Sustainable group travel: 4 tips when booking hotels

Looking for ways to minimize your company’s environmental impact when hosting events, meetings or groups? Of course you are. When sustainability is a business priority, group travel can be a concern, but sustainable event planning is still feasible, even if visitors from different cities have to travel to reach your event.

We have entered a new era of group travel and the impact of travel on climate change cannot be ignored. While it’s hard to be 100% sustainable, there are still ways to make a small impact and highlight the importance of sustainable practices.

WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL?

Sustainability is promoting and reversing harmful human effects on the natural environment, including from an economic, social and supply chain perspective. Eco-friendly travel is aimed at minimizing the overall impact, often aimed at reducing CO2 emissions.

For companies, the desire to embrace this worldview can conflict with cost control: sustainability often carries a higher price tag, especially as travel prices rise.

Create more sustainable group travel practices

Environmentally conscious organizations, group travel organizers and event planners are getting closer to sustainable travel practices by simply booking hotels smarter. A shift in perspective — such as choosing a lesser-known venue, patronizing local businesses when traveling, and actively reducing waste at your event — contributes to a positive impact.

Here are four tips to get you started:

1. PUT ON YOUR RUNNING SHOES

Reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions when driving to and from your selected location by booking hotels within walking distance.

With GroupSync Marketplace you can do just that: filter your search by address and proximity so that the results meet this criterion. Searching, finding and booking a solution that fits your needs, budgets and amenities has never been easier.

A walking commute is also the best way to get to know the city you’re visiting, giving you a better chance of popping into a local bagel shop and putting money back into the community.

“[Shopping locally] creates a more circular economy, impacting other sustainability factors such as cultural protection, local sourcing, and so on,” said Jaclyn Yost, founder and CEO of ecomadic, an online green travel magazine.

When walking is a challenge, comfort doesn’t have to come at the expense of sustainability: Many cities’ public transport systems make it easier to get from A to B, although unfamiliar visitors may be transport shy. Research and share how you use public transportation so your group feels comfortable. Or you can also plan so that your group has a clear carpool plan.

“Event planners need to consider ADA and accessibility needs when planning their event to be truly sustainable,” said Hazel Horvath, founder and CEO of Ecolytics, which works with companies to assess and improve their environmental impact.

Bonus point: If carbon-intensive air travel is not a must – say you are traveling within Europe – then opt for the train. Pros of train travel include opportunities for site viewing, group socialization, work time, and rest.

2. BOOK HOTELS WITH AMENITIES ON THE SITE

Event planners can make things very easy for visitors by booking meeting space and accommodation in the same location, reducing their travel time. However, beyond the commute, consider a hotel’s extra offerings, taking into account every beat of a guest’s experience:

transport:

Does it have an airport shuttle?

Can you rent bicycles or is there a bicycle shed?

Are there charging points for electric vehicles?

Will it subsidize public transport tickets?

Temperature regulation:

Do the meeting rooms have digital thermostats?

Are there presence sensors to control the temperature and lighting?

Cleaning:

Does it track water use and has a conservation practice?

Are there water bottle refill stations?

Do the rooms have a bulk shampoo dispenser?

Bonus point: A hotel’s amenities can go beyond a one-time experience. Hotels that embrace these efforts are thinking long-term, such as vegetable gardens, beekeeping, timed landscape water systems, green infrastructure, monthly beach cleanups, and donating extra food. These hotels are growing from an “I” responsibility (the stay of a single guest) to a “we” responsibility (contributing to the community in general).

3. REDUCE WASTE

Once they’ve worked with a venue with the same Earth-first approach, planners need to think about their event supplies: name tags, signs, and the many paper products that are often thrown away afterward.

Not only can you switch to suppliers who make the green choice their standard, but you can also reduce plastic use, disposable plates, plastic straws and more. Some small shifts that have a big impact:

  • Event signage with the date → Signs with generic branding (can be reused)
  • Mandatory presence → Optional presence (including virtual presence)
  • Swag bag with useless items → Canvas swag bag with a metal straw, reusable water bottle, a natural fiber bento box, ball cap made from recycled fabric, biodegradable ballpoint pen, etc. (More ideas can be found here.)

Bonus point: Make sustainability part of the program of your meeting or event. State what efforts have been made – here are the recycling bins, these are compostable forks, which is why we use a QR code instead of printed material – so that the conversation is encouraged to continue.

4. PRESS HOTELS ON THEIR SUSTAINABILITY POLICIES

Hotels that have adopted sustainable practices are likely already touting their efforts. Some, such as Marriott International, are recognized for their efforts.

Yet organizations and companies say they feel hindered by their inability to authenticate sustainability claims. The commonly used term “greenwashing” is when a company misleads consumers about its environmental efforts.

A hotel’s sustainable practices are, of course, not entirely altruistic. Just think of when the hotel industry moved to make guests skip new towels every day. This of course saves water, but it also lowers a hotel’s laundry costs.

Ask hotels to be specific about how they adopt sustainable practices and ask for a copy of their environmental policies. When communicating with hotels through a GroupSync RFP, you can ask questions such as:

  1. Do you use renewable energy sources?
  2. What steps have you taken to reduce your carbon footprint?
  3. Can you work with me to make my event carbon neutral?
  4. Our event will feature a number of paper and plastic products. How can we reduce waste on site and facilitate recycling and composting?

Bonus point: Research a hotel’s third-party certifications to see how success is measured, since they’re not all equal, Horvath said. She recommended looking at how many stats are tracked and how claims are verified.

Small steps towards social responsibility make all the difference.

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s economic and trends report, the hard-hit travel and tourism sector is still recovering from its 2020 loss of $4.5 trillion GDP and 62 million jobs. Still, the sector remains focused on rebuilding better than before, prioritizing climate and environmental issues “not just on ethical grounds, but because tomorrow’s travelers will demand it.”

Sustainability is both fashionable and here to stay, and being eco-friendly can seem almost impossible when planning group trips and events. Still, there are small, minimally invasive ways to make a lasting impact on the planet. Every little bit helps. Just as hotels’ sustainability efforts are a win-win for them, so is an organization’s work on greener travel activities.

About Groups360

Groups360 was created with a single purpose: to empower meeting planners by bringing innovation, transparency, and simplicity to the decades-old problem of group booking. The company’s integrated technology solution, GroupSync™, enables suppliers to distribute inventory, engage with planners and optimize group revenue. GroupSync also enables planners to search and shop for hotels worldwide, and to book rooms and space instantly, online or through a simplified RFP process. GroupSync is the first distribution channel to offer online bookings for both group hotel rooms and meeting rooms.

Groups360 has offices in Nashville, London and Singapore. Learn more at groups360.com.

Hal Hassalli
Vice President of Marketing
Groups360

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