Annoyed that the hotel's bottom line benefits from your sacrifice? Some hotels are trying to make water-saving behavior pay for their guests. Participating Sheraton Hotels & Resorts gives guests a $5 food and drink voucher or 500 Starwood points for every day they decline housekeeping's services (except departure day).
Part of the Kimpton culture
Some hotels are making green cool.
It seems to be an easier sell for hip, higher-end chains like Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group's properties, which cultivate an edgier base of customers. About 85% of hotel guests participate in the chain's towel and sheet reuse program, said Mike DeFrino, Kimpton's executive vice president of hotel operations.
Bill Kimpton started the boutique hotel chain by rehabbing older buildings and turning them into hotels. Although Kimpton died in 2001, the company that bears his name still has the reputation he cultivated. Most locations welcome guests to mingle at a lobby cocktail hour, lounge in their animal-print robes and bring their pets on their stay. And many locations will lend guests a goldfish as part of the Guppy Love program.
"I think our guests expect us to push the envelope and try things that are different than what the mass-appeal hotels are doing," DeFrino said.
DeFrino's convinced that some guests don't actually mean to ask for new towels but are much like his teenage daughter, who tosses her towels on the floor at home for no good reason. "Once it's on the floor, you're going to get a clean towel," he said. (Hotel guests, not his daughter.)
The pressure on a mid-priced chain
It's trickier for other hotel chains, where sustainability isn't necessarily part of the appeal to the customer.
The mid-priced chains are competing for a more price-sensitive business and leisure traveler. Hampton Inn, which offers a hot breakfast at its nearly 1,900 company-owned and franchise locations across the country, has two environmentally friendly options for disposable plates, bowls and cutlery: 100% biodegradable Enviroware or Taterware, a resin material made from potato starch.
The chain's takeout coffee cup sleeves are made from 100% recycled fiber, and the towel reuse program simply asks customers using a door hanger to "reuse or replace" towels. No big deal either way, the sign suggests.
"We're delivering these messages in a light-hearted way. ... It's not preachy or paternalistic," said Jennifer Silberman, vice president of corporate responsibility for Hilton Worldwide, which owns Hampton.
More happens behind the scenes at Hampton, which benefits from LightStay, Hilton's company-wide sustainability system that tracks the sustainability of 200 operational practices at nearly 3,900 properties around the world. Hilton has saved more than $147 million since 2008 through efficiency projects, including reporting through LightStay, Silberman said.
Satisfying the luxury guest
You'd think environmental sustainability programs would hit a roadblock with luxury guests, who want the best of everything. Not so, said Sue Stephenson, vice president of Ritz-Carlton's Community Footprints, the chain's social and environmental responsibility program.
"It in no way diminishes the luxury experience," Stephenson said. "We still have the best towels, linens and amenities."
Many Ritz-Carlton guests now use the same sheets two nights in a row (introduced in 2011) and hang up their towels to use another day (introduced in 2009).
"We've not had a single negative guest comment but have certainly had positive guest comments," Stephenson said. "Guests want to see we're doing the right thing."
It helps that the onus is really on the business to be responsible in its construction, hotel operations, food service and landscaping, she said. "The majority of what can be done for the environment is what we can do as a business," Stephenson said.
No matter the price point, no hotelier can afford to lose a guest because he or she doesn't like the way a hotel communicates its message.