Group travel gets its groove back
There’s no denying that it’s been a challenging year for the meetings and events industry, however restrictions and a new awareness of what responsible travel means following COVID-19 is seeing more businesses address duty of care and traveller wellbeing.
According to Andrew Yell, Business Leader, FCM Meetings & Events, the downtime has had its benefits including given clients time to reflect on their priorities and embrace a range of new initiatives and technology for safer group travel.
“There’s been a lot of positive change and naturally, the health and welfare of event delegates is top of mind more so than ever before,” said Mr Yell. “As a business we have had to adapt to the meetings and events space, to manage the added layer of complexity resulting from COVID-19.”
Mr Yell said small group events had become increasingly popular. “Instead of holding one large event in a major city, we have seen that many businesses and delegates are more comfortable with attending small group events in more intimate venues,” he said. “We are seeing either multiple small events in the one location, or 30 satellite events held in locations that are closer to home for delegates.”
Mr Yell explains that companies need to be more sensitive of the need for delegates to travel. “Choosing smaller regional venues can make people feel more comfortable, while also supporting the local economy and benefitting regional suppliers.”
Responsible travel is also about addressing environmental impacts and the rise in hybrid meetings and events, spurred on by COVID-19 travel restrictions, has had a two-fold benefit. Hosting nation-wide or global conferences, where delegates are not required to leave their own city has greatly reduced the travel and carbon footprint of large-scale events. “Professionally curated hybrid events have been embraced, as businesses realise they can get an equally effective outcome using technology to unite delegates wherever they are,” said Mr Yell.
“A range of exciting new technology tools can drive group engagement and create a dynamic event, with multiple groups all connected via video conferencing.”
FCM Meetings & Events’ tips for group travel and event logistics include:
- Plan and book travel requirements early. The industry is experiencing a surge in demand causing capacity issues. Venues are filling fast into 2022 and beyond.
- Lock in your logistics early, but also have a Plan B. With a contingency plan in place, FCM Meetings & Events can quickly turn an on-site event, into an on-line event if conditions change.
- Select suppliers that align with your business values and make sustainable and environmentally aware choices. When it comes to group travel the carbon footprint is much larger than a single traveller’s.
At the Illuminate 2021 virtual event, two very different organisations also shared some insights into how they are rising to the challenge of responsible and sustainable travel.
FCM banking client ANZ, identified three main priorities – a zero tolerance booking policy, increased focus on individual traveller risk and the consolidation of Duty of Care responsibilities. “We now have zero tolerance on booking outside approved channels, as COVID has brought home that we need 100% visibility,” said Jeff Elliott, ANZ’s Environmental Sustainability Change Lead. “We also have a tiered risk system built into our booking system, which only allows permissible travel.”
To address the environmental impact of travel, ANZ is implementing staff education and a new carbon offset program. “And we also align ourselves with suppliers who hold similar values and meet our supplier code of practice,” said Mr Elliott.
One FCM Meeting & Events’ supplier who has been recognised many times for being a pioneer in sustainability for the accommodation sector is Accor. Renae Trimble, Chief Commercial Officer at Accor said that two key company-wide priorities are to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and to eliminate all guest-related single use plastics by 2022. Accor has already removed thousands of plastic items and engaged the supplier of their branded pens to provide them without individual plastic wrapping - avoiding around 20 million plastic pen wrappers per year.