‘A Watershed Moment for the Travel Industry’

Author: Barbara Palmer       

Given the importance of digital communication, it’s not surprising that when 250 global meeting planners were surveyed by the International Association of Conference Centers (IACC) for its 2019 Meeting Room of the Future report, more than 66 percent of them identified access to interactive technology as the meeting venue element that will be most important in the next five years.

But the second most important element was unexpected: 44 percent of the respondents identified “ethical operations and sustainable practices” as the most important element, unseating “flexibility of meeting space” from the second spot, which it had held for three years, according to the report. Another 17 percent identified “sustainable practices” as the most important meeting venue element, and, taken together, come close to tying interactive technology for first place.

The trend is significant, and “provides evidence that meeting planners are conscious of their environmental and social footprint and want to reduce their impact moving forward,” the report’s authors said.

The uptick is in sync, too, with findings from The Future of Meetings and Events report, released earlier this year by the PCMA Foundation and Marriott, which reported that more than half of consumers in the U.S. agreed that an environmentally responsible product is worth paying more for. “Venues will increasingly be chosen based on their commitment to ethical operations and values,” according to the report.

As the world grapples with such growing problems as the build-up of plastics in the oceans and in fish populations, the persistence of hunger in the face of food-waste rates that top 40 percent in some places, and the effects of carbon dioxide on the atmosphere, the distinction between ethics and sustainable practices may be disappearing.

“This really is a watershed moment for the travel industry,” said Laura Mandala, CEO of Mandala Research, an author of a recent study on sustainable mass tourism, and a former member of the U.S. Department of Commerce Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. “There is indisputable evidence of travelers’ preferences for destinations and travel companies that are committed to sustainability.”

This story is part of Convene’s CMP Series, which enables readers to earn one hour of CE credit toward CMP certification from the Events Industry Council. Find the main story, “Crowd Control,” and other required reading; for access to additional CMP Series stories, go to the CMP Series page.