Does energy efficiency compromise the hospitality experience?

A University of Nevada study commissioned by Schneider Electric finds some hotel executives are worried energy management could be at odds with guest satisfaction.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Apparently, some hotel managers continue to be worried that embracing energy efficiency programs for their properties could compromise the guest experience.

A survey conducted by the Harrah Hotel College and Cannon Survey Center at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas found that impact on guest and customer experience was the most important consideration for hotel executives, general managers and facilities engineers when making a major investment. The three top motivators in energy equipment investments, according to the survey: monetary savings (94 percent), hotel image (88 percent) and guest loyalty (74 percent).

With that in mind, the roughly 100 people surveyed as part of the study, commissioned by energy efficiency company Schneider Electric, clearly are struggling with whether or not the monetary savings from a more efficiency building automation and control systems are worth the possible tradeoff in guest satisfaction and loyalty. Clearly, they see the monetary potential, but fewer of them have been able to tie energy efficiency to guest loyalty. As a result, many of the respondents were opting for simple, limited measures, according to the researchers.

For example:

  • 76 percent of the respondents had adopted occupancy sensors for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning
  • 74 percent had embraced lighting control systems
  • 86 percent were using variable speed motors/drives on heavy equipment

Fewer, however, had invested in measures such as energy controls for kitchen equipment or peak load-shaving systems, the survey found.

"Almost 60 percent of respondents had energy costs between 2 and 5 percent of their total gross revenue," said Seyhmus Baloglu, the lead researcher for the study, in a press release about the findings. "In addition the properties we surveyed seemed to take a short rather than long-term financial perspective when making investments to energy management systems, which is often time a less sustainable approach to energy management."

I don't know about you, but as a relatively frequent hotel guest, I do find it incredibly annoying when I have no personal control over my climate or when my only options are off or on. At the same time, I don't want to have to walk around the room turning every light off individually when I leave, just because I am energy conscious. In that regard, the systems you find in many European or Latin American countries that require the guest to insert a key before the electricity works are intriguing. If you're not there, the key isn't there and energy isn't wasting.

In any event, the survey is a reminder that the hospitality industry has plenty of upside potential when it comes to energy efficiency opportunities. It does need to get a better grip, however, on how these measures make guests feel. My instinct is that it doesn't need to be all that obvious, it just can't get in the way.

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(Thumbnail image of hotel in Sweden by Hans Thoursie; courtesy of Stock.xchng)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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