Dillema 2: Going green and/or saving money

The small and cosy hotel "Dunes" is situated in a traditional seaside location. The destination is quite busy during the summer season, where it attracts a significant group of "empty nesters" who enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, and the opportunity to meet others in cafes, along the harbor front and at various cultural events. The municipality has renovated the harbor, beautified the pavements and streets, and created better access to the attractive dune areas, which has been supplied with new toilet facilities, shelters, beach barbeque facilities etc. The municipality has emphasized that all renovations must be environmentally friendly. Thus water saving and proper sewage systems were used in new public facilities, bus stops were upgraded to encourage the use of public transportation and the choice of materials for paving and street furniture focused on local and sustainable products. Many trees have been planted as part of a wider CO2 reduction strategy for the area. The municipality staff and politicians hope that this strategy will contribute to the attraction of more tourists to the destination, also offseason.

The owners of Dunes, Simon and Rebecca, have had the place for five years. It has been a very difficult period, due to very narrow margins. They are fortunate to have loyal and friendly customer, who like the place as it is. But they are ageing, and their pensions do not allow many extravagancies. Over the past five years Simon and Rebecca have redecorated the dining room and lounges. The results are satisfactory esthetically, and the guests enjoy better lighting, the coffee machines and access to electronic equipment. But the electricity bill has suffered. Simon and Rebecca have not previously paid any significant attention to sustainability issues, but the electricity bill, the activities by the municipality and the general debate about climate change have alerted them. The hotel needs a substantial renovation of most of the rooms. They would like to see the renovations of the rooms to be done in a more environmentally friendly way.

Rebecca has consulted many websites on sustainable building renovation. She is inspired by other hotels who reduced the heating consumption by automatic control systems that regulate the temperature on several dimensions. It is very obvious that electricity savings can be obtained by systematic switch off procedures on lights and electronic equipment, and that air-condition can be replaced by natural airflows. Rebecca has also been fascinated by other sustainability measures, for example, using local products, for example wooden floors instead of carpeting. However, would that raise the cost of cleaning? The roof of one of the buildings might be convenient for solar energy equipment, but can that cover the energy requirements for hot water?

The owners of Dunes have to be very cost conscious, but there is also the question of image. Simon is not certain whether the customers are ready to appreciate a concept of "climate friendly" rooms. They may be concerned about comfort, and his experience is that they are very conservative. He also remembers how the electronic door key system caused a lot of trouble for many guests, and he had to spend time instructing them how to operate it. He raises the question of the cost of maintenance. He knows that sometimes the bank is not too helpful, if their investment plans cannot guarantee a higher turnover.

On the other hand, he has also been impressed by the guests who have found the municipality initiatives appealing. Maybe following the bandwagon could raise the general knowledge of the destination and benefit business in the longer run.

POLL: What would you advise Simon and Rebecca to do?

Wait and see what other hotels in the area are doing and copy the most cost-efficient methods. The hotel has, after all, a good and loyal customer base, and it is better to regard the present business as "cash cow". It is general experience by many hotel owners that the cost of energy saving equipment is declining, and that being a "first mover" may cause extra trouble and costs.

Implement environmental measures here and now, where there is a significant probability of a short pay-back time. For example water saving devises in all bathrooms and LED light everywhere, switch-off systems, better heating and cooling systems that can be controlled centrally from the reception area. Other renovations would then be more traditional, so that the guest will experience more or less the same comfort and atmosphere.

Invite and pay the costs of an architect and a green hotels expert to draw up a more comprehensive sustainability review of the place. According to the suggestions from the consultant, settle on a plan for short and long term investments in green developments of the hotel. The target is to become a member of the Green Key Association, so that the Dunes Hotel can address the needs and preferences of a new segment of customers and to ensure access to a new marketing platform.

Decide to convert the hotel rapidly to a show-case for a sustainable and cost-efficient hotel in a sustainable destination. Establish local working groups with other tourism enterprises, make contact to municipality officials for support and guidance, alert the bank and other financial institutions. Apply for funds for investments and developments. Motivate the Tourist Office to enhance the marketing of sustainability as the project gains speed.


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