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October 10, 2010

James Kent:The power of a legacy

The international marketing co-ordinator of the Kyoto Convention Bureau on how an event held in the city 13 years ago has helped to inspire the meetings and events industry and the world.

Throughout the course of history there have been events that stand head and shoulders above the crowd, events that act as landmarks in our growth and development. They happen on an individual basis, a local basis and occasionally even a worldwide basis. Events of this enormity leave behind something special. Something we refer to as a legacy.

A legacy is one of the most powerful benefits of an event, because, above all, it justifies the events very existence. What would be the point of an event if it was immediately forgotten, if it was just a moment of instant gratification with no memories and long-term value?

As an industry we are constantly striving towards creating long-term legacies and demonstrating the value of events, because, let’s face it, the creation of a legacy is the sign of our long-term professionalism and growth.

Here in Kyoto, we are lucky enough to have played host to an event with a truly great legacy, one that is still talked about, one that might just have been the turning point in man’s long-term effects on the planet. The 1997 Climate Change Protocol and other ideas that came from the summit hosted here in Kyoto 13 years ago has had long-term effects on not just the people who attended, but also on individuals, businesses and countries across the world. I am sure climate change experts will argue that we have a long way to go, or not enough was done early enough, but it was a start and that legacy lives on.

Changes for the good
That legacy lives on in our industry. We have and are changing to meet the corporate social responsibility (CSR) needs of clients on an individual, local and global scale. In fact, here in Kyoto, we have seen numerous changes along these lines over the last few years.

The Hyatt Regency hotel now offers bottled water in the hotel, which comes from Fushimi (also notable for Japan’s best rice and sake), a water source within the city limits. Similarly, restaurants within the hotel always try to use seasonal vegetables from the 41 distinct varieties that are unique to Kyoto and grown within the region. Even the hotel’s decor is created from items like antique kimono’s, old books and features from traditional buildings, which again avoid expensive imported materials, as well as providing an atmosphere of traditional culture for all guests.

Fairer for all
WAK Japan, Kyoto’s leading facilitator of “journeys into Japanese culture”, was founded to promote knowledge exchange – particularly of the traditional skills handed down through generations of Japanese ladies. This is achieved through a variety of cultural demonstrations and lessons including: tea ceremonies, flower arrangement, calligraphy, origami and local cooking. The philosophy behind this company is based on the principle that the instructors should be paid a fair price for the skills that they impart. The fees paid by conference attendees go direct to the instructors, and the positive outcome for participants is that they receive a one-to-one experience with real Kyoto people who love what they do and enjoy sharing their knowledge.

In another strong CSR initiative, a local taxi firm has taken the leap to electricity, creating a fleet of the next generation ‘plug–in’ electric vehicles. These are currently limited in their availability and the Kyoto Convention Bureau team believe they are the only city in the world able to offer transportation in such vehicles. The vehicles are supported by a network of recharge points citywide, which is an initiative created by the Kyoto City authorities to encourage the widespread use of electric vehicles across the urban areas.

One step further
These are just three examples of a CSR legacy developed from one event as long ago as 1997. And these are changes that are affecting not just the face of our industry, but that of the city as well. Well-planned events have incredible longevity if run professionally and with a goal-oriented attitude. As we progress, the way we live our lives will always inspire our events, but we must go one step further and ensure our lives are also inspired by the events we create.

James Kent is international marketing coordinator at the Kyoto Convention Bureau

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