Hotel owners use green offerings to set them apart from competitors

In an increasingly competitive market to attract tourists and business travelers to Washington, hotel developers and operators are seeking ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. In doing so, many companies have begun to incorporate environment-friendly initiatives as a way of serving guests who are conscious of their ecological footprint.

One of the latest is the JBG Cos. plan to bring a green-branded hotel to Washingtonas part of the larger redevelopment of the Southwest waterfront. The planned hotel will operate under the Starwood Hotels “Element” brand, which distinguishes itself through features such as LEED certification, use of recycled materials throughout the building, use of low-energy appliances and reductions in the amount of disposable plastics used. There are currently 10 Element hotels in operation in the United States, with the closest one in Arundel Mills.

JBG’s plan for two new hotels in D.C.’s Southwest neighborhood (the other will be under the Aloft flag) received advisory neighborhood commission approval recently.

Other hotel operators in the city have stepped up efforts to increase their green credentials. For instance, Kimpton Hotels, which operates multiple hotels in the Washington area under names such as Hotel Monaco, Hotel Palomar and Donovan House, has in place the Kimpton EarthCare Program across all of its properties. Features of the program include the use of environment-friendly cleaning products, energy-efficient building materials, low-flow water systems, and inclusion of local and organic foods in hotel restaurants.

Hotel operators are hoping the changes will help them to appeal to consumers who have plenty of options when it comes to lodging. At the end of 2012, 661 hotel properties with approximately 105,900 rooms were in operation in the Washington area, according to Lodging Econometrics, including 118 hotels with about 28,196 rooms in the District of Columbia. There are 17 hotels under construction with 3,275 rooms, and developers plan to begin construction on an additional 23 hotels with 2,660 rooms within the next 12 months.

Hotel occupancy and average daily rates in the Washington area have exceeded national averages over the past 12 years, but have faced downward pressure of late. During the fourth quarter of 2012, occupancy in the Washington area was 60.8 percent, down from 62 percent in the same quarter of 2011. Similarly, average daily rates were down slightly year-over-year to $143.03 in 2012 from $144.23 in 2011. Still, both of these statistics stand above the national rates of 56.6 percent occupancy and an average daily rate of $106.54, reflecting the continued strength of the hospitality industry in the Washington area.

Steven Reilly is a senior associate at Delta Associates. Staff at Delta Associates contributed to this article. For more information, please visit www.deltaassociates.com

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