green movement is affecting every kind of business, from hotels to
auto manufacturing. It's affecting them in different ways, but the
differences can be illuminating.
In the auto industry,
the challenge for the first generation of hybrid cars was to
demonstrate that you could take fuel economy to the next level
without sacrificing performance or frills. The Toyota Prius proved
it. So did the Honda Civic Hybrid, which is virtually
indistinguishable from its conventional cousin in terms of size,
performance and amenities.
Now, the car
companies are putting hybrid powertrains in a variety of other
vehicles, such as SUVs and upscale sedans, pairing hybrid
efficiency with increasing levels of performance and
differently in the hotel industry. The first hotels to go the extra
mile on energy conservation and the environment are upscale luxury
brands. They're not trying to prove that you can go green and still
have it all; they're making the case that you don't really have it
all unless you're going green.
An avowed goal of the
1 brand launched by Barry Sternlicht's Starwood Capital Groupis to
make environmental purity a defining characteristic of the luxury
Places, launched by former AOL chief Steve Case, has equated sustainability with a new
definition of luxury.
As we move from Green
1.0 to 2.0 and beyond, we may reach the point when the auto
industry will roll out a high-performance luxury sedan that goes
100 miles on the energy in an olive pit, and that will be
We also hope that,
someday, smart energy use and sustainability will be defining
characteristics of hospitality in general, not just luxurious
It would seem that
the hospitality industry has the lesser of these two challenges.
Will it rise to that challenge?
We're in the dog days of August, typically a
slow period. Our news reporters are accustomed to taking vacations
in August, secure in the knowledge that they're not likely to miss
a big story.
Boy, were they wrong
this year. August has produced more than its usual share of
arresting developments and newsy headlines. Some
Sabre and Amadeus
started a joint venture to operate a global travel payment
clearinghouse for thousands of agents and hundreds of suppliers
around the world.
agreed to pay more than $500 million in fines for criminal
price-fixing. Korean paid $300 million, and more airlines could be
named any day.
Galileo figured out a
way to efficiently display Air Canada's unique menu of bundled and
unbundled fares in a graphical interface for Canadian
AirTran's long battle
to take over Midwest Airlines erupted into a bidding war with a
private equity group, in which Northwest is a passive
Hertz, the most
recognized name in car rentals, introduced a subsidiary brand for
the first time in its 89-year history.
Virgin America got
airborne, at last.
Lots of times, people
will come back from vacation around here and ask, "What'd I miss?"
Usually the answer is "not much."