n the evening prior to the grand event, Ken Brix went off for a swim. This man, who as Customer Development Executive is responsible for the trendy Copenhagen event location Øksnehallen and whom most of his colleagues owing to his splendid beard call 'The Viking', is extremely fond of swimming in the city's harbor basin. Why? Because he can, that's why. For the past 15 years, the waters surrounding Copenhagen have been so clean that anybody can do a few lengths at the end of a work day without any health worries at all. And that's why Ken Brix uses every opportunity to take a swim in Copenhagen's port – even if he on the next day is host to the TUT 2018 (Tomorrows Urban Travel Conference).
In early October of this year, almost 400 delegates from ten countries travelled to the TUT 2018 in the Øksnehallen to discuss sustainability and tourism and to get a first-hand impression of how serious the Danes take this issue. TUT and Øksnehallen had agreed upon nine measures to assure sustainability of the conference, among these banning water bottles and using rainwater for flushing toilets. TUT organizers even went so far as to compensate for the CO2 emission of the keynote speakers traveling here from New Zealand and California. Hats off! or to put it more appropriately Hatten af!, as they say in Denmark, to this really serious commitment. Something that really helps is of course the fact that Denmark and above all its capital Copenhagen have already for many years been pioneers when it comes to sustainability issues. In appreciation of its efforts, Copenhagen had been chosen European Green Capital 2014. There are plans to further develop the bikeway network currently already extending over more than 400 kilometers. 2016 was the first year there were more bicycles than automobiles cruising Copenhagen's roads and alleys, and in May 2018, Greenpeace identified Copenhagen as the city with the cleanest transport concept across Europe.
The waters surrounding Copenhagen are clean. People can go for a swim. PHOTO: WONDERFUL COPENHAGEN, MARTIN HEIB
KAPAZITÄTEN WACHSEN DEUTLICH
Mit 115 Konferenzen und insgesamt rund 62.000 Teilnehmern liegt Kopenhagen auf dem 11. Rang der weltweit führenden Konferenzdestinationen, so der aktuelle ICCA-Report 2017. In Skandinavien ist Kopenhagen nach wie vor die Nummer eins. Auch die meisten Konferenzkapazitäten befinden sich in der dänischen Hauptstadt: 219 Venues bieten derzeit Räumlichkeiten für insgesamt mehr als 157.400 Delegierte. Spätestens 2020 sollen weitere Kapazitäten dazu kommen: Das Bella Center Copenhagen, schon heute das größte Kongresszentrum in Skandinavien, plant eine Erweiterung um 14.000 qm, unter anderem durch den Bau einer neuen Kongresshalle mit 7.000 Sitzplätzen. Kontinuierlich wächst auch die Anzahl der Übernachtungen von MICE-Gästen in Kopenhagen – von gut 2,5 Millionen im Jahr 2012 auf knapp 2,7 Millionen (erwartet) im Jahr 2018. Noch deutlicher soll in den kommenden Jahren die Hotelkapazität wachsen: Bis zum Jahr 2021 um satte 40 Prozent auf dann 30.000 Zimmer. www.visitcopenhagen.com
Plans are to have established Copenhagen as the world's first CO2-neutral metropolis by 2025, and from 2030, the registration of new automobiles in Denmark will be restricted to e-cars. But it's not only the really big issues such as the quality of water and air or saving energy in general that the almost six million Danes are worried about, there are numerous small-scale initiatives and activities on-going, such as subsidized cooperations to make best use of expired foods. And even Copenhagen's town hall is home to beehive colonies. All this eco-power also drives industries such as tourism and MICE, and both sectors increasingly stimulate each other as well.
"Tourism must be part of the solution, instead of the problem," said Mikkel Sander, Wonderful Copenhagen's Sustainability Project Manager. Since November 1 of this year, the DMO (Destination Marketing Organization) has been pursuing a new strategy for sustainable tourism which is for the first time based on the United Nations' 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). The objective stated in the strategy paper: "Tourism must positively impact local and global sustainability towards 2030." Project manager Sander put it in a nutshell: "As a tourist in Copenhagen you will have a sustainable stay – whether you like it or not."
And you won't have to wait until 2030, either: Already today, almost 70 percent of all hotels and 89 percent of all venues in Copenhagen have been ecocertified, among these Scandinavia's largest venue, the Bella Center. As early as 2009, the Bella Center was honored with the IMEX Green Meetings Gold Award; the Crown Plaza Copenhagen Towers are Copenhagen's most sustainable building complex. The façade of the 4-star hotel is overall clad in solar panels up to the 24th floor; these produce approximately 200,000 kWh of solar electricity per year. A sophisticated heating and cooling system cuts energy requirements by between 60 and 90 percent as compared to other similar buildings. Mireille Jakobsen, Group CSR Manager with the BC Hospitality Group, which operates both the Bella Center as well as the Crown Plaza Copenhagen Towers, about the Group's commitment to ecology: "It simply makes sense. Sustainability creates value for everyone involved." Just a few weeks ago, the BC Hospitality Group was honored with the Copenhagen Business Award for its sustainability initiatives.
“ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS”
Mireille Jakobsen, Group CSR Manager, BC Hospitality Group
tw: BC Hospitality Group has one of the most ambitious sustainability programmes. Why is this important to your company? Mireille Jakobsen: Sustainability is important to our company simply because it makes sense. It creates value for everyone involved – our employees, the environment, the local community and of course our own commercial interests.
How about your customers: Do you recognize a significant change in perspective here as well? We do see an increase in the importance of sustainability from some of our corporate clients and public institutions. Certain industries have a larger focus on it than others and we hope there will be greater focus on this in the near future.
If eventplanners are looking for a venue as sustainable as possible: On what should they put a focus on? Locations can be sustainable in many ways. I would look for a location where the event or brand can create a unique experience though sustainability e.g. a beekeepers convention is a good match with a congress center with bees on the roof. In addition, issues such as food waste, energy- and water usage, local produce is always a good place to start.
Your company strategy is aligned to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. What are your biggest successes, so far? While we have done fantastic things in terms of energy savings such as solar panels, groundwater heating and cooling etc.; I am personally very proud of our efforts to give job and training opportunities marginalized groups in our local community such as our Refugee Job Academy.
What are you biggest challenges that you face? Engaging the industry to take a holistic interest in sustainability and look at the value it may contribute to their conferences and business. This is why we launched a free Responsible Hospitality Day Conference in 2017, where we as an industry can get together and start talking about these issues. We cannot continue with business as we know it and have to start collaborating on these bigger issues.
Imagine you could make a wish for free: What should happen to make the MICE industry a better one? My wish would be for people to just start asking questions. It doesn’t have to be judgemental, but we need to start a dialogue with each other on these issues. I think we can make great leaps as an industry if we just start questioning the status quo. ANJA STURM
An interesting aspect here: identical to Wonderful Copenhagen, the BC Hospitality Group defines its sustainability strategy along the 17 SDGs. A prudent approach, as it makes the commitment displayed by all market players comparable, easy to structure and understandable. And it also allows organizers to transparently communicate the focal points of their commitment. And that again makes things a lot easier for event planners on the look for more sustainable locations. Not to forget, achieving sustainability is extremely difficult and complex particularly in such sectors as the global MICE industry, and only few of the measures and activities are as distinctly visible as solar panels on a hotel façade. "Locations can be sustainable in many ways", said CSR manager Jakobsen. The BC Hospitality Group, for example, currently has its focus on four of the 17 SDGs, i.e. Number 8 (Decent work and economic growth), Number 12 (Responsible consumption and production), Number 13 (Climate action).
For the Copenhagen Convention Bureau (CCB), sustainability has long become a key competitive factor. Bettina Reventlow-Mourier, CCB Deputy Convention Director, said: "The sustainable development definitely helps us to convert our strategy into business." SDGs have become an essential requirement in any pitch and quotation. Copenhagen just recently netted two new top congresses; in 2020, the city will host the IWA World Water Congress and Exhibition to be followed in 2023 by the UIA World Architects Congress. Both of these congresses are heavyweights in their respective industries. The most recent IWA in Tokyo was attended by almost 10,000 delegates; the UIA in Copenhagen is expected to see up to 15,000 attendees. "IWA and UIA fit perfect in our strategy. SDGs are a core element of both events and I am convinced that they will have an ongoing impact on tourism and the way how we work and how we look at the MICE industry," Reventlow- Mourier said. She's convinced that the success of a conference in the future will not be measured by way of attendance alone, but also by "what we do for the community." Reventlow-Mourier: "SDGs change the way meetings are measured." ANJA STURM
"The Sustainable Development Goals change the way meetings are measured."
Bettina Reventlow-Mourier, Deputy Convention Director Copenhagen Convention Bureau