CSR in Tourism – Armenia is on the ball!

I had the opportunity to attend one session of the UNWTO Conference on Universal Values and Cultural Diversity in the 21st Century: How can tourism make a difference? held in Yerevan on 18 and 19 October 2012 (yes, this is fresh news from Armenia, you get some of that on this blog too :)).  The session I attended was on Friday morning and it was called Corporate Social Responsibility in Tourism (quite straightforward, no fancy subtitles to it).  Moderated by Mr. John Downes, from USAID/EDMC, it featured presentations by Mr. Lukas Negedly, Austrian Airlines Country Manager for Armenia, Mr. Mikkel Krantz, Director of Sales and Marketing, Armenia Marriott Hotel Yerevan and Mr. Alexander Nurock, Director of Liberty International Incoming Agency, Armenia.  I was interested to hear what the focus would be – strategic CSR, philanthropy, a bit of both?

It was a good session for anyone who is still unsure about what real CSR is.  Mr. Negedly spoke about how Austrian is saving 5% fuel by using lighter seats on their aircraft and thanks to the installation of winglets (those little things you see at the tips of the wings) on some of their aircraft.  That’s not much, you say?  Well, Mr. Negedly was prepared to counter that doubt – apparently, a Boeing 767 burns some 6.5 tons of kerosene per hour.  So, if you take a Vienna-New York-Vienna flight, that’s 10 hours in one direction and – one that flight alone – this 5% saving amounts to 3000 tons of kerosene saved per year, which is the equivalent of 9500 tons less of CO2 emmitted.  And that’s just one flight over the period of one year!

Mr. Krantz started his talk with a great quote by the current Chairman and CEO of the Marriott Group, J.W. Marriott, Jr.  He said, “We believe the future of business is green… because we’re all guests on this planet.”  How’s that for a brilliant line on CSR from someone in the hospitality business? Mr. Krantz outlined the work that Marriott does globally, including their Spirit to Serve and Spirit to Preserve initiatives.  In addition to global initiatives like Marriott’s drive to increase green hotels, the speaker also outlined local actions like their support to Orran NGO, SOS Children’s Villages International and the Fuller Center, which border towards philanthropy but also have a great employee involvement component.

The third speaker was Alex Nurock, who had some very interesting things to say.  Alex came to Armenia in 2004 to work at the Marriott and has moved on to other companies in the country after that.  I think he was absolutely right about how socio-economic development outside Yerevan is critical to developing the tourism infrastructure of the country.  His talk was the briefest of the three, but – I think – the most relevant to Armenia and our future here.  He spoke about how there is a need to transfer knowledge and expertise from the industry to the villages and hopefully his company will be taking specific steps in this direction.

All in all, a great hour or so – it’s not often (yet!) when you have three speakers on a stage in Armenia talking about CSR in a clear, concise and relevant way, tying it clearly to the business objectives of their companies!

This entry was posted in CSR in Armenia.

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