Incentive planners embrace CSR as a win-win

Incentive trips are designed to motivate employees to reach stretch goals and celebrate success as a team. But can the benefits go beyond that topline goal? Denise Naguib, vice president of global sustainability and supplier diversity for Marriott International, thinks so.

As part of The Bangkok Manifesto: Nature, Purpose & Direction of Incentive Travel 2019, a document made up of 10 statements describing the value and purpose of incentive travel—beyond revenue generation—and crafted at a society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) retreat in Thailand in January, Naguib laid out the role of CSR in business travel today.

“Every stakeholder in the incentive travel community should embrace social responsibility as a core part of their business philosophy, and recognize that our business practices and policies will define how that responsibility is exercised,” Naguib wrote.

As communities face more challenges related to increasingly scarce natural resources, shifting weather patterns, “overtourism” and the negative impacts of a disposable culture, travelers around the world have no greater responsibility than to consider how they can address solutions. “Travel can and should be a force for good,” she said.

Naguib sees the goal of elevating the destination as something that is embedded in Marriott International’s sustainability and social impact platform, Serve 360: Doing Good in Every Direction. “And that power to positively impact the world around us is not that of superheroes, but a real power each of us possess,” she proclaimed.

Incentive travelers have a unique opportunity to realize that power by experiencing the destination while mitigating any negative impact, she said. From offsetting carbon footprints through tree-planting programs and supporting renewable energy projects, to traveling with a reusable water bottle or participating in a volunteer event in the communities where they visit, incentive attendees can make a difference.

Naguib pointed to the impact an incentive group can have when it engages in a mangrove restoration project on the beaches of Thailand. Or consider the impact of supporting a community by assembling recycled soap hygiene kits to help children combat illness through sanitation. Other examples of leaving a place just a bit better than when you found it include building a well or installing solar panels so communities can have access to water and connections to the world of information.

“Mitigating negative impact will allow those amazing destinations we depend on to remain vibrant and sustainable places that others wish to come back to again and again,” Naguib said, citing as her inspiration the story of the young girl who methodically picked up sea stars washed up after high tide, tossing them back into the ocean one by one.

“It is important that we not try and tackle the entire ‘ocean,’ but instead take one small step, then another. And before long, every action we take will be in support of each of us doing good in every direction,” Naguib concluded.

Transformative Experiences Cross Boundaries

“Our industry transforms business and people through the incentive event experience. Over the last half-century…[we have] unlocked the world’s most unique and wonderful destinations to many who would not have otherwise seen or experienced them. Together, we provide livelihoods to hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. We are an economic powerhouse that has a sprawling impact, as our guests visiting a new place yearn to return or explore somewhere new.”

“And over the years, our efforts to give back to the communities we visit have directly benefited those in need of help, sometimes after devastating events, like earthquakes and hurricanes. We are a force for good.”