Can Allergen-free Rooms Boost Hotel Rev? The Proof is in the Demand

At a time when the hotel industry is on the mend from one of the most devastating economic downturns in U.S. history, technologies and amenities that can help to generate incremental revenue have quickly become highly sought-after solutions. From in-room media systems to e-marketing technologies, hotels across the nation are examining a number of tools that can help to add revenue to their bottom line.

Nearly two years ago, The Thayer Lodging Group's Doubletree Hotel & Executive Meeting Center in Palm Beach Gardens decided to target travelers who suffer from allergies by investing in a system that removes 98 percent of allergens, irritants, bacteria and viruses from the indoor environment. The hotel tapped the Buffalo, N.Y.-based PURE Solutions to create these rooms; currently the hotel has 50 PURE Allergy Friendly Rooms for the hotel, approximately one-fifth of total inventory, and a stand-alone 15,000-square foot PURE approved, IACC-approved, LEEDS-certified meeting center.

Why the investment in this solution? Travelers, particularly business travelers and meeting planners, love them €” they ask for them €” and are willing to pay more for them. And, most important, they keep coming back because of them. In fact, after an initial 25 PURE rooms were installed two-and-a-half years ago, strong demand persuaded the hotel to quickly add another 25, and there are times, particularly during the high season, when demand far exceeds capacity.

From the hotel's perspective, these facilities represent an important incremental revenue stream. Depending upon the time of year, guests pay from $15 to $20 per night extra for a PURE room. In addition, the meeting center, in part because of its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, consistently ranks as the property's top revenue generator.

How it works
It is estimated that a quarter of all travelers have some form of respiratory allergy or asthma. The Environmental Protection Agency has indicated that indoor air pollutants can be up to 100 times higher than outdoor air. The PURE concept utilizes special purification techniques to treat each room to remove allergens and irritants from all surfaces, fabrics and air flow. The process designed by PURE Solutions, which has built hypo-allergenic PURE rooms in more than 80 hotel companies across the country, ensures that air handling units are deeply cleaned and sanitized, then equipped with the company's specially made Tea Tree Oil Cartridge, an all natural antiseptic and disinfectant that maintains the sanitary conditions. Soft surfaces are sanitized with PURE Clean to eliminate irritants and contaminants that can trigger allergies. A bacteriostatic barrier called PURE Shield is then applied to all surfaces to prevent the growth of bacteria.

A state-of-the-art air purification system was also installed, creating air quality that averages four times cleaner than the threshold necessary for asthma patients. This system is listed by the FDA as a Class II medical device. Special micro-fiber, hypo-allergenic pillow cases and mattress covers are used to reduce allergies triggered by dust mites. PURE Solutions technicians service the purification units twice a year, which is also a cost-savings because it lessens the need for maintenance by hotel staff.

A win-win situation
It is not surprising that a very large pool of customers appreciate staying and working in an environment that is free from the distractions and discomfort associated with most allergies. It is also logical that meeting planners would seek out facilities in which clear-headed executives and delegates can work in comfort and achieve the productivity goals of the meeting. But, for the record, many travelers with no allergies whatsoever, also appreciate and ask for an environment that has a crisp, clean atmosphere that is not unlike the aftermath of a summer lightening and thunderstorm. With or without allergies, many PURE enthusiasts claim that they are more alert, aware and energetic than in other environments.

For these reasons, the Doubletree Palm Beach Gardens builds what amounts to a huge selling advantage €” the PURE facilities €” into every form of marketing and communications designed to attract new customers. To take advantage of the investment in LEED certification as well, the top 500 "green" companies in America are targeted, with strong results. In short, being "PURE" is a win-win situation for everyone concerned. Jeff Ortiz, of the National Institute of Health, put it simply, "We benefit from more productive meetings and our attendees get a better night's sleep because of these facilities."

Michael McMahon served as general manager at the Thayer Lodging Group's Doubletree Bethesda (Maryland) since 2005 before moving to the Doubletree Palm Beach Gardens Florida in June 2009. Michael led the Bethesda property's repositioning from being a Holiday Inn. Educated at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Cornell University, McMahon began his career with Lowes Hotel Corporation in Dallas before joining the Opryland Hotel in Nashville as the executive director of the rooms division.

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