Bringing it Back to your Roots – How Destinations Can Work with Nature to Attract New Business

By: Rosie Ashman, IMEX Group

For the IMEX Group’s 2020 Talking Point, we are exploring Nature: what we can do for nature and what nature can do for us. After a turning-point year featuring environmental activism on a scale never seen before, it’s time for the meetings and events industry to consider our role in this environmentally-conscious age.

Suppliers have noted an increase in RFP language that focuses on sustainability and nature; whether it’s something as simple as a request for natural light or a commitment to sustainable waste management systems, some planners are ready to go all-in when it comes to nature-infused meetings.

Plenty of destinations are already using their nature ‘assets’ to inspire and direct their marketing strategy, particularly mid-sized cities showcasing the uniqueness of their location. Others are tapping into community history and folklore by sharing stories from those who hold wisdom about the land, water and frequently, food.

Although it’s a wonderful idea to take advantage of the natural features of your destination, IMEX believes we must equally show respect for nature by giving back. Read on to see how embracing nature can create added value on all fronts.

What nature can do for you

It’s your USP

The Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Monument Valley. These are just a few examples of the natural attractions people travel miles to see in person. Does your destination have any unique natural features you can highlight as a value-add to visitors? Or does it have any human-made attractions that celebrate or leverage the principles of nature in their design ethos?

Our trade shows are held in Las Vegas and Frankfurt, and both locations provide opportunities to escape the urban environment and immerse yourself in nature. Red Rock Canyon is only a 30-minute drive from the Las Vegas strip, and Frankfurt is surrounded by a unique green belt of gardens, parks and forest. While of course, the primary reason to visit IMEX is to take part in the show, there’s value in encouraging visitors to get outdoors and visit these sites! Ever wanted to see some of the clearest skies and brightest stars on the planet? Head for the Vegas hills.

It inspires design

Some of the most iconic buildings in the world are designed using biophilic principles, aiming to connect humans to nature. Natural light, greenery and soft shapes are often found in our human-made surroundings – including convention centres! Nature-inspired design isn’t just visually pleasing, it can literally change your mood. Studies have shown biophilic design can reduce blood pressure and heart rate, while increasing efficiency.

The Vancouver Convention Centre demonstrates some ways to bring the outdoors inside to create an environment primed for productivity. Located in the heart of Vancouver, the convention centre takes advantage of the spectacular views surrounding it: mountains, ocean and parks. The centre also makes use of natural light and ventilation to keep visitors’ body clocks in check. All of these nature-inspired features take centre stage in the convention centre’s promotion, helping planners recognise their green credentials.

It creates a sense of place

How do you give visitors a flavour of your destination when they may only travel from airport to hotel to convention centre, and back? Natural surroundings, local culture and cuisine are unique to your destination, and by including them in your meetings strategy they make the visitor experience even more memorable.

The Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland uses this strategy when sourcing ingredients for food and beverage. With their very own farm consisting of livestock, seasonal greens, herbs, veggies, eggs and honey, they have taken local ingredients to a whole new level. Due to the farm’s close proximity to the centre visitors can experience it first-hand, allowing them to enjoy and understand the whole journey from farm to plate.

What you can do for nature

Protect it

Many destinations have certain sustainability causes close to their hearts, and it’s the job of DMOs to connect meeting planners with the charities and organisations to help them achieve their CSR goals.

Grand Rapids are doing a great job by encouraging visitors to preserve the natural landscape through CSR projects. The city is aiming to establish a 40% tree canopy with the help of volunteers. This helps to restore the natural environment and educate visitors on the role trees play in our ecosystem and in human health.

Conserve it

Consider the ways you can help conserve natural resources. Events have a reputation for being one of the most wasteful industries, but advances in the materials used in exhibitions and innovative advancements in waste management are changing this.

The Greater Columbus Convention Center uses bio-based or biodegradable products in their service ware, and have single-stream recycling to encourage visitors to the centre to recycle materials that can be reused, instead of sending them to landfill. Likewise, the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland has adopted a waste conversion system to convert wasted food to energy, natural gas, electricity and soil nutrients. A convention centre that already has the infrastructure to make meetings greener is a bonus for meeting planners.

Appreciate it

Providing opportunities to take meetings outdoors creates a new appreciation for nature. Whether it’s through alfresco meeting space or outdoor networking activities, taking visitors to a natural environment can help them think more creatively and be more receptive to ideas.

The David L Lawrence convention centre has several outdoor spaces where meetings and events can take place, and is home to many native plant species to maintain the biodiversity of the area. Alternatively, if you are lucky enough to have the resources, encourage visitors to your destination to embrace the outdoors, whether it’s walking, biking or, as is the tradition in Japan, forest bathing!

You can find all of these destinations and many more at our two trade shows: IMEX America and IMEX in Frankfurt. For more information, click here.

About Rosie:

Rosie Ashman is Digital & Content Marketing Executive for the IMEX Group. Her role focusses on many aspects of marketing, but primarily involves social media and creating content. You can connect with the IMEX Group on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.