by Sarah J.F. Braley | October 01, 2014
The School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., recently concluded a series of studies exploring the effect of sustainability certifications and practices at hotels on guests' behavior and the properties' bottom lines.

According to lead researcher Rohit Verma, PhD., professor of service operations management at the school, "We found that customers are not willing to pay more for green hotels, but they are more satisfied, and the hotels have better cost structures and are going to have better revenue per available room than their peers."

In the most recent report, The Impact of LEED Certification on Hotel Performance, RevPAR at certified hotels was compared with uncertified peer hotels. "The LEED properties generally had higher RevPAR for two years after certification," said Verma. "But we can't really say what effect that will have after two years. We will probably go back in about a year to study this more."

It took a while to gauge the LEED effect at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel & Spa Napa Valley-American Canyon in Northern California, the first meetings property to attain LEED Gold, as the Gaia Napa Valley in 2007. "Initially, the hotel did not show impactful results related to certification, and we believe this was partly due to its independent status," said Pat Mitchell, senior vice president of Marin Management in Sausalito, Calif., which manages the 132-room property. Once the recession ended and the hotel was converted to a Hilton in 2011, its results exceeded those of its competitors.