Going Green to Save Green

Going green is a growing trend in the hospitality industry as the costs of being energy-efficient become more affordable and the cost savings more significant. Implementing sustainable programs can equate to lower costs by conserving electricity and water for a timeshare resort. In addition to saving money, being green can also attract visitors. Eco-friendly travel is en vogue, and according to TripAdvisor, 1 in 2 travelers say that eco-friendly travel is an important factor when choosing an accommodation.

But the bottom line is this: how will implementing eco-friendly measures at a resort contribute to the bottom line? The board has a fiduciary responsibility to spend owners’ maintenance fees wisely to ensure the property is well maintained and maintenance fees remain affordable and consistent. With advancements in technology, being eco-friendly can make financial sense, too. There are many programs and systems that resorts can install that reduce electricity usage and reduce supply expenses that make going green good for the budget.

Reducing Annual Energy Costs with Automated Efficiency Systems

Collectively being cognizant of the little things like turning off the lights can make a big impact on the monthly utility bills – which is the case even at a residential home. However, creating a plan that relies on guests’ cooperation is difficult to include in a budget. Now, there are systems available for resorts that do not rely on guests’ memories to monitor the electricity – the lights will be turned off, the A/C will auto-regulate, and the water heater will lower when triggered by certain factors in a room. These systems can reduce electricity by 30-40%.  For example, at La Costa Beach Club in Florida, GEM Link energy management system was installed in each guest room. Margaret Johnson, the General Manager of the resort, explains, “This system monitors temperatures and cuts systems off when guests vacate the room or open windows and sliding glass doors.”

There are many programs and grants that will help resorts cover the cost of these energy efficiency systems. The Ocean Club on Smuggler’s Beach in Cape Cod installed a $40,000 energy efficiency system, which will save 20% on electricity annually. The resort paid a total of $17,000 for the system. “With sustainability programs and grants researched by our team at SPM, we were able to secure more than half of the expenses of this system, and paid $17,000 for the $40,000 project. They are expected to see a return on their investment after 4 years,” says Paul Goodrich, Regional Vice President of Operations.

Construction Projects: Planning To Reduce Expenses

While making a significant investment in making property improvements, finding ways to save costs long-term by implementing systems designed to conserve water and electricity will allow the resort to reduce expenses annually. J.D. Banks, General Manager of SPM-managed resorts Chalet High and Stony Court in Basye, Virginia elaborates, “During our renovations, we have consciously incorporated green measures to reduce energy and water consumption including replacing the insulation and exterior materials to seal the units for better heating and cooling, replacing outdated appliances with energy efficient appliances, replacing incandescent light bulbs with CFL bulbs, and replacing some of the water-drinking shrubs with attractive stone to cut down on water use and fuel for the gas tools. All of this together is how we are making a difference in the amount of electricity, water and carbon footprint that we are responsible for at Chalet High Owners Association.”

Adds Bill Young, President / CEO of SPM Resorts, Inc., “Many of our Associations rely on our team to find cost savings to offset the expenses of property improvements. We stay on top of all of the latest industry trends, systems, and programs that allow the resorts we manage to make the wisest investments to provide quality vacations for the owners with attractive units and upgraded amenities, while saving money on expenses like electricity, water, and supplies long-term. In addition, not all changes need to be large investments, even making smaller changes like switching out light bulbs can make a significant impact on a budget.”

Simple Switches: Using Energy Efficient Light Bulbs

While the cost of the energy efficient bulbs can be more expensive than traditional incandescent bulbs, they use far less energy and can pay for themselves within three years.

There are two main types of energy efficient bulbs, CFL (which stands for Compact Fluorescent Lighting) and LED (which stands for light–emitting diodes). The Energy Star website explains the difference, “LED lighting differs from incandescent and compact fluorescent lighting in several ways. When designed well, LED lighting can be more efficient, durable, versatile and longer lasting.” The website also explains CFL lighting, “CFLs need a little more energy when they are first turned on, but once the electricity starts moving, CFLs use about 70% less energy than incandescent bulbs.” CFLs are typically a less expensive price point than LEDs, but LEDs last much longer.
Powering a Resort with the Sun: Installing Solar Panels

For serious savings in energy costs, installing solar panels will drastically reduce a dependency on electricity at a resort. In St. Thomas, Bluebeard’s Castle Resort installed solar panels throughout the resort, which generate 30% of the resort’s electricity saving significant money each month. Paul Goodrich, Regional Vice President of Operations for SPM Resorts, states, “We researched various programs and vendors to find the most affordable and efficient system, and the SPM team found a great partner in Solar Systems VI. The return on the associations’ investment will be 3 to 5 years.”

Conserving Water & Reducing Supplies with Commercial Laundry Facilities

For resorts that have a housekeeping department that launders linens and towels, detergent, water and electricity can be a major expense. Florida resorts Vacation Villas at FantasyWorld, La Costa Beach Club, Blue Tree Resort, Tropic Sun Towers, Atlantic Terrace and Hollywood Beach Tower have switched to Ecolab’s Aquanomic system for their commercial laundry facilities. This system can reduce water and energy use up to 40% in addition to a reduction in detergent, which also use less plastic containers that impact the volume of waste. “We started to use Ecolab’s Laundry System when SPM began managing the property. It has saved the resort tremendously on water and detergent,” notes Zsuzsanna Noviello, General Manager for Atlantic Terrace in Daytona Beach Shores, Florida.

Blubeard’s Castle Resort in St. Thomas installed the LaundrOzone, an ozone laundry system, which produces 03, a natural disinfectant and sanitizer. The Ozone Water Tech website explains, “Ozone functions similarly to color safe oxygen based bleaches, removing stains and destroying microbes while leaving fabrics undamaged and colors bright.” This process reduces the need for harsh chemicals and hot water, saving money on both supplies and heating water. In addition, it preserves the fabrics and colors of the linens so they last much longer before needing to be replaced.

Pool Maintenance: Stop Putting Money Down the Drain

Water, chemicals and electricity needed to maintain a resort pool can be extremely expensive, and there are many ways to reduce costs. At the Ocean Club on Smuggler’s Beach in Cape Cod, installing a $900 salt chlorinator to the pool saves approximately $1,000 in pool supplies annually. In addition, the resort installed a new energy efficient pool heater, added a new air heating system and replaced old sliding glass doors with new energy efficient sliders, which do not allow the heat to escape. The new heater duct system and the upgraded sliders keep the water and the air warm in the pool area, essential for the cold Cape Cod winter months.

Peppertree By the Sea in North Myrtle Beach has an indoor pool, and upgrading the dehumidifier with a water heat recovery system has saved significant costs. Julie Phillips, General Manager for the resort, explains, “The system takes the heat generated from the dehumidification process and transfers it to the indoor pool through a heat exchanger. This system keeps the pool water temperature at a constant 84 degrees. That process allows the gas water heater to run less if at all.”

The solar panel project at Bluebeard’s Castle has been such a tremendous success that they are installing a solar hot water system for the pool and solar spa heaters this year. These systems are expected to save enough to pay for themselves in 2 years.

Appealing to Eco-Friendly Travelers

A 2014 TripAdvisor study finds that “eco-friendly choices make 78% of global travelers feel more positive about their trip.” Promoting the green measures a resort implements can be an asset to attracting an eco-conscious traveler.

TripAdvisor has a Green Leader program with more than 4,000 properties participating. Resorts can apply for free online, and it is a great way to promote being an environmentally friendly resort. The application includes questions regarding the use of ENERGY STAR qualified appliances, energy efficient heaters for pools / hot tubs, use of alternative water sources in landscaping, the use of energy efficient light bulbs like LED, CFL, T5 and T8 Fluorescent lights, use of paper products that contain recycled material like office paper or toilet paper, and the availability of a recycling program. With the 260 million travelers that visit this website each month, having an eco-friendly online profile can be a great way to promote a resort to potential guests.

Promoting on-site can be beneficial to appealing to owners and guests as well. Even if there is an expense, owners and guests that are green-savvy may want certain services like recycling, and it may be worth incorporating into the budget as an added value service. At Royal Dunes in Hilton Head, General Manager Jay Labruce says, “The owners requested recycling in the rooms, so we worked with the local waste disposal management company to create a program and budgeted for it. People that recycle at home really want to continue that practice on vacation, and we found a way to accommodate their wishes and of course, do our part to protect the environment with this recycling program.” Ocean View at the Island Club in Hilton Head, South Carolina, started a simple program a few years ago where owners and guests arriving in an energy-efficient car are rewarded with a green t-shirt that says, “I went Green at Ocean View.”

Young concludes, “The systems available in the hospitality industry to improve energy efficiency and water conservation can really make a large impact on a resort’s budget and make a positive impact on the environment. Every small green step we are able to make is positive, and collectively, our resorts are consciously doing their part to be eco-friendly. These efforts have also contributed to the bottom line of the resorts’ budgets with significant cost savings, allowing the boards to continue to make improvements and enhance owners’ vacation experiences.”