Tourism as a force for good was the central theme as members of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) attended the annual IMPACT Sustainable Tourism Conference in Victoria, British Columbia.
The spirit of this internationally-informed, Canadian-focused event was to educate, unite, commit, and take action towards the development of tourism as a financial and social force for good. Monitoring and measuring success through the lens of environment, community, culture, and economy (also known as planet, people and prosperity by the BC Ministry of Tourism, Art, Culture, and Sport).
Over the course of 2.5 days and more than 20 sessions, the conference presented the sustainability challenges faced by the tourism industry worldwide. Inspiring examples were shared of companies working towards regenerative tourism, and they called on tourism professionals to commit to meaningful action.
The COVID-19 pandemic and climate change have converged to cause great disruption, however we are now in the midst of what is being referred to as the Great Restart, an opportunity to reassess the ways in which we do business and refocus efforts to prepare for the future.
This requires significant intentional change and an urgency to incorporate sustainable and regenerative practices into the core of business planning and operations.
Regenerative tourism in action
* Work to attract “High Values Guests”, visitors that generally stay longer, support local businesses, and strive to minimize their individual impact on the destination and community.
* Incorporate sustainable technology and practices into your business that improve the guest experience and reduce costs. Also make it easy to choose and provide education for guests to reduce carbon emissions, such as lower emission transportation methods, foods and energy sources.
* Employ creative thinking around partnerships and collaboration, job sharing and cross training to attract tourism professionals seeking full time, long-term employment.
* Industry certifications and frameworks which help destinations and companies build a foundation of practices that meet (or exceed) industry sustainability standards and communicate commitments to partners and customers.
* Collaborate with the scientific community to better understand tourism’s positive and negative impact. For example, researchers could study aspects of the tourism business to make improvements and help develop educational tourism experiences that share their knowledge and appreciation with guests.
* Develop infrastructure and experiences that help to lengthen the tourism season and encourage dispersion.
Indigenous reconciliation was woven throughout the entire conference, and underscored the importance of DMOs and businesses developing an Indigenous strategy and creating relationships with local nations working in collaboration to share stories and promote Indigenous services and experiences.
Some examples for non-indigenous entities include:
* Work to learn from Indigenous people and the sustainable practices at the core of their way of life.
* Acknowledge the local nation and their history in tourism experiences and content.
* Become a Friend of Indigenous Tourism BC to begin collaboration towards mutual success and that contribute to reconciliation through the support of Indigenous tourism.
* Create an Indigenous Ally Program and share a portion of profits with local Indigenous bands, which can provide reliable income to employ Indigenous forest guardians.
Thompson Okanagan Commitment to Regenerative Tourism
While sustainability has been a key aspect of TOTA’s destination management strategy since 2012, it’s inspiring to see sustainability develop as the foundation of tourism in British Columbia, Canada, and other destinations around the world.
The TOTA team is eager to further incorporate regenerative tourism best practices into the Thompson Okanagan region, in order to continue as a competitive tourism destination and inspire others to plan the future of their destination through a sustainability lens.