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Attendance Low at Sustain 2016 Conference


Earlier this week I attended Sustain 2016, the Mid-Atlantic’s Annual Hospitality Conference. The event was held at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Dover, Del. It is one of just a few green lodging oriented events being held this year. The conference was a two-day event. Critical to the success of any conference is attendance and I have to say this one was easily the least attended conference I have experienced. I was told that attendance was 110 but if you subtract the exhibitors and the speakers, there were very few actual lodging owners or managers in the room—especially during the reception on day one and during the morning and afternoon sessions on day two. Attendance grew during lunch on day two. It must have been disappointing to the exhibitors who paid to be there. I had an exhibitor table and walked away with a grand total of four new subscribers. Having been part of the planning of other green conferences, I can sympathize with the event organizer. At what point do you cancel an event?

All of that said, the lack of hotelier attendance did not stop the speakers from doing their best and I did pick up some article ideas. For example, did you know the Grand Hyatt, Buckhead has a 30,000-gallon rainwater capture system? One speaker talked about a property that gives Monopoly money to guests who then can give that money to associates who provide exceptional service. That money can then be later turned in for actual dollars. I attended a session on “The Value of an On-site Audit” and learned about all of the reasons an energy audit is important—a way to reduce operating expenses, increase profits, reduce energy waste, increase asset value, etc.

I moderated a session entitled, “Innovation All Stars: Case Studies of Three Companies Determined to Make Our World More Sustainable.” All of my speakers did a great job. They represented companies including BioHitech, Local Motors, and Maidbot and talked about topics ranging from food waste to local manufacturing to a new vacuum system for hotels.

Prior to the event, I suggested that it would be a good idea to offer a tour of the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, a property I had written about and one that has made significant progress in reducing energy costs and increasing recycling rates. No tour was offered to attendees—disappointing. I did, however, get my own tour with a few others after the event and got to see how the property recycles. Dover Downs is close to purchasing a food waste decomposition machine. It would have been interesting to see exactly how the property is saving energy.