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 suggest how the incentive travel community can respond.”

PLASTIC POLLUTION FACTS: First the heave part. 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 recently even 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 UK. 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 examined.

Sources of Marine Litter

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 that the beaches and the water are clean. Until now!

Fishes swimming around me, turtles taking a breath at the surface. 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 after travelling 12.000 miles to get there.

They say it is the time of the year and the current is drifting the rubbish coming from the inner lakes of Indonesia. As Mother Nature takes care, it moves towards the shores. 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 where the incentive world is going—where we have to go to a marine park and pay a high entry fee?

There are things we do today to help. Designing your own Corporate Social Responsibilty 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 dring. Use recyled 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 implememnt 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 bicyle to the office every day.