Friday, May 04, 2007

Scrappy hotelier starts green hotel chain

Remember the name Wen-I Chang; I think he's going to leave a mark. He's the first hotelier I met who brought art and poetry to our initial meeting, bound into a book he had published himself.

Originally from Taiwan, Wen made his money on Central Valley franchise hotels, and did battle with franchisers like Holiday Inn, who he said wanted to charge him more than $150,000 to install their hotel management software (he bought one for $18,000), and Hilton, who said (according to Wen) the conference facilities at his Garden Inn were twice as large as allowed. Wen suspected Hilton wanted to keep Garden Inn from competing with his other brands.

He put in the large, along with a second entrance (also verboten) and within a year was named a model property. He also claims to have started a trend toward putting three flagpoles out in front of a hotel, since psychologically many customers associate that with four-star properties.

Wen's company, based in South San Francisco, has opened what it hopes will become the first LEED-Gold certified hotel in the U.S. in American Canyone (an application is in with the US Green Building Council, which makes its rulings only after construction is done).

There are two more of these green "Gaia" hotels in the works, in Merced and Anderson, and the chain should have eight properties within four years.

Business Times: Hotel owner envisions string of eco-hostelries (free link)

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