Destination with a Story

Foundation Executives' Travel Preferences

Michael Gary

The majority of foundation and corporate giving executives value hotels and airlines that implement socially and environmentally responsible practices, according to a new study from The Conference Board, a membership and research organization for business. GIA members were included in the study.

Business Enterprises for Sustainable Travel (BEST), a new initiative of The Conference Board in association with the World Travel and Tourism Council, the industry's global business leaders' forum, recently conducted the first survey of the foundation field to ascertain its executives' travel preferences. Surveys were mailed out to the 2,000 largest United States foundations by asset size as ranked by the Foundation Center, and to members of three Council on Foundations' affinity groups: Environmental Grantmakers Association, the Neighborhood Funders Group, and GIA. The 152 replies represent a 5.3 percent response rate. GIA members had a somewhat higher response rate.

When making decisions regarding accommodations and travel arrangements, 80 percent say they would like to be informed of a hotel's social and environmental practices; 73 percent would like to have similar information regarding airlines.

"The travel preferences of foundation and corporate giving executives demonstrate a willingness to be socially and environmentally responsible consumers in the travel and tourism industry," stated Michael Seltzer, director of BEST. "Reciprocally, they prefer hotels and airlines with solid social and environmental practices."

A hotel's practices with respect to the environment, cultural preservation, and community economic development are factors in the choice of a hotel for approximately 80 percent of surveyed grantmakers. Of those, 40 percent report that a hotel's preservation of a historic property, its employment practices, and its support of local nonprofit organizations are very important deciding factors.

Environmental practices of airlines carry more weight for a majority of grantmakers (cited by 85 percent) than do employment practices and support of nonprofits, although even these are considered by 79 percent and 77 percent of respondents, respectively.

Cultural tourism has a particular appeal to grantmakers. According to Julie Rogers, president of the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, "The survey confirms what we are seeing in Washington, D.C. After tourists visit the national monuments, they are eager to tour heritage-rich neighborhoods. This has tremendous potential for bringing tourist dollars to neighborhoods that deserve attention and investment."

Close to 80 percent of survey respondents say they would be willing to add extra time to their travels to gain a better appreciation of the unique flavors of a host community; 32 percent are willing to spend an extra day. Two-thirds would like to see information about host communities made available in conference registration materials. Other factors can also enhance the traveling pleasure of consumers while contributing to the economy and cultural livelihood of host communities. For instance, the location of the hotel in a historic district is a consideration for 82 percent surveyed. Guided heritage tours of a local neighborhood or historic site and convenient ways to purchase advance tickets to performances are services they would like to see hotels provide.

"Such decisions on the part of foundation executives mark rising interest in 'sustainable travel and tourism'," concluded Michael Seltzer. "It translates into practices that ensure the future well being of the destinations' most valuable assets: people, cultures, and natural environments, while enriching the travelers' experiences."

For a complete copy of the survey, write Michael Seltzer, director of Business Enterprises for Sustainable Travel, The Conference Board, 845 Third Avenue, 18th floor, New York, New York 10022, or send an email to .

Michael Gary is manager, Business Enterprises for Sustainable Travel.