How one company got its resort partner to make additional environmental upgrades every year
Marge Anderson, associate director at the Energy Center of Wisconsin, moved her 1,000-attendee annual Better Buildings: Better Business Conference to Kalahari Resort and Water Park in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., in 2005, because she thought it would boost attendance. It did—by 25 percent. “Registration fees are my main revenue, so that was our primary driver,” Anderson says.
But that’s not why she now has the property booked every year through 2016. “We have stayed because they tackle more environmental upgrades every year,” she explains. ECW is a private nonprofit that does research and education around energy efficiency. Attendees at the Better Buildings conference are energy-efficient homebuilders getting technical training at dozens of breakouts and meeting with vendors at a. Considering the audience, Anderson knew the move to Kalahari was a risk. “We knew we would take a hit from the super-greens, because it’s a huge indoor water park.”
Sure enough, she got some concerned calls before the meeting. On site, one of ECW’s “more activist customers,” as Anderson puts it, asked to meet with the general manager about the resort’s inefficient lighting. Then he found the facilities manager and “dragged him around the show floor,” she recalls, “and they all spent two days talking.” The result: a complete lighting retrofit that saved the resort $22,000 in the first year.
Subsequently, the Kalahari worked with ECW on a number of improvements, from changing out boilers to installing fans that push hot air down on the water park. Most impressive was when Anderson got a call saying that the resort was considering installing solar panels for heating water. “The payback for a project like that is more than 10 years,” Anderson says. “I couldn’t believe it.”
She met with the general manager and said she would sign a three-yearif the resort went ahead with the solar thermal project. “We’re good business but we use a lot of space compared to number of rooms we need. But we go at an unattractive time of year. Our signing the three-year contract was the tipping point.” The third of those three years was 2010. Anderson has now signed through 2016.
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