Following the LEED Not as Lucrative Anymore

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Before you get all bent out of shape after reading the headline, by no means am I suggesting pursuing green design and the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a bad idea. In fact it's a great idea, one that will provide operational efficiencies, most notably in energy and water conservation, as well as potentially yielding local and regional incentives. But as it becomes more popular, it's losing a bit of luster as a marketing perk.

It's not totally happened yet, but from this vantage point, the recent surge in hotels earning LEED certification has made it less newsworthy than when it was just a few properties a year. The first year when more than one project earned some level of LEED was in 2007, when four did. In 2008, just seven hotels followed suit and last year the number climbed to 25. We were at 10 by the end of March and judging by my inbox, it's a safe bet the pace will continue or improve, so we should see 50-plus hotels earning LEED this year. There are 951 projects currently registered, which means they are at least aiming for certification.

Now we've got entire chains talking about LEED certification (Courtyard by Marriott and another unnamed hotel company) and just this month Marriott was honored by the USGBC with LEED Gold status for its headquarters and Wyndham followed days later with news of LEED Silver.

The bar is being raised. Three years ago, it was almost worth a story when any hotel qualified. Now it takes news of a chain going after volume certification to warrant major play, which tells you just how far this movement has come. And although it's not mainstream yet, it's definitely no longer a niche or a fad.

Beyond the potential payback and local incentives available, whether the local newspaper or trade press writes of a hotel being green, it's still worth it to many of your guests. So don't be afraid to tell them about your environmentally friendly efforts and maybe they'll come back to visit and be willing to pay a tad more to do so.

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