You Are What You 'Meet:' Attending Business Conferences Shouldn't Have to Mean a Break from Healthy

By Bruce Fears President, ARAMARK Harrison Lodging | February 20, 2010

Up until recently, attending a business conference may have also meant long sedentary periods of physical inactivity-sitting in airports, sitting on planes and even more sitting in conference room meetings. The dining experience, often didn't work to enhance healthfulness, consisting of high-calorie snacks and meals that may have sustained participants' energy levels, but didn't necessarily sustain their waist lines.

The recent trend toward the greening of the conference center and hotel industry has also come to include the 'greening of guests.' Conference centers are taking a holistic approach to sustaining the environment that not only involves incorporating environmentally friendly paper products, building and cleaning materials, and lighting and landscaping, but also a commitment to providing the highest quality foods that sustain a healthy lifestyle and help the planet.

Minimizing our Impact

During the last 10 years, Aramark Harrison Lodging (AHL) has worked to develop its Planet EVERgreen official "greening" program. As AHL's vice president of sustainability and environmental education, Karen Wittig's goal is to communicate a mission of sound environmental practices and healthy living that guests will take home with them.

"In our conference centers, we continue to develop our sustainable cuisine program that serves only seafood species not currently under threat of extinction and produce and foods grown and raised without pesticides or chemical fertilizers," Wittig said. "By purchasing organic and sustainable products, the program minimizes waste and the impact on the environment."

Last year, The Rainbow Room at Lake Powell Resorts and Marina, located on the Utah/Arizona border, introduced a prix-fixe sustainable menu. It serves guests seafood chosen from Monterey Bay's "best choice" National Seafood Guide, including farm-raised striped bass and blue cornmeal dusted farm-raised trout, as well as Hearst Ranch grass-fed beef.

Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.