By Raymon Honings
Managing Partner, travelmediate
Editor’s Note: “The statement around sustainability was the first of the 10 statements of the Bangkok Manifesto to be selected by the assembly at SITE’s Global Conference in Thailand in January. Incentive travel professionals, clearly, are passionate about doing right. In incentive travel there’s always a plan B but there’s no planet B. We have a duty and responsibility to care for the planet and incentive travel activities should be a net contributor to this. In this important article SITE member Raymon Honings paints a chilling picture how the mismanagement of plastic has become a calamity for marine life and suggests how the incentive travel community can respond.
First the heavy part: There may be about 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic and other trash floating in the ocean. Weighing up to 269,000 tons, plastic pollution can now be found on every beach in the world—from busy tourist beaches to uninhabited, tropical islands.
Nowhere is safe.
Scientists have even recently discovered micro plastics embedded deep in the Arctic ice.
In 1950, the world’s population of 2.5 billion produced 1.5 million tons of plastic; in 2016, a global population of more than 7 billion people produced over 320 million tons of plastic. This is set to double by 2034 (15 years from now!) Every day approximately 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans.
Approximately 5,000 items of marine plastic pollution have been found per mile of beach in the United Kingdom. Over 150 plastic bottles litter each mile of UK beaches. Recent studies have revealed marine plastic pollution in 100% of marine turtles, 59% of whales, 36% of seals and 40% of seabird species.
As an incentive specialist and a spoiled surfer, I travel the world, swim and surf in various oceans. As a surfer I am normally on my own, thinking only of myself, the line-up, the best beach with the greatest surf brakes. I take for granted the beaches and water are clean with fishes swimming around me, turtles taking a breath at the surface. Until now! I was shocked when I was in the water during my last Asia/Pacific trip in December: Paddling on my board seeing rubbish in the water. It was simply not the vibe I was hoping for, travelling 12,000 miles to get there.
They say it is the time of the year when the current is drifting and the rubbish comes from the inner lakes of Indonesia. As Mother Nature takes care, it moves towards the shore. Luckily, that is a natural way from Mr. Ocean. But if we continue this way, the turtles will disappear. No more clear water with clean, sandy beaches. The marine life underneath us will just be vaporized. It opened my eyes and I thought about the marine life; my clean waves and our MICE business!
Do we really think our clients will go to these destinations without flora and fauna? The variety of incentive destinations will become very limited with disappearing clean beaches and waters.
Is this what the Incentive world is going to where we have to go to a marine park and pay a high entry fee?
There are things we can do today to help. Designing your own Corporate Social Responsibility program that incorporates sustainability is a great start. Clean a local beach as a late afternoon program with the sunset and afterwards, reward your clients with a nice cool drink. Use recycled cups at the office and during your events. It all helps to contribute to a better and cleaner environment.
Hopefully this article gives you, as an incentive professional, some insight on where we are today and what you can do to prevent a catastrophe for our marine environment in the next decade. You can make a difference when you implement CSR elements that your client and many ocean friends will be grateful for. This feels great already, right?
About the Author:
Raymon Honings is owner of travelmediate, a sales and representation company for DMC’s covering more than 60 destinations. He has two children living in Amsterdam and rides his bicycle to the office every day.