Approaches for greener MICE in the Greater Bay Area

Study involving an IFTM scholar and an IFTM alumna presents framework for convention and exhibition centres to be more environmentally friendly

 Research Corner | A partnership between Macau Business and the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM)  

A research paper involving a scholar and an alumna from the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM) has put forward a comprehensive framework to help convention and exhibition centres run their respective operations in a more environmentally friendly way. A highlight is a set of ideas about how best to manage the impact of local geography and weather on facilities used by the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) industry in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. The latter is also known as the Greater Bay Area. 

The proposed framework lists 59 best-practice recommendations across three major categories of activity. The categories are: technology related to energy consumption and efficiency; technology promoting emission reduction, air quality and water savings; and facility management and administration. 

The framework was developed based on a review of the operations of 11 international convention and exhibition centres: three in the United States, three in Europe, three in Asia, and two in Australia. Each venue already held at least one type of environmental certification. 

Measures included in the proposed framework range from the use of solar control film on windows, to counter the effect of the sun’s heat; to the installation of energy-efficient lifts or escalators. Other measures suggested include the introduction of rainwater storage systems and of water-efficient kitchen facilities; the adoption of so-called ‘green-purchasing’ practices; and the creation of specialised teams at convention and exhibition centres, focusing on reducing the operational ‘green’ footprint of these facilities. 

The framework was complemented by contributions of 12 environmental scientists and engineering experts, with the aim of adapting the framework to the needs and constraints faced by convention and exhibition centres in the Greater Bay Area. 

“The current investigation provides a holistic framework for the MICE industry to undertake any environmental mitigation,” wrote the researchers. They added that the document could offer operators of convention and exhibition centres – and event planners – “an informative reference point” for devising and designing methods to reduce the ‘green’ footprint of their operations. 

IFTM scholar Prof. Wilco Chan Wai Hung and IFTM alumna Dr. Carol Zhang Xueyue – the latter now an assistant professor of Tourism Marketing and Management at the University of Nottingham, in the United Kingdom – were among the team of four international researchers that produced the academic paper. The other contributors were Dr. Barry Mak, from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and Dr. Derrick Lee from the Singapore Institute of Management. Their work, “A framework of environmental mitigation for the convention and exhibition centers in the China Greater Bay Area”, was published in the Journal of Convention and Event Tourism. 

Focus on the Greater Bay Area 

One of the suggestions in the academic paper was for convention and exhibition centres in the Greater Bay Area to adopt district cooling systems, sending chilled water from a central source to multiple buildings or sites. The aim of these systems is to reduce power consumption related to standard air conditioning. 

The researchers noted that the hot season in the Greater Bay Area lasted for an average of 10 months a year. The use of HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems to cool down the typically huge indoor space of convention and exhibition centres was the main power consumption factor for such facilities in the region, the paper stated. Using a water-cooling system from a natural water body such as a river, a lake, or the sea, offered a “promising alternative to cooling chillers,” the researchers wrote. 

Other suggestions tailor-made for the MICE industry in the Greater Bay Area included increasing the use of renewable energy sources available locally, particularly solar and wind energy. 

The research also put forward suggestions – focused on the Greater Bay Area – to improve administration and management of convention and exhibition centres. They included using environmentally friendly materials such as drinking cups formed from paper made of bamboo, and finding ways to reduce packaging waste associated with delivery to the site of goods and services. 

The paper noted that some of the framework’s suggestions could require intensive use of capital, application of advanced technology and a lengthy period of commitment, which could be viewed as barriers to their implementation. “Existing convention and exhibition centres may balance the commitment required for, and cost incurred by, the adoption of different mitigation methods, against the benefits of reducing their negative environmental impact,” said the researchers. 

– The researchers 

Prof. Wilco Chan Wai Hung is a visiting professor at the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM), where he is vice director of the Global Centre for Tourism Education and Training. He holds a PhD from the City University of Hong Kong. Professor Chan has published more than 100 academic papers and serves in a range of positions, across several leading international academic journals. He has a wide spectrum of research interests related to tourism and hospitality, ranging from environment-related topics to human resources. 

Dr. Barry Mak is an associate professor at the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He has a PhD in tourism from the University of Strathclyde, in the United Kingdom. 

Dr. Derrick Lee is a senior lecturer at the academic division of the Singapore Institute of Management. He holds a PhD from the James Cook University, in Queensland, Australia. 

Dr. Carol Zhang Xueyue is an assistant professor of Tourism Marketing and Management at the University of Nottingham in the U.K. She has a PhD from the University of Surrey, also in the U.K. Dr. Zhang began her higher education studies at IFTM, graduating in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Tourism Business Management. 

– The paper 

Wilco W. H. Chan, Barry Mak, Derrick C. H. Lee and Carol Zhang: “A framework of environmental mitigation for the convention and exhibition centers in the China Greater Bay Area”, Journal of Convention and Event Tourism, Volume 20, Issue 1, pages 44-63,2019.