Eco-tourism has mostly been of interest to specialist adventure travellers or spa-goers doing their bit to save the planet while saving their stressed-out bodies. Now, a new guest is getting accustomed to going green.
'Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa in Kota Kinabalu launched its green meetings package in April last year,' says Suzaini Ghani, director of sales and marketing at the resort in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. The package is the only one that is green-themed. With local, organic lunch buffets, naturally lit rooms and locally-made snacks, Ghani says the package was introduced to encourage MICE guests to 'take a leap forward'.
Interest in eco-themed packages from corporate clients across the Asia-Pacific is up, Ghani says. At home though, that leap has been more of a shuffle. 'The development of eco-awareness among Malaysians is growing, although vast improvements are needed for organisations to eventually shift their mindset towards sustainable meetings.'
That thinking is different in Australia. Droughts and bush fires have put concerns about water and energy saving in the forefront of people's minds, and the government's push to introduce a carbon tax makes the environment a subject relevant to everyone, especially big business, says Greg Brady, general manager of Sydney's Mercure hotel.
'Most businesses realise they have to make a contribution, even if it does cost a little extra,' Brady says. In 2008, Mercure Sydney pledged to offset all greenhouse gases produced through MICE meetings -up to 40 per cent of its business on weekdays- at no cost to those booking events.
Mercure takes care of carbon off-setting on behalf of its clients, but others see rising demand for hands-on involvement. The InterContinental Hotels Group offers business guests an opportunity to paint murals in local schools or clean beaches.
Singaporean business heads made a large donation to Dusit International staff at its Pattaya, Thailand property. The money went to Operation Smile, which treats facial deformities for local children and is a charity the hotel partners with. These activities mark a turn in thought. 'People are asking what can be done in the community,' says Simon Burgess, global sales director at Dusit International. 'Increasingly they want to leave some kind of a legacy.'