Managing Director of the GDS Movement, Guy Bigwood, shares insights on the discussion of sustainable tourism and events from Destination Coventry’s first annual conference.
Sustainable tourism and events were key focus areas at Destination Coventry’s first annual tourism conference, helping to kickstart ideas towards cultivating a positive future for Coventry and Warwickshire’s visitor economy.
Hosted at Coventry’s Manufacturing Technology Centre back in September, the event drew an audience of over 100 leaders across Coventry and Warwickshire’s hospitality and tourism sectors to take part in the conversation led by Chief Executive of the Global Destination Sustainability Movement (GDSM), Guy Bigwood.
Delivering award-winning consulting services focused on helping the events industry scale up their sustainability programmes and operational practices, Guy has now worked with over 90 DMOs and NTOs to help them implement and communicate their regenerative tourism and events strategies: “Climate change is and will increasingly affect our personal and professional lives. The business case for sustainability is now clear: to become a successful company, organisation, or destination, you must have a sustainability strategy and effective operational plan.
“The conversation has now moved on for tourism decision-makers to the practicalities of how to make sustainable tourism work, and how we can speed-up the transition to a more sustainable visitor economy.”
With the help of leaders from Conference Care, Warwick Conferences, and Coventry City Council, the key panel discussion of the conference opened the conversation for possible steps that destinations and suppliers could take to make tourism environmentally and economically sustainable.
“To mainstream better environmental and social practices, we need to make sustainability simpler and more collaborative,” said Guy. “A focus on sustainability as a competitive edge often works to kick start an organisation’s journey. But ultimately, if we are going to achieve net zero carbon emissions and waste, we have to work together as an industry to get there. A partnership across destinations can produce a collaborative advantage and deliver a far greater positive impact to the businesses.
“DMOs such as Destination Coventry are well placed to align to the city’s agenda and can potentially catalyse dynamic change across the tourism and events industry. By working with the council to facilitate the development of a destination’s sustainability strategy, DMOs can promote the proper sustainability credentials and ensure that tourism is governed properly to leave a positive impact on the area.”
The question of how much funding is required for DMOs to supplement the scaling up of sustainable actions in the events industry was also addressed at the panel, with discussions centred on the business case for sustainability from a supplier side and how market changes can be properly monitored.
Touching on the topic, Guy explained that while practical action can be taken without major outlays, a war for talent and a scarcity of human resources in the industry may instead be a heightened cause of pressure for event professionals to help cement a sustainable future for tourism sectors: “Events agencies are increasingly making sustainability mandatory as part of their procurement process and increasingly including performance clauses in their supplier contracts. But while this is a much needed and important step, it has also created problems for the supply chain.
“Many clients now demand additional work to implement the sustainability actions and there is a growing discussion about whether these works need to be paid. Likewise, all the stats are telling us that delegates do care about a sustainable future, and they want to see that organisers are doing the right thing at the events they attend.
“The ultimate goal of the conference is to ensure delegates will leave the session armed with some new ideas and eager to see how these can be implemented in their businesses. But perhaps most importantly, we are looking to catalyse thinking about how local stakeholders can collaborate to make Coventry one of the UK’s leading sustainable destinations.”
“A focus on competitive sustainability often works to kick start an organisation’s journey. But if we are going to achieve net zero carbon emissions and waste, we have to work together as an industry to get there.”