Things are bigger in China, as you can see. As part of our project introduction, we toured many locations in the new city of Ordos in Inner Mongolia. The goal was to see the icons and culture of the region that we could incorporate into the story of the new hotel project.
Here vice president Bill Reed stands in the foreground of one of four magnificently large scale sculptures that pay homage to the great Genghis Khan.
Amazing attention to details can be seen on the faces of each of the 50 warriors as part of this sculpture.
The wonderful world of Ordos! Sometimes on trips we forget where we are. One location looks like the last after weeks on the road. But, not on this trip. One morning before being picked up for our meetings, Bill and I took a stroll around the cultural center of the new city of Ordos. We found ourselves on what just happened to be a yellow brick road. This took us to a long landscape plaza reminiscent of our own National Mall in Washington DC.
Despite the lodging industry's well-meaning efforts to go green - and to tell the world about it - we've barely made a dent to date.
Check out the recently released 147-page CMI Green Traveler Survey Report. Based on a survey of 4,109 adults throughout the United States, the study focuses exclusively on the 1,736 respondents who consider themselves to be "extremely" or "very" eco-conscious and who took at least one overnight vacation in the past year. That's a population that is likely to be educated about the concept of sustainability and open to hearing your message.
If you believe your company is doing a great job branding itself as green, you may be disappointed. When asked which hotel brand had done the best job of presenting itself as environmentally friendly, few respondents were able to name any. Respondents voted Kimpton [a study partner] as the environmentally friendliest brand, yet it was cited by only 4 percent of respondents. Hilton and Marriott received a 3 percent response.
When asked to name a green certification program, 97 percent of respondents could not name any. That does not surprise Glenn Hasek, publisher of Green Lodging News, who cites this survey in a recent issue. According to Glenn, there are more than 350 different environmental tourism certifications. Of the 1,412 respondents who answered the related question, only 32 had an awareness of LEED, 13 knew of Green Globe, and seven were aware of Green Seal.
The recommendation of the study's author: "The green travel industry, analysts and green travel advocacy groups must come together to: establish workable standards for green travel throughout the industry; award certification for meeting those standards—an industry 'seal of approval' on par with Michelin, UL or ADA; and proactively brand that certification to gain wide recognition and trust among travelers."
Consumers want to do the green thing, but there is a gap between their intentions and their actions. Perhaps one of the reasons this gap exists is the lack of a consistent set of standards and the resulting confusion caused by the clutter of competing claims.
There is an opportunity here to educate the traveling public. While savvy hoteliers know people are skeptical about advertising, there is power in positive word of mouth. Integrate social media, blogs and website reviews into your marketing mix to raise awareness of the specifics of your green initiatives. Meeting planners, especially, are hungry for this information and will reward you with their business.
I was fortunate to travel to Washington DC a few weeks ago for AIA's 2010 Grassroots Annual Leadership and Legislative Conference. I was there to represent the Pacific Northwest Region's Young Architects Forum (YAF), whose focus this year is to set up a mentoring program.
In addition to attending some great sessions and meeting with counterparts from across the nation, I also had the opportunity to meet three members of Hawaii's congressional delegation, Senator Daniel Inouye, and Representatives Neil Abercrombie and Mazie Hirono.
Unfortunately, we were caught in "snowmageddon," the biggest snowstorm to hit the nation's capital since 1922. Thousands were left without power, and all transportation in and out of the city came to a screeching halt.
For even the wealthy traveler, value will be a top priority in the coming years. The fact that consumer spending, even on sale items, will continue to be replaced by a reason-to-buy at all, spells trouble for brands with no authentic meaning, whether high-end or low.
"People want value for their money in every single market," according to Ralph Toledano, chairman and CEO of Chloé in Paris, as quoted in The Wall Street Journal. Affluent travelers will be looking for an optimal price/quality balance when they are selecting their luxury vacation destination.
Here's further evidence of the value of value: The March 2010 issue of Travel+Leisure magazine ranks readers' favorite destinations in a feature entitled, "World’s Best Hotel Values." The winners prove that you can have a luxury hotel experience for under US$250 a night. Several projects designed by WATG are on that list.
But it's not just about price. To Isadore Sharp, founder, chairman and CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, real value comes from more than offering reduced room rates; rather, it is about delivering "service that is consistent, reliable and tailored to each guest's individual needs."
That suggests that luxury hoteliers and travel companies will thrive if they can demonstrate why it's worth paying a bit more for an extraordinary experience.
In terms of travel choices, conspicuous consumption and bragging rights may no longer be the motivators they once were. Ted Teng, president and CEO of The Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd., sums up what's important when he says that elite clientele will become even more discerning, but in slightly different ways: "Customers will increasingly be seeking value, quality, authenticity and personalized enriching experiences."
The luxury hoteliers who succeed in these challenging times will heed these trends and position their properties accordingly.
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