Events tourism and sustainable development are compatible.
By Jorge J. J. Martínez
Following the path of sustainability being developed by the experts, we find Vicente Ferreyra, who has more than 20 years’ experience supporting destinations, businesses and rural communities in promoting sustainable tourism.
Vicente is the founder of Sustentur A.C. and president of the organizing committee of the Sustainable & Social Tourism Summit. He has several post-graduate degrees and manages multiple activities that position him as one of the field’s most recognized professionals.
“I am a Mexican citizen who has realized that for the sake of our planet and our communities, we need to do things differently. I was not a born environmentalist, I didn’t study that career, but got involved through my own experiences living in a destination such as Cancun, which has experienced significant growth and has an impressive richness of biodiversity,” he stated.
The first step is to recognize that touristic activity in general, including meetings and events, has both a positive and negative impact on destinations’ social, economic and cultural development.
Five areas in which the MICE industry has a big impact
1. Hybrid events have apparently lowered the carbon footprint, since air travel is one of the most significant contributors for in-person events.
2. A huge amount of food is wasted at events; there are food banks and other ways to distribute unused food.
3. There have been significant advances in the careful use of resources including water, electric energy and paper products.
4. Each event offers an opportunity to benefit the destination; bringing together specialists who impart their knowledge and solutions is critical.
5. One improvement seen in the convention sector is more consumption of local goods, recycling and other strategies to reduce costs.
“We must integrate sustainability strategies into meetings at the pre-, during, and post-event stages. And if you communicate these sustainability goals effectively to the attendees, they will have a much greater sense of engagement,” explained Vicente Ferreyra.
Making events as organic as possible—with natural and fluid logistics and maximum use of local resources—will obviously reduce negative impact and increase the positive.
What is the reality of sustainability for MICE industry tourism?
“Acknowledging that we have little statistical data on the impact of tourism in general, we have even less for MICE. We have measured the economic impact of tourism on businesses, but based on scant information. Of each dollar spent, how much remains? What percentage of supplies were locally purchased?” queried Ferreyra.
Business travelers are used to following protocols, rules and regulations, which could speed up the acceptance of standards of sustainability.
Meetings and conventions travelers look for more open spaces and places that promote social distancing, giving them a greater appreciation for natural reserves, “Pueblos Mágicos,” and environments that are healthier in every sense of the word.
“Incentive travel is resuming but in a different form. Large corporations and meeting planners are being forced to organize events in more open, natural settings,” said Vicente, who was informed of this trend by MPI Caribe Mexicano.
In closing, Vicente Ferreyra stated that COVID-19 has reinforced the subject of sustainability at events and meetings, converting this into a factor for determining selection of international events venues, something we all hope will continue, with smaller events and the value chain throughout the industry.