Virginia Beach CVB
The coastal setting of Virginia Beach offers over 35 miles of waterways and three idyllic beaches for groups to explore, while its CVB excels at creating unique events that enable meeting planners to network with local hoteliers, attractions and industry partners. One of their biggest recent initiatives, “One Beach – One World,” brought together attendees and local stakeholders to assemble surfing kits for Surfer’s Healing Virginia Beach, a non-profit organization that provides surfing therapy to children with autism. Other projects included collecting litter, writing postcards to armed forces stationed overseas, tree planting, food drives and fundraisers at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.
Sally Noona, interim VP of sales/marketing & director of convention sales, says, “One Beach – One World is not only about helping planners reach CSR goals and reducing the logistical and executional tasks associated with planning. It’s a call to action for groups meeting in our dynamic city to participate in making a positive impact on the community and the world.”
The Fight Against Human Trafficking
An estimated 21 million people are being trafficked and held as slaves around the world, and many of these victims will be moved through the same airports, held at the same hotels and fly on the same airplanes as meeting planners. One effort to combat this activity is the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, created in 1996 by ECPAT International, a global network of organizations dedicated to the protection of children from sexual exploitation.
Companies that have signed the code agree to take six steps to prevent human trafficking, such as training their employees in how to spot trafficking victims, and are annually assessed by ECPAT on their adherence to its principles. Over 1,300 companies have so far signed the code, including Hilton Worldwide, Wyndham Worldwide, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, Sabre, Maritz and Delta Air Lines. The Association of Corporate Travel Executives signed the code in 2013, but no other industry associations have followed. In 2014, only three of the 11 US companies who signed up were from the meeting and hospitality industries.
However, Michelle Guelbart, director of private sector engagement at ECPAT-USA, is optimistic about the progress. “When I started speaking to meeting planners about this issue a couple of years ago, it was clear that it was the first time they had ever even heard of it. I had to create the connection between the issue and what they do,” she says. “Not any more. Now they come over and ask how they can help.”
Monaco Champions the Environment
The Principality of Monaco has an established history of ocean study and conservation, beginning in the late 19th century when Prince Albert I started sailing and studying marine species. He went on to form the Oceanographic Museum and Institute in 1910, and his legacy is continued into the present by Prince Albert II, whose own environmental stewardship is enacted through the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.
The Foundation’s dedication to the environment has attracted several large-scale events to the Principality, such as the BLUE Ocean Film Festival and the Electric Grand Prix. The latter event is organized by the Federation Internationale de I’Automobile’s (FIA), a nonprofit association dedicated to the development of motor sports worldwide. Over the last decade, the association has worked to promote cleaner technologies for motor sports, and its Formula E Championship sees fully electric, open-wheel cars race in ten of the world’s leading cities. The BLUE Ocean Film Festival is a seven day event which showcases films and documentaries that highlight ecological damage and the ravages of climate change on the world’s oceans. It is alternately hosted by Monaco and St. Petersburg, Fla., who held the event in 2014 and had an attendance of around 20,000.
“The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation focuses on three objectives: to limit the effects of climate change, to safeguard biodiversity and to promote responsible water resource management,” says Cindy Hoddeson, director, meeting and incentive sales for the Monaco Government Tourist Office. “Sharing this message through storytelling of any means—whether by film, visual arts or photography, for example, is important.”
Oregon Aims for Zero Landfill Waste
Oregon Convention Center in Portland works hard to keep its finger on the pulse of environmental sustainability, and is one of only a handful of convention centers around the country that employs a full-time sustainability director. Erin Rowland, who holds this position, provides planners with a detailed report at the end of every event, which includes benchmarks and standards that they can bring to the next center they work with. “In the past year we have had five events ask us for such reports,” she says. “We’ve been recycling for 15 to 20 years now and we were the first center to earn LEED Platinum.”
One of her biggest challenges is this year’s UUA General Assembly, the annual meeting of the Unitarian Universalist Association, scheduled for June 24 to 28. The 4,700 person event has become a model for green meetings around the world, and this year’s goal is to create zero landfill waste. In the past, the organization had encouraged convention centers to buy compostable software, but the Oregon Convention Center has changed its systems to methane recapture, which means that only food products can be composted. In order to avoid the serviceware going to landfill, the UUA conference team are working with Erin Rowland to encourage food outlets to use durables such as china and silver, which can be collected afterwards and reused.
Accor Gender Equality
Inequality still factors heavily in the travel and tourism industry. While women make up around 60 percent of the total hospitality workforce, the glass ceiling remains very much in place at the managerial level, a factor which hotel group Accor is working hard to change with a number of current initiatives. Investing firmly in the belief that diverse teams are more innovative and efficient, Accor is aiming to achieve a 50/50 women-to-men ratio across all of its brands worldwide.
The company’s only female COO in Europe, Caro van Eekelen, explains that the move is part of a larger sustainable development initiative that isn’t limited to gender. “A team made up of people of different ages can have combined benefits. For example, the younger generation may have a better command of new technologies and the older generation could have a better understanding of a well-anchored corporate culture.”
Another initiative in place is Women at Accor Generation, which fosters mentoring, training, idea sharing and the empowerment of women in managerial positions. Since launching in 2012, the network has attracted 2,500 members across five continents. Accor has also signed the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), an initiative of the UN Women and the United Nations Global Compact, which identifies seven principles that foster the empowerment of women in the workplace and calls for accountability from all members who must measure and publicly report on their progress.