“The ‘Check-in Energy Efficiency’ pilot project will trigger a multiplier effect among many of my fellow hoteliers.”
The trainer Behram Salmassinia greets participants at the third workshop of the “Coaching on Guest Communication” series — the atmosphere is friendly, almost like a class reunion. Hoteliers from highly varied backgrounds travelled across the country to their host Ben Förtsch at the Creativhotel Luise in Erlangen to share their ideas.
One of the participants is the down-to-earth nature lover Christian Fuhrmann. Together with his wife, they combine tradition with modernity at the Schwarzer Bock hotel in the Bavarian city of Ansbach. Quick-witted and purposeful, the passionate hunter speaks about his understanding of sustainability. Fuhrmann has intelligently networked all energy sources and utilises app-based management — and claims to save up to 30 per cent on energy costs by doing so. Fuhrmann: “The ‘Mystery Check’ at the beginning really opened our eyes. I am now convinced that the ‘Check-in Energy Efficiency’ pilot project will trigger a multiplier effect among many of my fellow hoteliers. Sustainability will become the topic of our industry.”
Sitting next to him is the hotel director Harald Koch. Collaborating with a Dutch investor, he turned a former German army barracks into Dorf Wangerland — a paradise for families and children less than ten kilometres from the North Sea coast. Koch is a specialist for extraordinary locations: He turned the reactor “Schneller Brüter” (lit. “quick incubator”) in Kalkar, which was never active, into a hotel and leisure centre. The core of Dorf Wangerland consists of eight hotel buildings with 600 beds in 230 rooms, sports and event facilities, as well as the roofed 5,000 square metre Nordsee-Spielstadt amusement park. With the expansive dimensions of the facility, energy efficiency became a cost factor. However, even that is too little for Harald Koch. He intends to use sustainability arguments to turn his target group (i.e. families) into loyal guests of the leisure village. And he wants to get his staff thinking and acting ecologically. The chosen means to do so is their very own mascot, the pirate “Capt’n Wanga”. “We want to turn the children of our guests into ambassadors. In future, our little pirate will be hunting energy bandits.”
“With the pilot project, we intend to bring the energy transition to life in hotels.”
Doris and Detlef Schnaugst from the Strand-gut-Hotel of the same name located directly behind the North Sea dyke of Tossens operate a family-run hotel with 18 rooms and a fish restaurant with a reputation that extends beyond the town. Guests are made to feel at home here, and after a walk on the dyke there is East Friesian tea with cream and rock sugar to warm up the guests. However, guests can also come in good conscience where the environmental impact of their stay is concerned. Mr and Mrs Schnaugst are setting new sustainability standards. By 2018, the heating and electricity consumption of their hotel is to be reduced by well over 50 per cent.
Finally, the host Ben Förtsch runs into the seminar room. He is a role model for his colleagues and demonstrates first-hand what is possible in his family-run establishment in Erlangen. Ecological standards are mandatory here. Whether it is the electric vehicle charging station, the bee sponsorship with their own beehive, or the “renewable” hotel rooms. Förtsch’s concept is “sustainability without doing without”. His rooms, which are made of natural and organic building materials, also feature an impressive design. Förtsch has invested a great deal of time and money into his “renewable” hotel rooms. He now intends to actively market his idea so that the 95 rooms in the first climate-positive hotel in Europe will also be booked to capacity even on weekends. Awards such as the Palm d’Or from the magazine GEO and the tourism prize of ADAC Bavaria assist him with this endeavour.
The participants of the coaching on guest communication
“Guest Communications” coaching programme – the timeline
- Autumn 2016: On an undercover mission! The coaching starts with “Mystery Checks”: Without letting on who they are, advisers check into the hotels and scrutinise them from top to bottom.
- January 2017: What are you famous for? The first joint workshop deals with basics and methods: How do I reach people? What is storytelling?
- March 2017: The power of stories: Participants develop exciting stories about their hotel.
- June 2017: Of pirates, Jedi, and “Bocklets”: All participants have implemented an initial, specific means of communication... and can be proud of their results!
The participants in the dena coaching programme could not be more different. There are discussions between easy-going northerners and down-to-earth Bavarians, a monumental leisure facility next to a small, family-run beach hotel. There are experienced hands when it comes to sustainability as well as those who are currently discovering the topic for themselves and their business with enthusiasm.
For communications consultant Behram Salmassinia from 360plus Design and hotel coach Professor Burkhard von Freyberg, this diversity is a good representation of the German hotel landscape. The expert von Freyberg: “The 30 hotels which have been participating in the ‘Check-in Energy Efficiency’ pilot project since late 2014 are investing in small and large measures to optimise the energy efficiency of their business. This involvement also needs to be communicated — both internally as well as externally.” Energy efficiency, says Salmassinia, is like a new currency which the hotel industry needs to learn to work with.
And with good reason: According to the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (DEHOGA), high energy costs are one of the main problems faced by hotel operators. Hence, the potential for savings is correspondingly significant. But how can conflicting changes be reconciled during ongoing operation? Those who are aware of the savings potential of their buildings can often achieve a great deal via small measures.
In order to better understand the challenge for hotel operators, planners, and technicians, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and dena have launched the “Check-in Energy Efficiency” pilot project. Heike Marcinek, representative for the project at dena: “Awareness for energy and sustainability topics has grown in the hotel industry. dena is well-known and recognised as a specialist stakeholder for energy issues in the hotel industry and an expert for the non-residential building sector.” The pilot project aims to systematically identify and develop energy-saving potential in the accommodation sector. It will run for four years and consists of various phases: energy advice, implementation of the refurbishment measures, and monitoring of energy consumption.
Energy-efficient hotels can get guests and employees interested in the topic by demonstrating the advantages of energy-efficient refurbishment and allowing them to experience the comfort it offers. Communications expert Salmassinia also has the following to say: “In the highly diverse hotel market, commitment to sustainability gives the brand a positive image. The aim is also to inform guests about the topic and strengthen the reputation of the business.” This should be well-received. According to a study from Booking.com, 65 per cent of travellers in eleven European countries can imagine booking at least one eco-friendly or “green” form of accommodation in the year 2017. This is a significant increase over the previous year, when only 34 per cent could imagine doing so.
dena’s coaching programme for communicating with guests has motivated the four participants. Whether in rural Bavaria or on the North Sea coast: The participants now have a communication concept for telling their story across many channels. In future, all business should benefit from this. After all, the energy transition is ultimately also a communicative challenge — on both a small and large scale.
The hoteliers’ communications projects
“Check-in Energy Efficiency” pilot project: 30 hotels and hostels from all over Germany are optimising their energy balance. dena is supervising and assisting them with this endeavour, and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is funding the project. All participants have received energy advice, are currently implementing various refurbishment measures, and will subsequently assess via monitoring how much energy they save after the refurbishment. The pilot project ends in 2018.
The hotels in the dena pilot project are not only investing in energy efficiency and climate protection. They can and should also communicate that as well — in an interesting manner that also touches guests emotionally. Project director Heike Marcinek: “We invited four selected hotels from our pilot project to an intensive communications consultation in order to improve how sustainability is communicated to guests. We intend to communicate the experience collected from the coaching to a wide audience.” A set of guidelines by dena on the topics of energy efficiency, sustainability, and the relevant communications with guests and staff is currently in the works. The case studies, study findings, and contacts it contains are designed to help hoteliers get started on the topic.