Fairmont asks for a dollar, offers the ocean

Next month, look for something new coming from kitchens across the Fairmont chain. Chefs at these upscale properties will be showing off their skills not only with seafood but the sustainable variety. So, when you cut into your fish of choice, you’ll be experiencing both culinary and environmental bliss. Throughout April, Fairmont will be inviting guests in its dining rooms do donate merely $1 to the National Geographic Society to support ocean conservation and other sea wildlife initiatives.

Seriously, only $1. Is that too much to ask?

I’ve been a big fan of Fairmont’s corporate social responsibility initiatives for a while, and since I enjoy seafood, I’m particularly fond of this latest measure. The move will help to preserve aquatic habitats without detracting from your dining experience – something we used to call a “win-win” back in my consulting days]. If you aren’t staying at a Fairmont, find one near your home and dash off for a great meal.

And please kick in the extra buck.

Seven trends that will change business travel

Obviously, the recession is changing the travel business. You’ve heard it all before – and if you’ve flow or stayed in a hotel lately, you’ve undoubtedly seen it. Sometimes, the big issue of the day can mask others that will be important down the road. Travel industry research firm PhoCusWright has identified seven trends in the travel business that you’ll want to keep an eye on. These are the factors that will have a long and profound effect on the business of getting suit-clad travelers from Point A to Point B. And, let’s face it: these are the people who matter most to travel and hospitality businesses.

“We have identified seven essential trends with the potential to shake corporate travel management to its core,” said Susan Steinbrink, PhoCusWright‘s senior research and corporate market analyst. “Ranging from the environment to videoconferencing, supply chain management, mobile services and more, these trends are poised to impact the amount spent on travel, alter corporate purchasing priorities and touch every player in the corporate travel landscape, including suppliers, TMCs, technology providers, credit card companies, and of course the corporate traveler.”

1. Managing the “Triple Bottom Line”
The “bottom line” is easy enough to understand: that’s the profit a company earns for all its hard work. But, two more bottom lines have entered the corporate lexicon, involving the environmental and social implications of how they operate. With more businesses committing to corporate social responsibility – and even hiring professionals to plan and manage these efforts – expect to see businesses that send their employees on the road to start considering the environmental effects of doing so. After payroll, travel and expense (T&E) is the second largest controllable expense in the business world, and air travel is responsible for 7 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. This is an area ripe for corporate action.

2. Integrated travel booking and expense management
Webs of partnerships have arisen, making it difficult for corporate travel buyers to get a single view of where and how travel dollars are being spent. Acquisitions and alliances are reshaping the booking business and will ultimately deliver a seamless solution for tracking and managing pre-trip spending through post-trip reconciliation and evaluation. With every budget dollar being watched closely, this is a natural result in an expense-sensitive business climate.

3. Tracking the travel supply chain
Businesses investing in travel for their employees are watching the data more closely, a trend that will only gain momentum, according to PhoCusWright. Buyers will start to watch every aspect of supplier relationships, looking for ways to increase collaboration and reduce costs. Metrics will reign supreme, as decisions that can be quantified can make a company’s cash more productive. And, incentives and penalties for expense management can be brought to bear on employees.

4. Switch from the trip to the traveler
An abundance of data will cause travel companies to look past the transaction, which has been their major focus to date. A wealth of information available now enables travel suppliers to examine consumer behavior more closely, providing insights that can lead to future opportunities to maximize revenue (a situation that these companies need desperately right now). As airlines, hotels and other travel companies learn more about you, they can do a better job of selling to you, ultimately leading to better financial performance (and possibly increased traveler satisfaction).

5. On your devices
Seventy percent of business travelers are using internet-enabled handheld devices, making mobile a promising channel for both sales and customer interaction. Enhanced technology will improve multimedia over the device-driven internet and improve payment systems. These developments will reshape how the traveler interacts with the service provider, challenging existing habits, loyalties and tolerances.

6. Skip the trip
Expense management has pushed travel spending downward this year, and memories of this recession won’t fade easily. Alternatives to travel – including conference calls and video conferencing – are increasing in popularity and should continue to erode travel spending.

7. Little guys become big players
Smaller and medium-sized businesses spend plenty of money on travel, but they tend to lack the resources to centralize the purchasing and management process. As they seek to control travel expenses, many will turn to hosted and integrated travel booking and reporting systems to help them find inefficiencies and save some cash. As this happens, the opacity of this sector will melt away, giving travel companies a better view of how to service this high-value segment of the market.

A&K and Fairmont Earth Hour ideas will have tangible results

Earth Hour is on Saturday, March 28 at 8:30 PM. The hospitality and travel industry seems to have embraced this commitment to environmentalism. There are plenty of noteworthy initiatives out there intended to show support for a planet that could probably use our help. Of course, some are more interesting than others. I’m pretty interested in what’s going on at Abercrombie & Kent and Fairmont.

Upscale travel firm A&K is taking action at each of its 62 offices around the world. Outdoor signs will be turned off, and only emergency lighting will be used indoors. This will save 620 light-hours of electricity. And, they’re going to shut off the air conditioning for 90 minutes before the end of the work day, lowering power consumption for this period by 18 percent.

The company is also turning its corporate social responsibility gaze outward. Sanctuary Camps & Lodges are going to host stargazing parties, thanks to the dark skies. They are also planning to turn off generators and cut power consumption by 50 percent for Earth Hour (at 13 properties in Africa).

A&K’s Sun Boat III and Sun Boat IV will turn off their generators, as well, operating only with emergency lighting. Guests will be able to enjoy the bright stars – because of the desert air – in Upper Egypt. Eclipse in the Galapagos will host a presentation on the Sun Deck and reduce the use of power by 30 percent.And, the company hopes that Earth Hour goodwill is contagious. Employees have pledged to save 2,960 light-hours, and A&K’s suppliers, including restaurants and hotels, have been encouraged to support Earth Hour, with hundreds agreeing to do so.

I’m also pretty impressed with what Fairmont is doing for Earth Hour (which you can track via Twitter). This company’s made it a habit to stay out in front of the market when it comes to corporate social responsibility, and it’s ready to play from Dallas to Dubai – at all 56 properties. In addition to its usual environmentally sound initiatives, some Fairmont properties are taking specific, unique action.

At the Fairmont St. Andrews, guests can choose at check-in the power they want to use: nuclear, solar or wind. They’ll also receive compact fluorescent light bulbs. But, this is just the beginning. If you decide to sweat it out in the gym’s spin class, the energy you create will be converted to kilowatt hours to show just how much power you produce. The class is sponsored to provide a cash donation to the World Wildlife Fund. Kids will be able to plant their own saplings. The initiatives at the St. Andrews property are designed to have lasting results.

In Alberta, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise will light up its side of the lake with ice luminaries. Guests will be invited to gather around a fire and enjoy some old-fashioned storytelling under the stars. This hotel is committed to Earth Hour year-round, with 50 percent of its power coming from a mix of wind and run-of-river electricity generation.

Over in Kenya, at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, the lantern-lit Boma will be a place for guests to gather and listen to a local naturalist discuss conservation and the environment – the “Maasai” way. It won’t be just lectures, though, as Maasai dancers will provide entertainment.

The Fairmont Zanzibar, Tanzania will celebrate Earth Hour for the entire day. Guests will be invited to sail on historical dhows on clear Indian Ocean waters. Chef Ric and his team will use charcoal grills to prepare seafood on the beach, delighting palates without disrupting the environment.

Are you doing anything for Earth Hour? Let me know at tom.johansmeyer [at] weblogsinc.com or http://twitter.com/tjohansmeyer.

Ecotourism comes to Cambodia

Mountain bikers can reclaim wilderness that once belonged to illegal loggers and poachers. Hidden in the foothills of Cambodia‘s Cardamom Mountains, the village of Chi Pat is now home to a mountain biking experience that is unparalleled in trail and impact.

This new program is the result of cooperation among Wildlife Alliance (formerly known as Wild Aid), Asia Adventures (a Cambodia-based adventure travel company) and the villagers of Chi Pat. Off-road cycling tourists are expected to bring a sustainable source of income to the villagers while exposing guests to some of the world’s last remaining virgin wilderness.

Chi Pat is two hours from Phnom Penh by boat and is portal to old logging routes, undulating trails and streams and shallow rivers. Ride through bamboo thicket, rain forest and hills while gazing upon waterfalls, bat caves and waterfalls. A lucky few will see rare wildlife, such as elephants.

Simply by mountain biking in Chi Pat, you can help the villagers reclaim their home from years of abuse by illicit tree-choppers and hunters. Merely enjoying yourself has never been so powerful.


[Photos thanks to Asia Adventures]