Curbing Emissions Does Not (Necessarily) Mean Curbing Travel

The recent statement issued by The White House regarding government business travel and the reduction of carbon emissions highlights the need to evaluate travel in a way that is rigorous and that ensures alignment with organizational objectives. From his original acceptance speech in Denver Stadium to the countless business trips he has taken as Chief Executive, President Obama has demonstrated that he recognizes the importance and value of strategic, productive meetings and business travel. Consequently, I feel confident that The White House does not intend to limit legitimate travel when it is effective, efficient and responsible. What the administration is seeking is a means to an end: not the reduction of travel, but the reduction of carbon emissions.

It’s not simply a question of travel in and of itself, but the way decisions surrounding business travel are made. Travel by the government and by any business needs to ensure the most prudent use of taxpayer or stakeholder dollars and, for the purposes of this conversation, reduce the impact on the environment from carbon emissions. At Las Vegas Meetings by Harrah’s Entertainment, we’ve significantly reduced travel expenses while increasing productivity and seeking options to help us carry out our business in more responsible ways. For us, that hasn’t necessarily meant traveling less. It has meant that we are working more diligently to think about our business travel strategically, and seeking ways to travel more responsibly like combining trips to reduce air travel, carpooling to and from meetings and events, and utilizing properties and venues that participate in environmental sustainability programs.

In response to the White House statement, the U.S. Travel Association pointed to a study by Oxford Economics which established that government business travel has a better than 5:1 return on investment. I wholeheartedly agree with the U.S. Travel Association’s assessment that an across-the-board approach to cutting back on business travel is not the right solution, regardless of the reason. A more sensible and effective approach is to evaluate these opportunities on a case-by-case basis to ensure that they are necessary and strategically planned in order to produce the best possible return for one’s organization while minimizing the net environmental impact.

Everybody realizes that meetings can be remarkably productive and result in a huge return on investment; nobody wants to cut those things. We support our customers’ efforts to do for their businesses what we have endeavored to do in ours – whether a corporation, a not-for-profit, or our nation’s government.

Michael Massari is vice president of meeting sales and operations for Las Vegas Meetings by Harrah’s Entertainment. He has nearly 20 years of experience in meetings and hospitality and, in 2007, was named one of the “25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry” by Meeting News magazine.