Friday, 30 March 2007

Boston Green Tourism Positions City as Eco-Friendly Meetings Destination

By Glenn Hasek
10/11/2006

BOSTON—Formed a year ago as an outgrowth of the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Conventions (CERC), Boston Green Tourism (BGT) is working to position America’s Walking City as the place to go to find green hotels and meeting facilities. The organization already has 76 active members including hoteliers, restaurateurs, vendors, and convention center and government officials.

“It is a three-year project,” says Dan Ruben, executive director of BGT, who as executive director of CERC led efforts to green America’s two political conventions in 2004.

The goals of BGT are four-fold:

• Establish Greater Boston as a preeminent destination for environment-minded visitors by complementing the area’s beauty, natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities with a full array of environmentally friendly visitor services.
• Boost Greater Boston’s convention and tourism business by promoting the area’s unique environmental advantages, accomplishments and innovations.
• Protect the environment by improving the environmental performance of Greater Boston’s visitor industry and modeling its achievements for others to emulate.
• Showcase the environmental best practices adopted by Boston’s commercial and governmental institutions to the public and media.

Thirty-seven hotels now participate in BGT. One of the goals of the organization is to get as many Boston area hotels as possible to participate in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program or Green Seal. Hotels participating in Energy Star or Green Seal benefit from reduced energy, water and waste costs, improved indoor air quality and public relations exposure. Numerous area hotels are currently Energy Star rated, including The Lenox Hotel, Jurys Boston Hotel, Irving House at Harvard, and Comfort Inn & Suites. Several more will earn the label by spring 2007.

BGT markets hotels that have achieved or are moving towards the Energy Star label or certification from Green Seal’s program for lodging properties. Its Lodging Committee helps hoteliers interested in certification by scheduling meetings with Energy Star representatives and other experts, sharing information about green products and services, guiding members through the certification process, offering green hotel tours, and discussing successes and lessons learned.

Demand for Green Facilities Increases

Ruben says meeting planners are beginning to ask for green facilities—leisure travelers, too. Meeting planners may not know always know what distinguishes a hotel as a green hotel and BGT is trying to change that. The Energy Star and Green Seal programs are well known programs that planners recognize.

“We are attracting meeting planners,” Ruben says. “We are talking to environment-oriented organizations. The environmental field is enormous. It is critical that large groups choose green hotels and convention centers. It is also important for the public to demand green facilities.”

BGT is also working with the Chefs Collaborative and the Sharon, Mass.-based Green Restaurant Assn. (GRA) to encourage Greater Boston food establishments to become GRA-certified. BGT and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection recently were awarded a grant to support waste reduction and recycling programs, with an emphasis on food waste, at Massachusetts convention centers and hotels.

Already, the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC) has attracted one green event in 2008—the U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild conference. Their new recycling program was an important component of their application. The conference will attract 11,000 to 15,000 attendees. Many of those attendees will stay in Boston’s green hotels.

Len Czarnecki, hotel manager at the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston, says his hotel has been a member of BGT for more than a year now. He values the educational opportunities that BGT meetings provide. Members share best practices and guest speakers are brought in to share ideas. Czarnecki says the time is right for an organization such as BGT.

“Many organizations that do travel and put on meetings are seeking out venues with sustainable programs,” he says. “An increasing number of RFPs are submitted with addendums with green checklists. Some groups require green practices. That is something we did not see 18 months ago.”

Even though BGT’s staff is small—only Ruben’s position is a paid position—it has been growing thanks to volunteer participation. The BGT Steering Committee meets every several months. The Lodging Committee meets every six to eight weeks. The next Lodging Committee meeting will be November 9 from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Press article
Boston Green Tourism

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