Actionable Sustainability in Incentive Travel: A Turkish Example
This article was first shared in SITE Global’s Motivate Newsletter of December 2018.
By Eda Özden Günyüz, CITP
The conversation on sustainability in emerging markets inevitably morphs into one about economic growth, resources, bureaucracy and responsibility. So with such challenges in mind, how can MICE professionals in the developing world take action – and leadership – on the topic of sustainability?
Our world, the one of a developing economy, often sees the topic of sustainability as a luxury that we cannot afford. Our countries put economic growth and its citizens’ financial welfare ahead of concerns for environment. While this sounds cynical and upsetting, we need to remember that some of the biggest contributors to climate change are the so-called first world countries themselves. MICE professionals, on the other hand, tend to have a more globalist and holistic point of view and genuinely want to make a difference. Yet we remain constrained by the resources offered and are skeptical of what our governments do.
So in this debacle, we try to find creative ways of providing net gains for our destinations and communities while offering the quality of service that is expected from our Fortune 500 clients. While we cannot guarantee that event waste is being truly recycled, however diligent we are about our procurement policies, we are able to control the amount of waste by offering clients free event applications to eliminate printing.
Another massively impactful way we try to help the environment is by strongly encouraging our clients to produce their materials in the destination and use local A/V & decorations to avoid shipping fees and lower costs. We try to provide additional income to local entrepreneurs by offering their hand-made goods as gifts, as opposed to mass produced items. We also offer village lunches in the countryside, while visiting our many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, to create direct cash flows to the traditional ways of life, preserve our culture and communities and fight damaging immigration to our already congested cities. Even smaller actions like offering locally produced wines and spirits at our events is a powerful way to support our farmers.
The Incentive Travel industry is in an especially good position to be a change leader, as younger audiences desire transformative experiences that will enrich their souls. A trip to a modern art museum in the poorest city of Turkey, which is attempting to create handicraft jobs for the local women and introduce employment in hospitality as an industry, is an experience that no one could forget. (For more information visit www.baksimuseum.org).
As these anecdotes exemplify, the topic of sustainability in the emerging world goes beyond the norms of recycling or green events. It begets a much larger conversation about the price paid for economic growth and forsaken cultural traditions. Only by supporting sustainable growth are we able to make a difference.
About the Author:
Eda Özden Günyüz is Director of Business Development at MEP, a Destination Business Solutions Company based in Istanbul, Turkey. She heads MEP’s sales & marketing team and is in charge of all CRM efforts as well as Global Accounts and Brand Management. Having embraced the ‘travel bug’ early on and embodying the passionate aspirations of the Millennial generation, Eda has focused her career on digital and creative mediums for promoting her destination and company. She’s an ardent supporter of SITE, which was instrumental in her joining the industry. Eda is one of the European Directors on the SITE International Board and is also on the board of SITE Turkey.