Hotels shift into conservation mode


Though the power outages that rolled through energy-starved northern and central California this week lasted less than two hours, the impact on visitors could be more far-reaching.

Hotels are launching or expanding conservation measures, from low-watt light bulbs to temperature controls in the shower. And though only a few properties have hiked rates, many California travelers may soon be paying an ‘energy surcharge’ of $ 2 per night. ‘If hotels can conserve rather than raise rates, they will’, says Los Angeles-based Michael Mahoney of PricewaterhouseCoopers. But Mahoney expects some price increases to take effect within weeks in cities hardest hit by the crisis, including San Francisco and San Diego.

Blackout menu
Increasingly common, Mahoney says, are in-room notices announcing energy-related cutbacks that include dousing power to unoccupied floors and curbing the practice of leaving lights and a radio on after turndown. At San Francisco’s Argent Hotel, 20 of 667 rooms have been designated ‘green suites’ — where the energy-saving measures include replacing 100-watt bulbs with 27-watt ones. ‘We haven’t had any complaints’, says spokeswoman Heather Hovey, ‘but we’re a little skeptical about putting them throughout the hotel because there are so many business travelers who have to work in their rooms.’
Hotels haven’t been the only tourist-related business to feel the heat: A popular San Francisco restaurant called Moose’s is offering a ‘blackout menu’, and Knott’s Berry Farm theme park shut down an energy-guzzling water ride.

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