Mr. Blanc

Meetings & Conventions

How the Meetings Industry Has Become More Paperless, Less Wasteful and More Efficient

By Eric Blanc, President, ACOM

Having some type of green meeting practices in place continues to be an important area of focus for venues in the meetings industry, as a business with one of the largest environmental footprints. In order to successfully have an effect on global warming while reducing costs and saving their respective organizations money, convention centers, hotels and other venues continue to examine how to successfully make these changes—both behind the scenes of their events and in visible ways.

With innovative techniques being quickly accepted and practices updated from event to event, planners continue to look to their meetings partners as leaders in sustainability. It is becoming increasingly important to conduct business with organizations that are investing in eco-friendly products and services. To that end, the long-term benefits yield a significant return on investment.

Members of the Association for Convention Operations Management (ACOM) recently shared their perspectives on green meeting practices and what their respective venues are doing to stay competitive in the marketplace.

Meeting Client’s Demands

Many customers are expecting facilities to have green initiatives in place. According to David Dvorak, CMP, vice president of Catering and Convention Services at the Starwood Hotels and Resorts, he is continuing to see more and more of a demand for green meeting practices from clients especially in the RFP process. “Having green meeting practices, for many companies, is a point of entry,” he said. “We have outlined about 20 sustainable meeting practices at Starwood that hit key areas that customers care about. Many clients won’t even consider your venue unless you have these practices in place.”

Tiffany Hoambrecker, green meeting liaison and associate director, convention services at VISIT DENVER, indicates these types of requests vary depending on the sophistication level of the meetings sustainability efforts. “We see everything from simple requests such as ‘Do you recycle?’ to more advanced questions such as ‘What is your diversion rate?’” she said. “The exciting thing is that meeting planners are asking the questions.”

Which Green Meeting Practices Are Right For You?

It is important for convention centers, hotels and other venues to determine which sustainable practices best fit their respective organizations and ultimately meet the needs of their clients and have the most impact on their bottom line. “We have had a tremendous amount of impact with our clients by going paperless. The distribution of our banquet event orders is all done electronically,” said Dvorak. “On the operational side, we have Starwood eMenus and ePlanner that provide meeting planners with online menu ordering as well as information about a specific hotel. We also have local and organic food offerings within our eMenus. We continue to focus on reducing the amount of water used during meetings and we are starting to quickly ramp up on linenless tables on the banquet and meetings side.”

In addition to these options, Starwood also sees value in providing socially conscious events in-house for meeting planners. According to Dvorak, planners especially in the corporate sector have internal initiatives which they are now requiring to be part of their meetings to give back to the community. “At Starwood, we make these available as part of our Planner’s Edge On-Site Specialty Events which allows the planner to have these events right on property, helping to reduce their customers’ carbon footprint by eliminating transportation to an off-site venue,” he said.

The Colorado Convention Center recently became a LEED Certified Existing Building in Operation and Maintenance, according to Hoambrecker. “In order to achieve this certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, our convention center had to go through a serious evaluation of our daily operation practices,” she said. Some of the highlights included: single stream recycling throughout the entire venue, adding a 300 kilo-watt solar array to the roof, monitoring its light usage and capitalizing on all of the natural sunlight that comes into the facility, installing water saving plumbing fixtures such as low-flush toilets and donating left over convention materials to local non-profits.

Implementing Energy-efficient Practices

The industry continues to see facilities retrofitting their lighting fixtures as they look for ways to decrease expenses and create better efficiencies. Many venues are also participating in the conversion to timer or motion sensor lighting fixtures. “Our properties are getting fit with motion sensors and other energy saving devices not just in the meeting space, but also in our guest rooms,” said Dvorak. “We also have Element, our new LEED certified hotel brand, which is an extended stay type of hotel.” These hotels, according to Dvorak, have become a laboratory for new and cutting edge sustainability offerings focusing on savings in both electricity and water.

“Most often meeting planners are dependent upon the facility or their vendors in regards to energy efficiency,” Hoambrecker said. “This is where the RFP process becomes important so meeting planners are choosing the destinations or the vendors based on what they can offer the meeting planner.”

Utilizing Technological Advancements

To take their meetings a step further, meeting planners are utilizing green practices to help elevate their attendees’ event experience, especially through the use of technology. “We are starting to see a lot of meetings create their own meeting specific mobile application. This provides attendees with a variety of information from the agenda to local maps to restaurant information,” Hoambrecker said.

Dvorak agreed and added, “We are starting to see many more applications being added to smart phones as many people are now carrying the iPad and Blackberry—people aren’t carrying around paper anymore,” said Dvorak. This area will be explored more and more over the next 12-19 months, with the goal of having meeting planners communicate via the application with customers, according to Dvorak.

Many conventions are offering their attendees the option to sign up for their convention text messaging program, providing them with important updates or schedule changes, according to Hoambrecker. “Conventions are also starting to use more social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to promote their meeting before the conference,” she said.

The industry is moving towards less distribution of hard materials at conferences and meetings and the majority of the groups phasing out paper are choosing to distribute their information through these technological methods to save time and money.

The Future of Sustainability

Over the next few years, the meetings industry will continue to move toward implementing sustainable practices into their venues in the form of updating older lighting fixtures with more efficient lighting fixtures that increase yield but decrease energy consumption, placing sensors on lighting fixtures throughout the facility to ensure lights are turned off when not in use as well as adding spring loaded plumbing fixtures in restrooms to cut down water usage.

“Offering attendees sustainable dine-around options to restaurants who embrace the farm to table experience, donating conference materials or office supplies to local charities and incorporating a community service project into the meeting,” said Hoambrecker, are all green meeting trends that are up and coming in the industry. Convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) websites are also starting to feature how cities are becoming green—which also appeals to environmentally-conscious meeting planners.

Overall, it is important for the meetings industry to continue to implement new green meeting practices into their venues and cities and expand existing procedures to help reduce the industry’s environmental footprint, but also to add more to their customer’s bottom line and overall meeting experience, creating the ultimate reward: customer loyalty.

Eric Blanc is President of ACOM - the Association for Convention Operations Management. Mr. Blanc has been involved in the convention and special events industry since 1992. His career spans stints with Tropicana Field as an event coordinator, Tampa Convention Center as a convention services supervisor, GES Expositions as a sales manager and the Freeman Companies where he is currently employed. He is currently a senior sales manager for The Freeman Companies in Orlando, Florida where he is responsible for sales and production aspects of the companies Exposition Sales division. Mr. Blanc can be contacted at 813-274-7773 or Eric.Blanc@ci.tampa.fl.us Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
RESOURCE CENTER - SEARCH ARCHIVES
General Search:

FEBRUARY: Hotel Social Media: Engage, Promote, Personalize and Reward

Bernard Ellis

According to a recent study by Deloitte entitled Hospitality 2015: Game changers or spectators? , mobile applications will be a key area for technological development in the industry over the next year. As more consumers than ever before are equipped with smart phones and tablets to aid in booking travel, hoteliers are finding new ways to interact with guests and build brand awareness via mobile devices. READ MORE

Mehmet Erdem

Digital beacons in hospitality continue to guide travelers through an ever-increasing maze of travel challenges. These technologies are ever more deployed in hotels to assist though various stages of the guest-life cycle. Hoteliers are facing challenges as well as opportunities. It is imperative to offer an attractive value-proposition for the guests so that they are encouraged and motivated to engage with such technology-based services. Hoteliers are tasked with utilizing science along with the art of hospitality and determining the best way to engage guests in an era defined by social, mobile, cloud and analytics. No different than the bright lights that guided ships across the ocean in the night, or the radio waves that assisted planes in the sky, digital beacons will guide hotel guests throughout their stay and engage them in a way they will want to return again. READ MORE

Mark  Heymann

In today’s lean hotel industry, managers can’t afford to be desk-bound. They need mobile tools that allow them to manage operational issues immediately and efficiently from any location as they engage with guests and staff. Other factors that will drive demand for mobile in 2015 are regulatory compliance and the rise of app-savvy millennials as a key and growing segment of the labor force. The tech world is responding with mobile solutions that promise to transform the way hotels manage their employees while empowering those employees with the tools to better control their own schedules. READ MORE

Matt Carrier

The mobile eCommerce space in the hotel industry is growing and changing rapidly. With the massive influx of new distribution apps and mobile sites, it is vitally important that hoteliers stay educated and able to make informed decisions about their hotel participating (or not) in these new channels. Hoteliers must be able to take a pragmatic view of both their hotel(s) and these channels, with their specific customer profiles and compensation structures, to determine if they will be able to benefit from their participation. READ MORE

Coming Up In The March Online Hotel Business Review


Feature Focus
Hotel Human Resources 2015: Recruiting and Retaining the Best Employees
Due to the ever-increasing demands for improvements in guest experience, intense pressures are brought to bear on hotel workforces, as well as on the Human Resource professionals who are responsible for recruiting, training and retaining them. Meeting and exceeding guest expectations requires a substantial investment in recruiting and development, so that top talent can be hired, and career paths can be established to ensure the continuation of five-star service performances. So important is staff development that most HR professionals believe that retaining and rewarding their best employees, and cultivating the next generation of corporate leaders represent their greatest challenges. And they are expected to accomplish these feats at a time when competition for in-demand skilled talent has never been greater, and when HR budgets are still constrained due to the slow-growth recovery following the Great Recession of 2007-2009. HR strategies continue to evolve as social media has become an accepted means for recruiting purposes, and there is also a greater emphasis on metrics so that investments in HR practices and policies can be measured and justified. In addition, issues surrounding demographic changes in the workforce are being addressed. A large percentage of existing workers are ageing out of the industry, just as the Millennial generation is entering it, and there is also greater diversity in the workforce which affects many aspects of HR operations. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the challenges facing HR professionals, and will report on some of the best practices they are employing to achieve their goals.