- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 1, 2001

Soaring energy costs out West have prompted hotel chains to add surcharges to their room rates, but managers at local hotels are finding other ways to cope with increased energy costs.

Hotel managers in the District of Columbia said that while energy costs are high across the country, the concern is far worse out West.

"I talked to a lot of hotel folks here and it's not really an issue here in Washington," said Ed Rudzinski, general manager of the Marriott Wardman Park, the District's largest hotel. "I don't think anybody's going to add surcharges."

Marriott International Inc. is charging an additional $2.50 per room at some hotels in California, where power prices are highest. Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. began charging an additional $2.50 per room a few weeks ago at hotels up and down the West Coast.

"For Washington, D.C., there are no plans to do anything like that," said Lisa Colbrun, Marriott's director of public relations. "I've spoken to a couple of people in marketing … . I sit in on their meetings. And it's never come up."

Hotel operators said energy costs usually make up between 3 percent and 10 percent of their operating costs.

Officials at the Starwood-owned St. Regis Hotel in the District said they had not been told by the corporate office to implement surcharges, but they didn't rule out the possibility.

"It's a tough situation coming up," St. Regis spokeswoman Linda Roth said.

Mr. Rudzinski said the Marriott Wardman Park is taking steps to save money on electricity, particularly since it remains open 24 hours a day.

The hotel is retrofitting all of its light sockets with low-energy light bulbs.

"When that's complete, we'll probably get a break in our energy costs," Mr. Rudzinski said.

At the Four Seasons Hotel, electricity costs are up nearly 50 percent from a year ago, with natural-gas costs more than double. Despite that, Four Seasons manager Tricia Metterschmitt said a surcharge is out of the question.

"We're not going to cut corners to save a dollar here and there," she said. "We just chalk this up to the cost of doing business."

At the Mayflower Hotel, employees have participated in an energy-conservation program that has resulted in energy expenditures remaining at the same level as last year, despite rate increases.

"When you start finding rates go up, you really have to tighten it up a little bit," said George Cook, general manager of the Mayflower. "Your ability to control your consumption is what counts."

Most hotel proprietors, particularly those from independent hotels, said surcharges were unlikely.

"I think it's got to be an awfully severe situation for it to happen," Mr. Cook said. "I'd be hard pressed to even consider [surcharges]. I'm having trouble even conceiving it."

Representatives of hotel associations in Washington said increased power costs and surcharges haven't been a topic of conversation.

"We have not heard one way or another," said Robyn Goodwine, director of communications for the Hotel Association of Washington, D.C.

Franchised hotel chains generally leave most decisions involving rates and surcharges up to the individual owners.

"I can say anecdotally that no, I haven't heard any of our franchises issuing surcharges," said Anne Curtis, director of communications for Choice Hotels.

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