How Hospitality Partners Adapt, Save Energy During Pandemic

Hotels were among the first businesses hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, but travelers still need a safe place to stay. The Better Buildings team checks in.

Courtesy of Better Buildings

It’s been a tough year to be in the hospitality industry. Hotels were among the first businesses hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. But there are still travelers out there who need a safe place to stay – whether they’re an essential worker, traveling for work, or in need of a socially-distanced getaway. And that means Better Buildings partners like Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Loews Hotels & Co have their work cut out for them — not to mention efficiency goals to meet.

“We’re in the hospitality business,” explained Mary Falvey, Chief Administration Officer, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. “Our job is to welcome guests, to make them feel at home, and help them escape the everyday.”hotels

So, when the chips are down, how do Better Buildings hospitality leaders keep creating great experiences? We’ll show you!

1. Keeping The Culture Alive And Well

Great guest experiences start with a great team. That means keeping employees motivated, supported, and appreciated, which during the pandemic, means a bit of adaptation.

Wyndham has taken measures including allowing more flexible work schedules as home and work lives blur together, as well as extending “Summer Friday” office hours. For hotel team members on the front lines, they’ve also created new ways to celebrate their work – like a superhero-themed appreciation week.

Loews Hotels & Co doubled down on its culture of caring and communication, ensuring that team members knew what was happening even during the constant pivots and shifts of implementing new safety measures, adapting hours, and operational changes.

“It’s all about treating people with respect – about showing them that you care,” said Joe Thomas, Loews Hotels & Co’s Vice President of Engineering. “That’s something we prioritized long before the pandemic, and really set the tone for our team to financially and emotionally support each other through this.”

2. Turning Safety Into Experience

“Guests today don’t just want to know that a hotel has enhanced cleaning protocols or that social distancing measures are in place—they want to see it,” said Falvey.

With safety top of mind every time people step out the door, both Loews and Wyndham have built safety messaging and cues into every part of the guest experience, including mandatory masks, hospital-grade disinfectants for guestrooms and public spaces, hand sanitizing stations, and social distancing signage. Loews has even implemented daily temperature checks for staff.

“We want to ensure guests don’t look at these changes as an inconvenience, but embrace the protocols and understand they are in place to care for them as we would care for our own families,” said Thomas.

Despite some new hoops for guests to jump through, the pandemic has inspired new amenities too. In 2020, Wyndham rolled out an all-new mobile app prioritizing low-contact and in-stay features like mobile check-in and checkout.

3. Collaborating To Save

With occupancy lower than 2019, Loews has gotten creative and collaborative across the entire organization to cut back on energy, water, and gas use without causing interruptions.

In hot and humid markets, HVAC systems have had to be managed carefully to prevent mold – even without many guests onsite. Toilets, showers, and ice machines have to be run on occasion to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Keeping indoor plants healthy means making decisions about when to leave the lights on. Elevators need to be run to avoid damage to rollers and rails. These operational procedures and countless others have been managed in collaboration with engineers, onsite staff and partners in HVAC, water treatment, landscaping, elevator maintenance, pest control, and more.

By strategically managing these systems, Loews has managed to save roughly $7 million on energy costs without any impact on guest experience or nasty maintenance surprises.

“We’ve learned a lot from our vendors and have worked really hard to communicate consistently with our entire team,” said Thomas. “Communication and transparency are key, so we all know what to look for and the ‘why’ behind every decision.”

4. Find The Opportunities

It’s tough to look for silver linings during a global pandemic, but it has created unique opportunities for hospitality leaders. Fewer guests to plan around means that renovations and energy efficiency upgrades can be fast-tracked.

“Some of our franchised hotels are using this moment as an opportunity to expedite previously planned renovations and other projects,” said Falvey. “Our recommendation to owners taking this path is to focus on areas that not only enhance the guest experience but that will help deliver long-term cost savings or higher returns, like LED retrofits and energy management thermostats.”

Those upgrades promise big savings in the future and could become an important competitive advantage as the world creeps back out of isolation.

“A recent travel study showed that 62% of US travelers want to stay in an eco-friendly hotel,” added Falvey. “And that number is likely to only increase in the coming years. Guests are telling us what they expect and our job is to find ways to deliver.”

What will happen in the coming months? No one can say for sure. But with cultures built on sustainability, adaptability, putting guests and team members first, and working across departments to tackle any challenge, Better Buildings hospitality partners are ready for whatever comes next.

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