Wondering how to make green meetings and mindfulness programs more practical? Here’s a simple way to promote sustainability and give your hotel a unique edge.
The growing trend of sustainability and green meetings has really fuelled my enthusiasm. It has caused me to advocate this concept of thinking globally and acting locally more proactively. I was fortunate enough to be raised by parents who were mindful of the environment and how we utilized our resources, but, of course, once I got into the luxury hotel niche, sustainability wasn’t a common topic.
Thankfully, all this is changing.
Running one of the most prominent luxury hotels in Bangkok, Thailand, comes with high expectations. And as consumer needs and behaviors continue to shift and our desire to become more mindful of our bodies and environment increases, those expectations rise even more.
The guests we welcome want to have that unforgettable experience. The community around us wants to feel like an establishment, such as the Mandarin Oriental, cares about their progress and well-being. As a manager, I feel I must make sure my guests experience the best of the best, but not at the expense of the local community around me.
If you know anything about Bangkok (or Thailand in general), you know it’s a marvelous location with an incredible culture. Unfortunately, there is a plastic crisis going on. This is one of the key topics I’ve been silently working on within our property to ensure that we, as a hotel, do our part to help end this crisis. We still have a long way to go, but so far so good.
Sustainability does not have to cancel out luxury
Finding the link between personal desires and green living in the luxury market.
When thinking about how to influence a significant behavioral shift as a human race for the betterment of our planet and how to conserve our resources, the only way to create a win-win situation long-term is to find the overlap between our desires and making the right choices for our communities and environment.
It’s about thinking of “me” and “us” at the same time.
After all, we all know what needs to be done to create a more eco-friendly planet, but if that goal doesn’t align with personal desires and preferences, it won’t be easy making a permanent change. Sustainability does not have to cancel out luxury and unforgettable experiences.
Thinking about “me” does not have to exclude “you” and “our planet.” As the most intelligent species on this planet, we can be able to find that point of alignment, and it is now becoming of paramount importance that we do (unless we want to end up like the dinosaurs)!
Let me see if I can simplify this understanding even more.
I realized that for all staff members and all important stakeholders to buy into being more eco-friendly, they all needed to have a positive emotional attachment to this objective. It wasn’t enough to issue a declaration stating we must all stop using plastic. That would have hardly helped create a sustainable solution. Instead, we found ways to directly tie in the benefits of becoming a plastic-free hotel with our own desires. In so doing, both the hotel staff and the guests embraced these changes more proactively, and they did (and still do) their part to keep the movement alive.
Finding that link between what you want (i.e., your hotel’s objectives, the desires of your guests and employees) and doing the right thing is ultimately the best way to ensure that any efforts made toward a more sustainable hotel will stick.
Our initiatives have been well received by all stakeholders and have even attracted the interest of other foreign establishments in Bangkok. However, something else started growing out of these initiatives that we’ve been implementing at our hotel: The increasing popularity of Green Meetings and Events.
What are Green Meetings?
Different people will give you different definitions. Since it’s such a new concept, there is no rigid terminology around it. I believe the best you can do is come up with your own sound definition. But here’s how I approach this concept:
I look at a green meeting as a holistic experience. It’s an opportunity for me to serve my guest and run my business while respecting the natural balance of the ecosystem we all coexist in. I strive to find ways to experience and enjoy luxury in a responsible, mindful and holistic way. My main intention is to produce beneficial consequences to the people and the planet rather than the detrimental ones that the luxury world is notoriously known for.
Here at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, we’ve implemented green meetings to drive beneficial results to all participants during their time with us. Our concept of green meetings is two-fold.
- The well-being of the individual.
- The protection of natural resources and the enhancement of the community.
When it comes to the individual, we focus on 5 main dimensions:
By offering this concept to our meeting participants, we help foster the idea of refreshed, focused productivity that ultimately leads to greater success.
When it comes to sustainability, our environment, and our community, we highlight and focus on materials, offerings, and innovative ways that can create positive connections between the environment and the business.
We do our best to demonstrate to our clients the existing link between their mind, bodies, environment, and the goals they want to reach.
We’ve been able to do this through various creative incentives. For example, we introduced mindful cocktail receptions, team building challenges, and we emphasize the importance of local, fresh, and organic menus that nourish the mind and body. This is the link we found to work best because it caters to the needs of an individual, a community, and the planet as a whole.
On the one side of the spectrum, we’ve discovered that by linking mindfulness and sustainability we can continue to provide luxurious, unforgettable experiences and still do our part to enhance and preserve natural resources with the full support of our participants, guests, employees, and all other stakeholders.
On the other side of the spectrum, wellness places emphasis on the movement and flow of your body. It encourages calming your mind, which as we all know is essential to increasing productivity. Our in-house specialists tailor-make yoga and stretching sessions during breakouts and guide participants through meditation. They also offer digital wellness tips in the relaxation zone.
Ever since we started offering this to our clients, we’ve seen some incredible shifts. That includes internally (within the staff), and externally, with our guests. This has led to me share with fellow hoteliers and anyone else interested in taking care of our planet and our people some of the insights I got (and am getting) as I work toward making Mandarin Oriental a “responsible” luxury hotel (if at all there is such a concept).
Green meetings, as we implement them at Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, are meant to drive results at a more holistic level. We have stopped trying to focus on just one aspect. Instead, we’ve started investing our efforts, resources, and intelligence on finding ways to deal with an entire ecosystem creatively.
This is, of course, very unconventional. Perhaps if anyone had told me there would have come a time where sustainable luxury would become the new standard to aim for, I’d have had a hard time believing it.
But all you have to do is go on social media and listen…
Our guests want to live in a healthy, harmonious, and thriving world. They want to travel and stay in luxurious hotels that help foster a brighter future, not destroy it! They want to take vacations, attend meetings, and take part in retreats that leave them feeling transformed and invigorated.
As industry experts and luxury hoteliers, it is our obligation to do everything we can to make sure we build a bridge that enables us to continue thriving both as a business, and as people living on this beautiful planet.
Now I’d like to hear your thoughts. How are you defining and experimenting with green meetings at your hotel?