Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide's smallest brand is
banking on the appeal of its sustainability initiatives to attract corporate
The Element brand opened its first property in 2008, about
the same time as Starwood's other select-service brand, the W-companioned Aloft,
made its debut. While the Aloft brand since has grown to several dozen
properties, Element has maintained a decidedly smaller footprint, with 10
properties open and three more on track to open next year, said Brian
McGuinness, Starwood senior vice president of specialty select brands. Though Starwood's initial plans—pre-recession plans, specifically—called for about 100 properties
to be open by now, its slower progress has been deliberate, he said.
"We've been very strategic on where we put them and who
we partner with," McGuinness said. "You need the right location, the
right owner and the right operator."
Initially positioned as an extended-stay brand, some of Element's
properties primarily focus on transient travelers. The Element Times Square,
for example, "doesn't run as an extended stay, but doesn't need to," McGuinness
"Complimentary wine and cheese hour in the evening,
barbecues every Wednesday night, a good swimming pool, a big gym and a great
rate: That's your corporate transient right there," McGuinness said.
Element also was designed to be Starwood's "eco-lab,"
in which the company would test sustainability concepts that it potentially
could spread to its other brands. Sustainability features include body heat
sensors to control room temperature when guests are not present, water-saving
bathroom fixtures, saline pools instead of chlorine pools and a requirement
that all builds earn a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification
from the U.S. Green Building Council. The newest initiative, launched this
month across the brand, added to the properties' gyms stationary bikes that
double as kinetic energy power generators to charge phones and power television
That is helping the brand, despite its small distribution,
in winning some corporate and group business through the request-for-proposals
process, McGuinness said. While sustainability questions for years have been included
in hotel RFPs, they are getting increasingly specific in requesting details of
the green practices hotels use, he said.
"[Travel departments] are getting more educated on what
they're looking for, and customers in the RFP process love the fact that we are
doing green initiatives," McGuinness said. "The Florida government,
for example, has restrictions on where they can put meetings based on green
practices, so we're well ahead of this curve."