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Kimpton Hotels and Microsoft Corp. negotiated a new lodging program in which a percentage of all room revenue generated from Microsoft employees will be donated to eco-friendly, not-for-profit organizations.
Terms of the "exclusive" agreement call for Microsoft to direct employees to book rooms at Kimpton properties, while the hotelier donates an undisclosed portion of that revenue to The Trust for Public Land, according to Kimpton director of hotel sales Jesse Suglia.
The arrangement "came from two companies being eco-friendly and dedicated to minimizing the effects that corporate travel has on the environment," said Suglia. "Where you are starting to see progress being made is that the industry is saying, 'Let's travel smart, but at the same time do it in a smarter way and do it in a less harmful way.' "
Microsoft currently has a total of 750 properties in its worldwide preferred hotel program--accommodating 80,000 employees--including 10 Kimpton properties, according to statements attributed to Microsoft travel manager Eric Bailey in an e-mail to The Transnational. Bailey declined a request for a interview. Microsoft indicated that it has agreed to expand the arrangement to include all Kimpton properties--numbering more than 40 across the United States and Canada.
Kimpton's properties follow EarthCare guidelines, which are developed by a nonprofit organization to create sustainable, environmentally friendly operational standards. In addition to companywide in-room recycling programs, restrictions cover the use of paper, water and energy, and land and waste management, Suglia explained.
Microsoft will not pay any additional costs or higher preferred hotel rates, as Kimpton will extract donations from the rates the two parties already negotiated, Suglia said. But in striving to be more aware of the impact of its business travel, Microsoft will tag Kimpton properties as "environmentally friendly" in internal hotel search tools. According to Microsoft, "We are also advising all Microsoft dedicated travel agents globally about the agreement with Kimpton." Microsoft also is working with other travel suppliers, including ground transportation providers, to offer travelers environmentally friendly choices. Microsoft called Kimpton the first hotel firm to develop such a "unique" program.
"Our goal here is to really test a program that we think will move the travel industry in the right direction," Suglia added.
Previously, Kimpton and The Trust for Public Land implemented a Parks for People program, which creates inner-city parks for children. That program will receive proceeds generated from the Microsoft agreement.
Glenn Hasek, publisher and editor of Green Lodging News, applauded Kimpton for creating the new program with Microsoft. "It's a small positive step that Kimpton is taking to help minimize its overall impact," he said. "It's certainly not a giant step."
But the Kimpton-Microsoft agreement may be an ice breaker for the industry to build more cooperative efforts between hoteliers and corporations to donate funds to environmentally friendly organizations, Hasek continued.
"I suspect Kimpton will be expanding the program," he said. "It is certainly smart to do so; not only is it good marketing and PR, it demonstrates corporate responsibility. I suspect that Kimpton is not the only one working with its clients in regards to donating to nonprofit organizations."
An increasing number of global corporations have made efforts to incorporate environmentally friendly programs to appeal to an international market in which major concern is placed upon a company's social responsibility, including a reduction in its carbon footprint, according to Rosanne Russo, firmwide travel manager for Reed Smith LLP.
"This whole awareness seems to be much more prevalent in the U.K. than in the United States," said Russo. "I think everyone would like to go toward that direction, but it seems to be more of an issue over there. That's what really got me started when I was globalizing our travel programs; I realized that if I'm going to be global this is my responsibility as a travel manager to educate my travelers and give them options."
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