What can we do as an industry to be more sustainable and to protect the planet? We have many possibilities to create impact – for the good and for the worse – let us become part of the solution rather than being part of the problem!

I speak to Wouter Claessens from Antwerp, owner of contourtravel and a participant in the ecomice explorers group. Wouter’s agency primarily organizes incentives and team building programs and he wants to make them sustainable and conscious.

Wouter, how open are your customers to planning their incentive or team building sustainably?

Well, an incentive is a reward and must be perceived as such. The understanding of “reward” in our society is generally characterized by “abundance” and we probably need to work first on this basic understanding. Abundance cannot remain the key parameter for all we do – it has led us to the problems we have.

This is a process that emerges from increasingly densified messages and insights. Eating meat is one such example – as behavior evolves towards vegetarian and organic eating, so hopefully does the understanding of perceived “reward”. We need to change the messages from all sides. Perhaps corporate customers can try out new ways for incentive campaigns, for example? How about a “happiness program” as a reward and exploring the individual feeling of happiness among potential participants? There are enough happiness researchers, psychologists and experts who could look at the idea of an incentive in a completely different way. Perhaps this will also bring better value to the company that spends the money on incentives? And, as we all know, happiness is greatest when you give, not when you take…..

Maybe we should all think more in terms of “happiness” instead of just “fun” or “as much as possible”? This is certainly not suitable for all groups, but we simply start with the customers who are enthusiastic about sustainable options and are like many of us looking for new ways.

What is your motivation for joining the ecomice explorers group at IMEX?

Sustainability is very important to me, and I would like to find the right way to apply best solutions for my business. I like the ecomice concept of the “new supply chains” because it allows and requires a broader view of the programs to be held.

There are so many different opinions, and everyone has another understanding of sustainability and what to do and how. I wish that with ecomice we can start a movement which contributes to new perspectives outside of the usual limitations and opinions. I find that exciting – and I would also like to support the project!

Can you give an example of an incentive or team building program that takes sustainability aspects into account?

Recently, I went to a site inspection to Strasbourg. Even though the name might not sound too sexy, the program we can offer can certainly compete with traditional incentive destinations.
1. Accessibility: 3:30 hours by TGV from Brussels Gare Midi. Travel in all comfort, no need to be at the station until 15 minutes before departure. And… an eco-friendly way of travelling!
2. The hotel(s): plenty of good options, but I choose the Tandem Hotel, just across the central station. This newly opened 4* property is a dream when it comes to sustainable practices: from the well trained and open-minded staff to the products they use and sell all coming from small, local suppliers and the housekeeping uniquely using biodegradable products: they claim to be the first eco-responsible hotel in Strasbourg, this is also how I experienced it.
3. Activities: a city small enough to cover on foot, by Segway or even by public transport. Getting to know the history of the old craftsman houses and the amazing cathedral, e-boats to cross the city over water whilst having an aperitive, workshops in a co-creation lab in the upcoming harbour area: this is a city where you can have it all.
4. The Alsace around the corner: are you fed-up with the city, in 30 minutes you’re in the middle of the vineyards and the mountains (backdrop of the Vosges and when the sky is clear, the Alps). Hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, teambuilding activities in all different forms.
5. Food: loyal to their cultural heritage, Strasbourg is renowned as one of Europe’s heartiest and most unique gastronomic destinations. Its position at the crossroads of France and Germany, drawing plenty of influence from both, makes the cuisine unlike anywhere else in the world.
I tried amongst others choucroute with a mackerel filet and the level of refinement just left me totally impressed.

Thanks Wouter for sharing your views! I am very curious to explore IMEX  together with you in a different wayand listen carefully to all your feedback!

For the ecomice explorers’ initiative at IMEX Frankfurt, we invite event planners for whom the topic of “sustainability” is very important – personally but also in their work.


ecomice is an initiative of tmf dialogue and helps to plan business events to take responsibility in a wider context.

Travelling today means to carefully weight costs (also for the environment) and benefits. We therefore encourage to think deeper when planning an event, to work with responsible planners, suppliers, legacy projects in connection with “event user’s” business and to consider general development and challenges in a destination.

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