Meetings That Matter

Consumers expect corporations to participate in community engagement that goes beyond just making financial contributions.

To meet this expectation, a growing number of companies are adding corporate social responsibility (CSR) to their meeting and incentive rosters.

“Corporate social responsibility is big,” says Brad Williams, senior director of operations for Carlson Wagonlit Meetings and Events, an industry leader in corporate travel. “It’s a way for participants to have an emotional connection with the local community and make a positive long-standing difference.”  Where to go when CSR is on the agenda? Mexico is a top choice.

DMCs, CVBs, resorts, tour operators and community organizations throughout Mexico have ready-made and creative ideas for custom-crafted givebacks to match every client’s focus, financial resources and time. And Mexico’s meeting pros make it fun to give back. From bicycle building to beach clean-up and village service to making pinatas, the time spent sharing the culture and enriching the lives of local citizens is a highpoint for attendees.

“It was so beautiful to see the joy on the children’s faces; and to create an unforgettable memory for the participants,” says Kitzia Morales Torres, director of KGroup Incentive, a Cancun-based DMC serving all Mexico.

Giving Back

In Cancun, Morales often arranges givebacks with La Fundacion Haciendas del Mundo Maya, a non-profit that helps rural Mayan communities. Pinatas from scratch! This was the CSR challenge enjoyed by 150 U.S. incentive winners on the Riviera Maya. Even if the concept is the same, no two CSR programs are alike. Each giveback is tailored to whatever the client envisions.

A bike-and-tricycle-building program arranged for a Carlson Wagonlit group became a version of “The Amazing Race” in a Mayan village near Playa del Carmen. At the conclusion of the race, the vehicles were presented to Mayan children.

Custom Programs

Heartwarming experiences can result from custom CSR programs designed at the request of the client to match their corporate giving preferences. Skilled DMCs can implement just about anything. “We help whoever needs it, with whatever they need, working through the local DMCs,” says Joe Flake, president of ILT Golf Vacations. “We arrange community giveback programs in every destination where we meet: Acapulco, the Riviera Maya, Los Cabos, Manzanillo.” Flake often supports orphanages. “One year we donated computers to help the kids; other times, its supplies, clothes, food or whatever they say they need.”

Mexico’s wide array of non-profits makes CSR programs possible just about anywhere. Many tour operators and hotels offer ready-made CSR opportunities. Phelis’ 4 Worlds Expeditions has two CSR tours for small groups in conjunction with Mayan village schools. Participants bring backpacks filled with school supplies, visit the school and experience the local hospitality with a home-cooked meal inside a Mayan home.

Be sure to check out page 20 of the 2014 Mexico Meeting & Incentive Planner for the complete “Meetings That Matter” article.