NYC Conrad eliminates plastic bottles in the guestroom

NEW YORK—The Conrad New York Downtown is currently launching a program that it expects will eliminate millions of plastic water bottles each year.

The hotel is teaming up with Rocean to bring its water filtration systems to guestrooms, eliminating the two complimentary plastic bottles of water that guests receive each day. 

The program is part of a sustainability initiative from Goldman Sachs, the owners of the property. “In the hotel, as well as in the company globally, single-use plastics is a major focus,” said Marlene Poynder, GM, Conrad New York Downtown. “We had already replaced plastic straws, but over the course of 2019, we changed everything out in the hotel, including takeaway containers. Bottled water that we provide in our banquet space is now glass.”

The hotel also removed plastic bottles from the fitness center, replacing them with a fountain with a refill station for bottles. A new drinking fountain in the lobby also added a bottle refill station. “Really, the last bastion of the plastic bottles was the ones we put in our guestrooms,” she said.

The issue was top of mind for the GM. When she heard from a representative from Rocean, she knew it would be a good fit. But, the hotel needed a model that was simpler than what the company offered at the time.

“Rocean’s model was still water, sparkling water or flavor capsules in the water,” she explained, noting that her hotel manager and director of rooms got involved in the process. “We said to them, ‘Can you really dumb it down to just one that purely does filtered water?’ I knew that the cost for the tablets for sparkling and flavored water wouldn’t be something that we could manage on a complimentary basis in a guestroom, so they made a prototype for us.”

In addition to the fact that the system only needed to provide filtration, it also needed to be retrofitted to existing rooms. “We tried to find those filtration systems that attach to taps and under the sink that you use at home, but we were limited in the space that we have and the type of tap that we have in our bath; we just couldn’t find a product that would do the job,” she said, adding that this won’t be an issue for new-builds. “We had to find a solution that could be retrofitted into an existing hotel. It was the right place and the right time with a company like Rocean.”

Additionally, both were aligned on principles. “Rocean is really looking to rid the world of plastic bottles. It has a fantastic ethos,” Poynder said.

Since November, that prototype system has been tested in a single guestroom. “It has been very successful,” said Poynder. “The good news is that we have had absolutely no negative responses and nobody calling up asking for bottled water.”

In fact, the system has already received a good deal of attention from a guest. “Totally out of the blue, we had an influencer stay in the room,” she said. “We didn’t even know she was an influencer. She stayed in the room and started posting on Instagram and videoing this machine and talking about how great it was. We got some really great positive feedback that was posted on social media.”

Guests in the room can use glasses provided to drink from the filtration system, use their own reusable bottles or can purchase them from the hotel. “We just started to test in our room putting a sign in there saying we have beautiful water bottles to purchase at only $15, which is a pretty good discount for the type of water bottle,” said Poynder.

She said that guests in the room with the prototype are already filling their own bottles with the system. “The great thing about this product is Rocean can actually see in real time how much water is being consumed in the machine each day,” she said. “Each day since it has been in place, it is used in excess of 1.5 liters of water, sometimes more. That tells us that unless they are drinking lots and lots of glasses of water when they are in the room, they are obviously filling up some sort of container to take with them, as well.”

Poynder sees an exciting opportunity to use the water-tracking data to inspire guests after the system is expanded sitewide in the spring. “The opportunities are limitless on how we can use that and how we can perhaps communicate with the customer with what their usage is and what they have saved,” she said. “We do get the data on how many plastic bottles of water are saved, but it is on consumption as well. I believe that in the future, we will be able to enhance not just the provision of providing sustainable water, and being able to measure it ourselves, but also to be able to impact the guest and how they experience the hotel, and the positive impact they are having on the environment by using all of the drinking water and fountain options we have in the hotel.” HB

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