Does the building use low flow plumbing fixtures and appliance?
9. What percentage of the site requires regular irrigation?
10. Does the building employ storm water retainers or 3 use systems?
11. Do you provide a recycling program?
12. Have you implemented a green cleaning program (cleaning materials that are green seal certified)?
A few short years ago, travel management consultants said the subject of green hotels was not a tipping point for travel buying decisions. But in the present, corporate customers are giving their final preferences to hotels that are actively and successfully participating in sustainability. If it came down to comparable properties, it’s important for hoteliers to know that their sustainability practices might be what could make or break the sale. These green questions are now being weighed against all other major factors that buyers will use when negotiating hotel contracts and can be offset by other items, such as rates, meeting space, food and beverage, etc.
In fact, one of the largest hotel brands recently reported that 16 of their major customers, valued at over 1 billion dollars worth of business, have indicated that providing this information is a key factor in whether or not a hotel is accepted into their 2013 travel program. Greening your property can and will bring in business and revenue.
Scott Parisi is the founder of EcoGreenHotel, a firm that develops energy and sustainability projects for commercial buildings with a large focus on the hospitality sector.