During my 14 years of serving as the editor of magazines geared toward the meetings and events industry, I’ve seen a lot of trends. One trend that seems to be here to stay—and it should be—is making sure venues, destinations and gatherings are respectful to the environment and the animals that also occupy our planet.
It started with organic soaps, recycling bottles, water conservation and signs urging guests to turn out the lights before leaving the room. Today, environmentally conscious hoteliers are employing conservation strategies that reach into every corner of their properties. Driven by technology and the demands of environmentally conscious guests and meeting and event planners, these initiatives have sharply reduced waste, conserved resources, saved money and educated guests to the importance of environmental efforts.
“For many hotels, responsibility for the lands and waterways surrounding the property has become a commitment and an increasingly complex challenge,” says Mike Schugt, president of Teneo Hospitality Group, which represents 300+ independent and luxury branded hotels, resorts and destination management companies (DMCs). “We are seeing many creative approaches to managing land and water resources, and a trend towards educating guests regarding wildlife and land preservation.”
Many hotels have implemented impressive programs to save water and conserve energy inside the building, but mountain properties also must find effective ways to protect and honor the great outdoors.
The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough, Montana comprises 37,000 acres of hills, woodlands and rivers, ideal for outdoor activities and an array of team-building and special adventure programs. The resort offers luxury safari-style campgrounds on land that must be responsibly managed, plus several rivers run through the property including the Blackfoot, which is an angler’s and rafter’s paradise. Thanks to The Resort at Paws Up uniting efforts with local ranchers, hoteliers, conservationists and state and federal wildlife agencies, the waterways are as clear and brimming with trout.
The staff at Sonnenalp Hotel in Vail, Colorado regularly volunteers to clean the nearby Eagle River, local highways and mountain bike trails. The resort also helps employees to reduce their carbon footprint by providing bus passes, car pool coordination and housing within walking distance of the hotel.
Interacting with Animals
Part of being respectful to the environment is honoring the fact that humans aren’t the only species on the Earth. Groups and individuals guests staying at the Garden of the Gods Collection in Colorado Springs, Colorado can experience the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, learning about the history, biology and conservation of wolves, coyotes, foxes, and the environmental challenges they face. The program, supervised by a trained wolf handler, can end with a group howl, symbolizing oneness with nature and its preservation. Garden of the Gods Collection also offers groups a day of discovery at the 200-acre Elk Glade Ranch. Through the science of equine therapy, participants ride horses and drive cattle to gain courage and confidence.
The Resort at Paws Up also is a working ranch, offering an equestrian program where guests, led by an experienced cowboy, help with an actual cattle drive. These equestrian programs, situated in nature versus a more mechanized or artificial environment, are growing in popularity as team-building efforts and exercises in enhanced communication. For less experienced riders, activities can involve approaching, grooming and walking the horses. Participants quickly learn how their body language, tone of voice and mannerisms impact interactions and team success.