GREEN MEET STRIKES CHORD, HOT KEEPS PACE

The Green Hospitality Conference (GHC), co-sponsored by Lodging Hospitality magazine and Pineapple Hospitality, was a hit right out of the box. Meanwhile, the seventh annual iteration of the Strategic Conference on Hospitality Operations & Technology, or HOT, featured a dynamic assortment of speakers, animated and well-attended roundtables, and vigorous panels of chief executive and information officers.

What shape the conference will take next remains to be seen. The emphasis may be on environment more than technology; the March 14-16 confab was the first LH presented to feature both. Both are hot buttons in hospitality, and the Green Hospitality Conference proved to have unexpectedly wide appeal.

Glenn Hasek, keynote speaker at GHC and editor/publisher of online newsletter Green Lodging News, noted a “surprise surge” in attendees, including many who signed up the day of the March 14 event. About 175 of the 425 participants in both made it to GHC, including representatives of hotel companies Lodging Hospitality and Pineapple Hospitality seek to enlist in the increasingly popular green cause.

Among the highlights of GHC was an address by David Oakey, owner of David Oakey Designs and a specialist in carpet manufacture. In his long, New-Age presentation, Oakey noted the ongoing death of plant and animal species and the chronic loss of the rain forest. Alternating his presentation with sobering images of natural extinction and inspiring ones of nature run abundant, Oakey painted a very big picture for hospitality leaders to ponder.

Oakey's counterpart during HOT was Mike Leven, the keynote speaker. The former head of U.S. Franchise Systems is a lodging veteran who recalled the early days of hotel technology when he was a sales genius coming up in New York City and one of his bosses expressed fear that newfangled jet travel would mean fewer people staying in hotels.

Some viewed such change as a threat, but Leven saw it as an opportunity. Leven has always been a visionary; he now is a philanthropist with The Marcus Foundation in Atlanta.

In a panel of “green” hospitality executives, Michelle White noted that her company, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, was the first North American hospitality firm to launch a green program. Fairmont's vice president of environmental affairs suggested that greening a company like Fairmont, which incorporates and respects the natural locale at all of its sites, means involving everyone in a green-oriented culture. It means thinking differently, she suggested.

The Green Hospitality Conference segued seamlessly into HOT the evening of March 15, thanks to a convivial merging of the confabs in the well of the Hilton Anatole in Dallas.

The following morning, LH Publisher Gary Dietz and BearingPoint Managing Director Donald Gallagher launched the latest HOT by welcoming heavyweights such as Marriott Executive Vice President, Central Region Don Semmler and Hilton EVP-CEO Tom Keltner to the podium. Bracketed by Semmler and Keltner, Gallagher skillfully led the CEO panel, not lacking for barbs. “We'll sell you some of our alarm clocks,” Keltner told Semmler in an exchange on the value of technology in hospitality. “Because they work.”

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