Greenest Planner Profile: Harith Wickrema

Independent planner plans global, but acts local, for events and incentives.

“Where I grew up, we always found a second use for everything,” said Harith Wickrema, president of Philadelphia-based meeting and incentive planning company Harith Productions Ltd., who was a winner at the Greenest Planner Awards at the Green Travel Summit, at the Fairmont Newport Beach.

Indeed, for as long as the editors of MeetingNews and Successful Meetings have known him, Wickrema has been the master of reduce, recycle, and reuse in ways that are both unusual and imaginative.

In 2003, Wickrema made a splash by producing a small 40-person incentive on the coattails of a larger 850-seat gala at the Atlantis Resort & Casino in the Bahamas. For “Mystical Powers of Atlantis,” Wickrema used theme décor from the resort itself, saving thousands of dollars on scenery and sets.

In subsequent meetings and incentives, Wickrema continued to balance a passion for sustainability and a dedication to the “wow” factor—while keeping a steady eye on the bottom line. For a Mexico incentive in 2007,Wickrema combed the markets of Tonala, Tlaquepaque, and Chapala to find pottery and local flourishes, such as agave honey, mango marmalade, pewter trays, and a dance troupe. “If you find that emotional connection,” said Wickrema, “you add a little bit about the destination into your event—even if it is inside the ballroom of an elegant hotel.” Sourcing locally, he added, is “a goal whenever I bring a meeting to a destination. I want to give the attendees an authentic experience, and I want to make a contribution to the local economy.”

Last year, Wickrema produced an incentive in Rio de Janeiro. He locally sourced everything for the “An Evening of Carioca Pride” gala dinner, for which he won a Society of Incentive & Travel Executives (now Site) Crystal Award. This year, he is planning a sustainable incentive in Iceland and readying the debut of his Virgin Islands eco-retreat.

Originally published April 20, 2009