Tourism Professionals Are Ready To Lead Change
Annapolis, MD–Last week, the Maryland Tourism Council and the Maryland Tourism Education Foundation hosted the association’s annual Marketing Day which proved that “going green” is not just a buzz word but a specific culture, mindset, and change that Maryland’s tourism businesses are ready to embrace. The National Wildlife Visitor’s Center at the Patuxent Research Refuge was filled with professionals from Maryland’s hotels, restaurants, parks, agricultural commissions, attractions, and tourism services all engaged in in-depth discussions about how and why tourism businesses can be green leaders in the state.
Mary Jo McCulloch, president of MTC, welcomed the group with sobering updates on current legislation which threatens to cut Maryland’s tourism budget down to $4.9 million from previous years’ $6 million. The number of jobs that Maryland’s tourism businesses provide and the services they offer to travelers are integral to the state’s success in maintaining high employment rates as well as annual revenue which is only bound to increase with new green marketing initiatives for the industry.
Marketing Day provided attendees with long “to do” lists, ideas, online resources, and expanded networks that will allow them to create assumptions, plans, and actions toward implementing environmentally friendly business practices. From light bulbs to towels to paper suppliers and recycling, Maryland’s tourism professionals are now prepared to evaluate the policies of vendors and partners in order to improve the bottom line for their stakeholders while establishing themselves as authentic, green businesses.
Lynne Forsman, board member of the Green Meetings Industry Council and founder of Green Drinks Annapolis led a presentation that covered all facets of green business and enforced that going green makes social, environmental, and good business sense. Patrick Leary of Hospitality Partners shared his real world experience of opening the first LEED-certified hotel in Baltimore, the Fairfield Inn and Suites. He concentrated on making 100% green decisions from construction to floor mats to serving local foods and beers because of the long-term bottom line effects which also allows him to present the hotel as 100% green, a strong marketing statement. Harry Lewis, an attorney advisor in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics discussed many of the government and EPA’s plans and initiatives which have great potential to contribute to Maryland’s green hotels and tourist facilities. Tom Griffin, director and co-founder of Greener Results outlined the successful Virginia Green program that has spread a voluntary self-certification program through 250 of Virginia’s hotels and soon many of their visitor centers and tourist attractions.
The Virginia Green program inspired the state of Delaware and its tourism industry to take action, and Margot Amelia, Director of the Maryland Office of Tourism reported that there will soon be a similar program for Maryland’s tourism industry ensuring that the state’s travelers have access to authentic green facilities and services as they seek to visit places that match their own environmental ethics.
Effectively going green is a series of decisions and changes that businesses must make and that are all interrelated from facility construction to resources offered to short and long-term marketing plans. Andy Dumaine, founder of shrinkingfootprint.com and a sustainable tourism advocate for more than 14 years, presented the group with marketing strategies that are designed to create an experience for the traveler so that their beliefs and behaviors are supported by what they encounter in Maryland’s tourism. Knowing that travelers are seeking green and eco-savvy facilities and attractions, there is an enormous opportunity for Maryland’s tourism businesses to cater to an educated and demanding public. Green Marketing Day showed that they have accepted the challenge and tourists and travelers can expect positive change and increased environmental awareness and performance from businesses across the state.