Advice

Overlooked hotel management: Urban-forestry

Hotel management has many facets; and probably the last one to occur to you will be urban-forestry practice. However, it does apply even if you have no trees: because you may want advice about planting some, to improve your landscape or perhaps to off-set your carbon-footprint.

Whatever your arboricultural circumstance; this article offers some advice about hotel tree management from the perspective of an urban-forestry consultant. Understandably, you need to focus on what keeps your business operating and profitable. It unlikely that you will consider trees as a positive part of that equation. However, I assert they are; and that they can make or break a business.

When a prospective guest researches your hotel, they will get a first impression from online photos or from a description. It is at this early stage that your trees can start to perform. Clearly, an attractive treed image or description is in keeping with a discerning persons preference. They imagine fresh air, bird song and a high-quality hotel. Already your trees are performing a valuable service.

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In addition, studies have identified that trees can add monetary capital value to a property of between 5-18% (CABE Space, 2005; Morales et al, 1983); correspondingly trees will probably add a similar value to your guests’ experience. Therefore, it is a safe assumption that discerning people will pay a premium for a judiciously treed environment and be put off by the opposite.

Additionally, discerning people appreciate art: and a treed landscape, or even just one tree, is a form of art; they dance, sing and entertain in their own way. Having little or nothing in a vista that entertains or inspires implies that the management will be the same. It doesn’t take much effort to arboreally stimulate: a rarity; an ancient tree well presented; a collection; an eco-monolith; or simply a noticeboard indicating where such can be found, is a good start.

People are a woodland species: we intrinsically know when our environment is of a high-quality. It might be a subconscious analysis – but its still there. Getting the green infrastructure arranged to maximise its performance is therefore important. A guest who sees an uninteresting environment is sent a message; that the owner/management is out of touch with environmental values.

These concepts are an aspect of arboriculture that most arborists don’t truly engage with; and are an aspect of ecosystem services that most environmentalists don’t do. There isn’t a name for it and if there was it probably wouldn’t adequately describe it. It is a holistic approach to maximising the benefits derived from green space management

Taking into account peoples green-space preferences isn’t new; the great landscape designers of previous centuries applied it. The Victorians in particular used trees as ‘bling’; a demonstration of their good taste, knowledge and wealth; which is why we have inherited so many ancient trees from that era. However, applying 21st century objectives is in its infancy.

People now want to know that trees are acceptably safe, interesting, well-managed, and providing ecosystem services such as fresh oxygen; filtering out pollution from the air and water; giving shade from UV radiation; providing mindfulness-space and a direct connection with nature: much of which is beyond fiscal value. Moreover, good green-space management benefits the greater environment by sequestering and trapping carbon – which can be measured to demonstrate carbon-offsetting.

Ok, that’s enough of the esoteric stuff, my pragmatic side wants in too. You should start the process of good tree management by undertaking a green- assets inventory, because you can’t manage something that is of unknown quantity and quality? This means creating a tree location / prospective planting plan (that can also be used for display purposes) and a survey-assessment inventory; then works can be prioritised and costed. Safety issues are always dealt with first: this will please your guests, staff and insurers; in addition, it demonstrates that a legally defensible duty of care has been undertaken. Next come ‘liabilities’; dealing with problems before they occur or get worse; and finally, ‘everything-else’.

Who can help with tree management? Within the arb industry there are two branches (pun intended) – consultants and contractors. Consultants provide reports for every arboricultural purpose and contractors (AKA tree surgeons) do everything from planting trees to saw-milling timber, but mostly tree-surgery.

Arboricultural consultants vary, as one would expect. There are 1 to 5-star service providers.

The 1-stars arb-consultant isn’t well qualified (academically or in experience/knowledge) and is likely to do irreparable damage: the 2- & 3-star consulting arborists are partially qualified and more likely to produce an adequate solution. 4-star consultants will be well-qualified and experienced; they can provide everything you ask for and more and will apply higher-reasoning.

The 5-star operators do the same as the 4-star guys; however, they will probably be better qualified, more expensive, but self-important and elusive. Also, 5-star firms will probably delegate the task of assessment to 3/4-star guys. Alternatively, your local planning authority may have a tree officer. S/he will probably be a 3-5-star quality public (non-independent) consultant and will see things from a public perspective and will almost certainly not have the time to provide detailed reports or plans.

Arboricultural contractors are a colourful and characterful bunch. There are a great many good guys; honest, keen, and capable people with good training, equipment, motivation and experience. However, these ‘good guys’ need to have their usefulness channelled, otherwise their natural self-confidence (you need to be self-confident to be a good tree surgeon, otherwise you’d never attempt the many varied dangerous tasks you set yourself) will potentially do as much damage as a poor-quality operator.

Unfortunately, the tree-work industry has a great many poor-quality operators and con-men. There is nothing to stop anyone buying a chainsaw and offering tree work services; these characters will not provide a copy of their safety proficiency tests certificates – of which there are many – or their insurance-cover, for obvious reasons.

They will be self-confident and probably reassuring; possibly even well-meaning, however, they are a serious liability and must be avoided. Employing such characters can be very costly, due to unsafe and poor practices – and in a worst-case scenario will end up with casualties and massive legal bills.

Landscaping firms sometimes offer non-specialist tree work services; in my experience these equate to 2-star operatives with poor qualifications and low capability. Tree work is a specialist task, so asking a generalist doesn’t make sense; and a similar outcome to ‘poor-quality operators’ can be expected.

This article has taken you on a trip from higher-arb-thinking down to the basic pragmatics. The main thing to remember is that holistic-environmental appreciation is fast becoming a mainstream requirement amongst the discerning. A judiciously treed property will have significantly lower running costs, higher capital value and increased income – and provide good karma.


Brynley Andrews is an independent arboricultural and green infrastructure consultant with over 40 years’ experience and a Master’s degree qualification, who operates throughout the UK

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