Conference tourism: a problem for the environment as well as for research?
The increase in professional trips to conferences and seminars made by employees in the 'knowledge industries' presents an environmentally worrying trend in mobility in contemporary post-industrial society. A number of factors are involved. Globalisation and regional competition encourage host cities and institutions to put themselves on the conference map. For the individual traveller, conferences and seminars offer escape from daily routines and the chance to experience new, perhaps exotic, places. But trips to distant conferences can have serious environmental impacts, especially if made by airplane. Because of the aggressive impact of greenhouse gas emissions in the upper atmosphere, their threat to the global climate is more serious than similar trips made at surface level. In addition, the time spent on such trips competes with other tasks: conference participation takes scarce time resources available to university academics for research. In the age of electronic communication, it is questionable whether conferences are effective arenas for communicating and gathering knowledge.