AH&LA Names Winners of Achievement Awards

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) has named the winners of its Achievement Awards, part of the annual Stars of the Industry Awards. The program honors standout initiatives at hotel properties in the categories of Good Earthkeeping, guest relations, outstanding community service, special events (one-time event and ongoing), and exceptional diversity initiatives.

The winners are:

The Orchard Garden Hotel in San Francisco, California, won the Good Earthkeeping award, small property category, for making sustainability its guiding philosophy from the day of its ground-breaking. As the first hotel in the state of California to earn LEED certification, its developers selected the site location based on its proximity to public transportation and used building materials extracted or manufactured locally to build 77 percent of the hotel. Guestrooms feature recycled products, energy management, and recycling programs that function with or without active guest participation, and the whole property saves energy costs by making use of natural daylight in 82 percent of its occupied spaces. The hotel also engages its guests in sustainability measures, doing so based on environmental and in-depth consumer research.

Sheraton Seattle Hotel in Seattle, Washington, is the winner of the Good Earthkeeping award in the large property category. The Sheraton's green strategy focused on three major areas: building infrastructure and physical enhancements, associate awareness and involvement, and guest participation. Several successful green initiatives include giving guests the option to opt out of housekeeping service in exchange for a $5 gift certificate or 500 Starwood points; creation of a "compost only" associate cafeteria where all food waste and debris from meals is 100 percent compostable; use of green cleaning products in guestrooms and meeting rooms; and a 25 percent public transportation subsidy for associates. Energy and water conservation measures have saved more than 4,800 Kwh of electricity annually, and through these and other initiatives, the Sheraton was able to reduce their energy index by 21 percent in the program's first year and recycle approximately 12 tons of materials each month.

Sleeping Lady Mountain Retreat in Leavenworth, Washington, won the award for Outstanding Community Service, small property category. The hotel, which won last year's AH&LA Good Earthkeeping Award for a small property, has adopted a philosophy of encouraging its employees to be active in the community and donating to needy organizations. In addition to implementing an annual employee food drive, the property also hosts a variety of events including a Special Olympics cross country ski event; the "Chicks on Sticks" event, which raises money for breast cancer research; and a recycled art show that earns funds for a local recycling group's initiatives.

Doubletree Hotel Tulsa at Warren Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, earned the Outstanding Community Service award for a large property. The hotel's employees, known as the CARE Committee, helped those in need all over Tulsa in 2008 via donations to local food banks, participation in the local American Heart Association Walk, time spent beautifying the campus of their adopted school and educating students about sustainability, and assisting their long term nonprofit partner, the Hospitality House of Tulsa, which provides home-like lodging and support services for families of patients in Tulsa for medical care. The Doubletree's hospitality extends overseas as well. After donating a stay to a soldier in town on unexpected leave from Iraq, the employees wanted to spread the goodwill to those in his unit who weren't able to take the leave. They sent 10 dozen of their famous Doubletree cookies to his grateful company.

The West Inn & Suites in Carlsbad, California, the winner of the Guest Relations award, small property category, opened in May 2006 and has already been ranked the area's No. 1 property in terms of guest reviews for the past two years. West Inn & Suites offers free shuttles around town, complimentary Wi-Fi, celebration amenities, specialty packages, free milk and cookies, and even automated bedtime stories for their younger guests. Courteous and timely responses to guest questions—sometimes before they are even asked—also contribute to the flood of thank you notes and positive guest comments and reviews the property has received.

Sheraton Atlanta Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, is the winner of the Guest Relations, large property, honor because of its new convenient guest feedback system, as well as the high scores it's been recording. This property is among the first in the nation to benefit from real time text and audio reporting of guests' spoken feedback, allowing knowledge and resolution of customer issues before they leave the property. The guest feedback system has been found to help raise satisfaction scores, reduce recovery costs, and heighten employee morale. The result gives managers unique opportunities to reward consistently outstanding employees, as well as discover, prioritize, and resolve key trends in service delivery. The unbiased guest perspective provides a powerful tool for employee behavior "course corrections" and the ability to segment and track comments on the Internet.

Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa in Paradise Valley, Arizona, is the winner of the Special Events, ongoing, small property award. Seven years ago, the Sanctuary decided to get creative to keep guests and locals coming through their doors during the hot summer months, and to heighten awareness of their high-end culinary expertise. The Saturday Lunch & Learn program was born, with cooking demonstrations and wine and cocktail pairings adding a dash of education to a delicious three-course lunch. Executive Chef Beau MacMillan leads the sessions, which also draw in notable culinary "guest stars," including accomplished chefs such as Ming Tsai and Andrew Knowlton from Bon Appetit magazine. Kicking off seven years ago in a first session that had about 30 attendees, Lunch & Learn now averages between 60 and 100 participants each week of both locals and out-of-town guests. Not only has this program gained rave reviews and favorable press, it's also garnered estimated revenues of about $30,000 to the property during its slowest season.

The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Georgia, won the Special Events, ongoing award, large property category, for its annual Lighting of the Lodge event. This is the property's annual benefit for the Greensboro Dreamers, an organization that empowers children in low-income communities to achieve higher education. It's also a huge celebration of the holiday season for the property's guests and local community residents. A live nativity scene, petting zoo, the "largest gingerbread house in the south," live music, and 1.5 million white lights set the stage for visitors. The icing on the cake each year is Santa's surprise arrival—which has been by hot air balloon, hang-glider, and on the back of a Marine Corps 7-ton truck. He joined more than 2,500 visitors last year, who in turn year raised $38,000 for Greensboro Dreamers and other local charities. This annual event has become one of the most well-known and well-attended events in the region.

The Red Lion Inn, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, earned the Special Events, one-time only, award for small properties. The Red Lion Inn has gotten creative with a little bit of history, bringing Christmas to life during their "Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas," inspired by the famous Normal Rockwell painting. More than 100 wreaths adorn each guestroom door, harpists play "Silent Night" in the main lobby next to a blazing fire, and even a giant candy castle in the main dining room reminds guests of sugar plums. This celebration also extends beyond the hotel doors, engaging local businesses with tours of the Inn and the area's other historic homes and B&Bs. A holiday street festival takes place outside the property's doors. Before the inception of this event, hotel occupancies during this time were relatively slow. Now the event draws in guests putting the property at 100 percent occupancy and stimulating local businesses.

The Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, is this year's winner in the Special Events, one-time only, large property category. The Gaylord Opryland's Christmas spirit earned them this honor for ICE! featuring How the Grinch Stole Christmas. To help celebrate the famous book's 50th birthday, the Gaylord hired a team of world-renowned artists to chisel away at several million pounds of ice. The result was a one-of-a-kind, interactive ice sculpture featuring all the favorite characters in Who-ville, on display for almost two months. The popular attraction boosted group sales to the highest they'd been in six years and increased sales at the retail store next to the attraction by 29 percent, not including the 30,000 cups of gourmet hot chocolate visitors purchased. The event created a major media buzz nationally, especially when Dr. Suess' widow toured the exhibit. Even those who may not have attended the celebration reaped the benefits—the Gaylord used this event as an occasion to donate Grinch books to local libraries and adopt a dog from a local animal shelter to be the Grinch's best friend Max in press events.

The Mandarin Oriental Washington, D.C., is the winner of the Prism award for diversity. This property creates a workplace where employees are able to break down the socioeconomic barriers in their personal lives. In 2008, the hotel took the initiative to create a motivated and synergized workforce through a community center concept called the Colleague Resource Center (CRC). This center takes into account how an employee's personal life and external influences impact team unity and, in turn, the guest experience. The new CRC provides a convenient location where employees can obtain life skills they may not have access to on their own, such as Weight Watchers, yoga, fitness, budgeting, computer classes, credit awareness courses, and language software programs. As a result, the hotel has seen gender, racial, and religious differences melt away and employees begin to relate to one another in new ways and find new common ground.

For more information, visit www.ahla.com/stars.

Source: Hospitality Design Magazine