Q&A With Hervé Houdré On The Search For NYC’s Greenest Hotel

MrHoudre4Hervé Houdré has been called one of the greenest hoteliers in NYC.

As the regional director of operations and general manager of the Intercontinental New York Barclay (now under renovation), and chairman of the Hotel Association of New York City’s (HANYC) Sustainable Hospitality Committee, Houdré is passionate about making NYC hotels more sustainable.

[Hotel Sustainability – Top 3 Tips on Where to Begin]

Next month, he will announce the winners of the very first HANYC Sustainability Awards.  Great Forest worked with the HANYC to develop and manage the awards, which are part of an ambitious plan to move hotels in one of the world’s tourism capitals towards a more sustainable future.

“Because of the size of the industry in the city, greener hotels in New York will make a big impact on sustainability and raise the bar for hotels everywhere,” says Maya Shenkman, Director of Hotel Services for Great Forest.

The winners of the first HANYC Sustainability Awards will be announced on November 10 at the International Hotel/Motel and Restaurant Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in NYC.

We recently sat down with Houdré  to talk about why NYC needs a green hotel award.

Q: Why should hotels be interested in sustainability?

A: For three main reasons. Apart from the fact that it is the right thing to do for their children and ​grandchildren, hoteliers must realize that our industry is the fourth largest energy consumer in America (behind retail, office buildings, education) and that we create a huge amount of waste – whether our own waste or the waste left by our customers.  A lot of our revenue is generated by local businesses and organizations. Therefore it is fitting that hoteliers look at helping local communities in return.

Q: Why the HANYC Sustainability Awards?

A: The purpose ​of the awards is two fold: to entice our members to be more engaged in sustainability and to communicate to the New Yorkers that the hotel industry is a true, responsible business.

This started in 2010, when the Hotel Association created the Sustainable Hospitality committee, which has achieved several meaningful initiatives such as a website dedicated to sustainable hospitality on the HANYC website, a partnership with​ a third party sustainability certification for NYC hotels – Green Key Global. And we raised more than $30,000 for Hurricane Sandy relief, organized a booth in the Green section of the Hotel, Motel & Restaurant show, and many initiatives to support various local charities. The HANYC Sustainability Awards are an extension of our work on the Sustainability Hospitality committee.

Q: Tell us about the prize, and what else winning hotels will receive?​

A: There will be three awards which will be original “masterpieces” from a local Brooklyn artist, created out of recycled materials.

One award will recognize the best environmental strategy, one award which will recognize the best social responsibility strategy, and one award which will recognize the ​best holistic sustainability strategy encompassing the triple bottom line of profit, people and planet.

The award will recognize the efforts that these NYC hotels have put into their sustainability programs and raise awareness of the growing number of green and socially responsible hotels there are out there.  It is time for them to stand up and be counted, and to inspire others to take the green path.

Q:  How green are hotels in general, and NYC hotels in particular?

A: There are 24 NYC hotels t​hat have been certified by Green Key Global. It does not represent the entirety of the many hotels that do have a sustainability strategy but it is a good beginning.

Q: What are some of the biggest barriers to sustainability for hotels?

A: More than anything it is a lack of education of the issue at stake. If hoteliers were educated properly on sustainability, they would understand it better and adopt it. This is what we are trying to achieve at the HANYC. Obviously many are educated on the subject but are facing difficulties getting funds for projects, which may not always show a strong ROI. That being said, NYSERDA and Con Edison have very strong subsidy programs for hotels that invest ​in energy efficiency equipment.

Q: What advice do you have for hotels that want to go green?

A: The strategy must be supported – and if possible championed – by the number one person of the company.

Working groups should be created that will take care of various initiatives. A five-year roadmap should be developed by the working groups and updated every year. Internal education communication and recognition should be developed. Hotels should apply to the Green Key Global certification program in order to obtain their 150 criteria, which would give those that want to do well, but do not know how, a clear roadmap.


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