Meetings Go Green In Post-Copenhagen China

The most direct effect on China of the recent and inconclusive Copenhagen Climate Conference is that carbon reduction has become an an issue in every aspect of economic and social life, including the hospitality and travel industry.

According to the final accord signed at the conference, developing countries will take voluntary steps to reduce emissions and information about these steps will be readily available. China has announced its carbon emissions goal for the first time, saying that by 2020 it would reduce its CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 40% to 45%, compared to 2005 levels. In a speech on December 18, 2009 Premier Wen Jiabao said, that China would improve the way it disclosed information on emissions, increase transparency, and actively conduct international exchange, dialogue, and cooperation.

For China carbon reduction is a difficult task, increasing transparency on carbon reduction is also a big challenge. Premier Wen said at the Copenhagen conference that China is at a key stage of rapid industrialization and urbanization. The country's energy structure mainly depends on coal and has caused particular problems in reducing emissions. However China has regards confronting climate change as an important strategic task. To reduce CO2 emissions to such an extent requires a lot of effort.

To achieve the goal of greenhouse gas emission reductions that Chinese government has set requires efforts by many industries, including tourism. "The View on Accelerating the Development of Tourism Industry" mentions "green tourism" and "low carbon tourism" several times, which implies environmental tourism and a balance between tourism and nature. The View also states that China would develop tourism into a strategic polar industry for the national economy, and into a more satisfactory modern service industry. Tourist numbers for domestic travel should reach 3.3 billion, and that the numbers for inbound and outbound travel should reach 200 million. According to Alicia Yao, the deputy general manager of the meeting and incentive division of CITS Head Office, this poses a great threat to the environment if tourism is not sustainable and "green".

Promoting Green MICE
For some years CITS's meeting and incentive division has been cooperating with international travel professionals to promote ecotourism and green meetings. It has integrated the concepts of eco-friendlyness and protecting the environment in the design of international convention and incentive travel. Yao said that international conferences and conferences of multinational corporations are often quite influential in that any activities they undertake at conferences may be followed by other organizations. People who are in charge of meetings should pay attention to the company's social responsibilities and actively promote green MICE.

In 2009 Yao was actively promoting green hotels and green meeting management to her clients. She would suggest that clients take environmental and green measures during meetings or events. For example, using reusable curtains and computer generated backgrounds instead of disposable backdrop boards; using energy saving bulbs and reusable stages; adjusting the air conditioning temperature of meeting venues to a minimum of 26 degrees; using environmentally-friendly materials for packages and documents; using local food and drinks instead of imported ones; holding dinner party at hotels clients are staying in or a in place that is less than a 30-minute drive from the hotel, or that can be reached on foot. The company has also designed various ecotourism programs and environmentally-friendly teambuilding activities for clients, for example bicycle tours and trekking tours.

"Green strategy" plays a key role in the MICE sector. Yao said that "green" and "sustainable development" are not temporary slogans, but the vital requirements from mainstream customers. "Green" is not only a trend but is the inevitable choice for better development of China's MICE sector. Meetings should reflect social and environmental responsibilities, benefit the people, allow cities or enterprises to cooperate as well as compete, make our society more creative, and should improve their capability for risk management. However Yau added that it is still difficult to promote green meetings in China as recognition of green issues is low and clients need to be educated about environmental requirements. Therefore, the development of MICE sector needs the joint efforts of government, associations, professional conference organizers, destination management companies, meeting venues, and other meeting suppliers. Everyone involved in the MICE sector should participate actively in the promotion of ecotourism and green meetings.

Reduce and Reuse
Angelina Wu, the public relations manager of Kempinski Resort & Spa Sanya, thinks that since Sanya is a tropical paradise as well as a MICE destination, Kempinski Resort & Spa Sanya has benefited from its unique environment. Therefore, the hotel is committed to caring for the environment. As a resort hotel it is quite prepared to propose that MICE organizers hold the meetings and banquets in outdoor venues, such as at the private beach, in the hotel garden or on the lawn, so that all the delegates will have a personal experience of the value of the natural environment. Wu believes that a green meeting consists of four components: Green Accommodation, Green Food, Green Service, and Green Environment. By looking at these components a hotel can help meeting organizers to minimize the impact on the environment, as well maximize cost savings, and to increase the environmental awareness for all delegates.

When communicating with clients, the hotel would usually recommends the following measures for environmental protection and reducing consumption. First, replacing paper document with e-documents to reduce the cost environmental impact of mailing. Second, replace the traditional sign boards with electronic meeting sign boards. Third, in all conference activities, hotel make a point of suggesting the Reduce and Reuse principle to clients.

According to Wu luxury does not necessarily mean waste. For example, Kempinski Resort & Spa Sanya believes that the ultimate luxury is lying on on the private beach and enjoying the magnificent sunsets over the South China Sea. By maximizing the use of hotel's own resources and the natural environment, and by providing excellent service, the hotel is committed to enabling customers to realize real luxury actually comes from the beauty of nature.

Start Small for Environmental Protection
Wei Mingyang, the director of meetings at InterContinental Beijing Beichen, told China Hospitality News that green meetings encompass the integration of the proper use of resources and environmental protection into the planning and preparation of events to ensure that the impact on the environment and ecology should be the prime consideration for aspect of an event.

Wei also suggests the hotels put more attention to three aspects of environmental protection. First, redundant materials are a waste of paper. Paper or paper materials can be recycled after being used. Second, lunches and dinners should be of appropriate amounts. Third, choosing reusable materials to make backdrop boards to avoid resource waste.

When communicating with clients Wei takes the initiative to introduce the benefits a green meeting would bring to both the clients and to society, and also to provide some suggestions on how to protect the environment and reduce emissions. For example, choosing reusable materials to build backdrop boards; using public transport in preference to private cars; reducing the use of paper and the cost of mailing by building a website about the event; communicating via email for registration, confirmation and hotel booking; distributing materials online or via CD instead of on paper; switching off all equipment and lights before leaving the venue; presenting gifts made of sustainable, reusable, and recyclable materials.

Asked what hotels should do to reduce emissions while maintaining service quality Wei said: "Start small":
Desserts should be simply packaged; avoid the use of disposable paper cups and tissues.

Monitor indoor lighting and heating and switch them off in a timely manner.

Choose local food and reduce the use of imported products.

Office supplies, magazines, and other paper products that are not used up at large-scale events can be donated to schools or community centers for handy-crafts.

Communicate with the person in charge of food and beverage to ensure that any uneaten food will be delivered to food distribution points, donated to community welfare meals, or composted into fertilizer.