Looking for ways to minimize your company’s environmental impact when hosting events, meetings or groups? Of course you are. When sustainability is a business priority, group travel can raise concerns, but planning sustainable events is still achievable, even if attendees have to travel from multiple cities to get to your event.
We have entered a new era of group travel, and the effect of travel on climate change cannot be ignored. While it’s hard to be 100% sustainable, there are still ways to have a small impact and highlight the importance of sustainable practices.
WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL?
Sustainability promotes and reverses adverse human impacts on the natural environment, including from an economic, social, and supply chain perspective. Eco-friendly travel aims to minimize overall impact, often focusing on reducing carbon emissions.
For businesses, the desire to embrace this worldview can conflict with controlling costs: sustainability often comes with a higher price tag, especially when travel prices rise.
Create more sustainable group travel practices
Environmentally conscious organizations, group travel organizers and event planners are getting closer to sustainable travel practices simply by booking hotels smarter. A shift in perspective – such as choosing a lesser-known venue, patronizing local businesses while traveling, and actively reducing waste at your event – contributes to a positive impact.
Here are four tips to get started:
1. PUT ON YOUR WALKING SHOES
Reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gases associated with driving to and from your chosen location by booking hotels within walking distance.
With GroupSync Marketplace, you can achieve just that: filter your search by address and proximity so that results meet that criteria. Searching, finding and booking a solution that matches your needs, budgets and conveniences has never been easier.
A walk is also the best way to get to know the city you’re visiting, making you more likely to visit a local bagel shop and put money back into the community.
“[Shopping locally] enables a more circular economy, which affects other sustainability factors like cultural protection, local sourcing, etc. said Jaclyn Yost, founder and CEO of ecomadic, an online green travel magazine.
When walking is a challenge, comfort doesn’t have to sacrifice durability: many cities’ transit systems make it easy to get from point A to point B, though unfamiliar participants may be fearful of transportation. Research and share how to use public transport to make your group feel comfortable. Or, you can also plan so that your group has a clear carpool plan.
“Event planners need to make sure they consider ADA and accessibility needs when planning their event for it to be truly sustainable,” said Hazel Horvath, Founder and CEO of Ecolytics. , which works with companies to assess and improve their environmental impact.
Bonus points: If carbon-intensive air travel isn’t a must, say you’re traveling in Europe, opt for the train. Benefits of rail travel include opportunities for site seeing, group socializing, work time and rest.
2. BOOK HOTELS WITH ON-SITE AMENITIES
Event planners can make it easier for attendees by booking meeting space and accommodation in the same location to reduce the need to travel. Beyond a ride, consider a hotel’s additional offerings, which account for every beat of a guest’s experience:
Does it have an airport shuttle?
Can you hire bikes or do they provide bike storage?
Are there charging stations for electric vehicles?
Will it subsidize public transport subscriptions?
Are their meeting rooms equipped with digital thermostats?
Are there occupancy sensors to control temperature and lighting?
Does it track water usage and have a conservation practice?
Are there water bottle refill stations?
Do the rooms have bulk shampoo dispensers?
Bonus points: A hotel’s amenities can go beyond a unique experience. Hotels that embrace these efforts are thinking long-term, such as vegetable gardens, beekeeping, timed landscaping water systems, green infrastructure, monthly beach cleanups, and donating extra food. These hotels are shifting from a “me” responsibility (one guest’s stay) to a “we” responsibility (contributing to the community as a whole).
3. REDUCE WASTE
Once they’ve worked with a venue with the same Earth first approach, planners need to think about their event supplies: name tags, signs, and the many paper products that often get thrown away afterwards.
Not only can you turn to suppliers that make green choice their standard, but you can also reduce plastic usage, single-use signage, plastic straws, and more. A few small changes that have a big impact:
- Event signage mentioning the date → Signage with generic branding (reusable)
- Mandatory presence → Optional presence (integrating virtual presence)
- Swag bag with useless objects → Canvas swag bag with a metal straw, a reusable water bottle, a natural fiber bento box, a recycled fabric cap, a biodegradable ballpoint pen, etc. (More ideas here.)
Bonus points: Make sustainability part of your meeting or event program. Highlight the efforts that have been made – here are the recycling bins, they are compostable forks, which is why we are using a QR code instead of printed materials – so that the conversation is encouraged to continue.
4. PUSH HOTELS ON THEIR SUSTAINABILITY POLICY
Hotels that have incorporated sustainable practices are probably already bragging about their efforts. Some, like Marriott International, are known for their commitment.
Yet organizations and companies say they feel held back by their inability to determine the authenticity of sustainability claims. The commonly used term “greenwashing” refers to the fact that a company misleads consumers about its environmental efforts.
A hotel’s sustainable practices may not be entirely altruistic, of course. Just think back to when the hospitality industry decided to let guests go without new towels every day. This saves water, of course, but it also reduces a hotel’s laundry costs.
Ask hotels to be specific about how they incorporate sustainable practices and request a copy of their environmental policy. When communicating with hotels through a GroupSync RFP, questions to ask include:
- Do you use renewable energy sources?
- What steps have you taken to reduce your carbon footprint?
- Can you work with me to make my event carbon neutral?
- Our event will include paper and plastic products. How to reduce on-site waste and facilitate recycling and composting?
Bonus points: Look for a hotel’s third-party certifications to see how success is measured, because not all are created equal, Horvath said. She recommended looking at how many metrics are tracked and how claims are verified.
Small steps towards social responsibility make a difference.
Hard-hit travel and tourism industry is still recovering from 2020 losses of $4.5 trillion in GDP and 62 million jobs, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Economic and Trends Report . Yet the sector remains focused on rebuilding better than before, prioritizing climate and environmental issues “not only for ethical reasons but also because the travelers of tomorrow will demand it”.
Sustainability is both trendy and here to stay, and being eco-friendly can seem next to impossible when planning trips and group events. Yet there are small, non-intrusive ways to have a lasting impact on the planet. Every little gesture counts. Just as hotels’ sustainability efforts are a win-win for them, so is an organization’s work toward greener travel operations.
Groups360 was created with one goal: to empower meeting planners to bring innovation, transparency, and simplicity to the decades-old problem of group booking. The company’s integrated technology solution, GroupSync™, enables suppliers to allocate inventory, engage with planners and optimize group revenue. GroupSync also allows planners to search and shop for hotels worldwide and book rooms and spaces directly, online or through a streamlined bidding process. GroupSync is the first distribution channel to offer online booking of hotel rooms and meeting spaces for groups.
Groups360 has offices in Nashville, London and Singapore. Learn more at groups360.com.
Vice President of Marketing
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