Recommendations from Green Tourism experts see more
Based on Destination Canada’s Content Playbook, 35% of the global tourism market is considered Cultural Explorers and Authentic Experiencers. Some of the top things that these travellers are more likely than other visitors to be interested in include activities that help them connect with natural and cultural heritage. Beyond marketing, the preservation of our natural and cultural heritage is also essential to maintaining our quality of life and the innate value of our tourism destinations.
Here are the top four recommendations our Green Tourism expert advisors make for helping tourism businesses both promote and support the cultural heritage of your place. Read on to learn how your tourism operation can get involved. Our next article will focus on natural heritage.
1. Connect Your Guests to Local Cultural Experiences and Attractions
Providing good information about the opportunities for exploring the cultural heritage of the place in which you operate allows visitors to gain a better understanding of the traditions, cultural identity and values of the destination. History, the arts and language give every destination a unique identity. In order to provide the most positive experience to visitors, help connect guests with interpreters and experiences where they can learn about local history and culture; including museums, galleries, local flavours and local lifestyles.
Try to go beyond the standard rack-cards. Accommodation providers can offer information as part of web-based or in-room campaigns, or on your website linked to the experiences you’re promoting. Or put together a map(s) for a self-guided walking, driving or cycling tour, to connect guests with the cultural experiences in your area.
Tourist attractions and tour operators might include interactive experiences using performers, volunteers or experienced guides. A great example of this is from Green Tourism Gold member, Eagle Wing Tours, which offers a Songhees Nation Cultural Tour combining whale watching with the First Nation’s culture in Victoria, as told by a Sognhees Nation guide.
All types of tourism businesses can research and develop the story of your own place, or link with others that connect the sense of place with inspiring events, history, art, poetry and culture. One of the growing areas of interest for visitors to Canada is our country’s First Nations heritage. Reach out to the Aboriginal Tourism Associations of Canada or British Columbia to discuss how you can help to connect your guests in a respectful and appropriate way, with the people and places that can help share this culture. A great starting point is crafting the story of your own business or organization. Find out what traditional territory your business operates upon, and build from there to the present-day looking at what has happened over time.
2. Participate in or Promote Cultural Events and Festivals
Many tourism businesses and regions participated in Canada 150 activities. In addition to promoting cultural festivals and events, why not consider becoming actively involved in events or festivals every year that are connected with the arts, sport and traditional local celebrations? You could help to organize an event, support it through fundraising or sponsorship, enter a float or table, provide premises or grounds, donate the services of your staff or encourage staff volunteering.
With so many events and special dates to choose from, your tourism business should be able to find at least one event to get involved with! Think about events and festivities around:
- national holidays
- First Nations, European and Canadian culture and heritage
- diversity, equality and inclusiveness
- arts and music
- food, wine, beer and spirits
3. Integrate Local and First Nations Arts and Design Elements
Providing a strong sense of place and a reverence for its history and uniqueness are important elements in getting visitors to appreciate the quality of their experience and that of the destination. Local cultural arts have a strong connection to the history of the place and help define its values. All this goes to create an enhanced and high-quality experience for your guests.
Consider using, displaying or selling local arts, crafts and artisan products. A larger step could be the use of architecture to create iconic buildings or architectural elements related to the heritage of the destination. If this isn’t in the budget, integrating local materials or features, or supporting the preservation, restoration and interpretation of historical features on your property or where you operate are good alternatives.
4. Join Cultural Heritage Organizations
A relatively simple opportunity is to seek out and become a member of a local cultural or heritage-related organization. This a great way to foster a positive relationship with the local community.
Whatever you do, Green Tourism highly recommends starting by working with your staff to help identify what organizations, events and causes are important to them, to help you decide what to get involved with. This is a great engagement and motivational tool, and staff who feel that their input is valued and recognized are demonstrated to be more satisfied, productive and loyal.
Of course, it’s also good to ensure your guests know the story of how and why you’re promoting and supporting local arts and heritage, so be sure to include this somewhere on your website and other marketing materials where appropriate. Check out the incredible information in Destination Canada’s Content Playbook for ideas and tips on how to make the most of this messaging.
The first thing you should do is engage your most important resource; your staff see more
Is your tourism business or organization interested in sustainability? If you haven’t already, the first thing you should do is engage your most important resource; your staff. Getting your team involved with or taking the lead role on your green initiatives can create multiple wins.
Why? Businesses that establish and maintain a green team have been shown to:
- Attract top talent: Having a green team will help you attract and retain top talent by aligning with the values of potential and current employees. According to a Conference Board of Canada survey, 71% of Canadians want to work for an employer that has commitments to improve their company’s sustainability performance.
- Boost employee engagement and morale: Often the people who participate have a strong connection to social and environmental sustainability, and a strong desire to do what’s right and make change for the better within the organization. Engagement can spike if employees are feeling positive about the company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility. By harnessing their passion, you will be able to get green things done by people who love doing them, reducing turn over and boosting morale among staff who want to see “green” on the company agenda.
- Realize ROI: Green Teams can actually help save your company money. Green teams often work to find and implement ways to improve efficiencies, which can have a great return on investment. Besides the payback that can be achieved from technology and policy/procedure changes, team members that have been engaged and educated about why changes are being made will be better stewards of these changes and will actually hold each other accountable.
How? Well, for starters, download our handy guide on How to Establish a Green Team. The team should include management and key staff from each department or section of the business. The aim is to provide a mechanism for regular reporting and to develop opportunities and delegate responsibilities as well as encourage new ideas. Team members should ideally be willing participants and be given the backing to fulfil their allocated tasks. An agenda should be set for each meeting and new action points decided and acted upon. These should be incorporated into your green action plan.
You might want to start with providing staff environmental training and awareness. Your staff should be trained and aware of sustainable development issues as they relate to the operation of the business as well as for their own roles and responsibilities. The better informed and motivated they are, the more you’ll reap the dividends through efficiency savings.
Beyond carrying out green measures in their daily routine, staff can contribute to the greening process by offering ideas and suggestions. Here are some ways you can raise staff awareness:
- Welcome green presentation, setting sustainability into context and explaining the mission statement and goals
- Employee onboarding covering generic and specific role-related actions
- Ongoing training and efficiency campaigns/policies
- Staff communication through meetings, newsletters and notice boards
- Create a Green Department Challenge to encourage each department to green up their operations
Don’t miss out on the tremendous opportunity to create or revitalize a Green Team. The benefits will permeate throughout your operation and help you to take your sustainability performance to the next level.
This is the fifth in a series of articles that is responding directly to what the tourism industry in Canada has identified as its top priorities when it comes to being green. If you’d like to share with us what’s important to you, please complete the survey we have created, in partnership with the Tourism Industry Associations of Canada, Ontario and British Columbia.
Businesses with a well-planned sustainability strategy can increase their profits by up to 51% see more
Did you know that small to mid-sized businesses with a well-planned sustainability strategy can increase their profits by up to 51%? Based on years of research and hands-on work with a wide range of businesses, author and speaker Bob Willard has identified that if a typical company were to use best-practice sustainability approaches, it could improve its profits by at least 51% within three to five years, while avoiding a potential 16% to 36% erosion of profits from doing nothing.
Even for those business people who don’t get as excited about sustainability as we do at Green Tourism Canada, we can all agree that increasing profits, when not at the expense of people or the environment, is a good goal.
But a goal without a plan is just a wish! So, here are the key elements to creating a sustainability plan for your own business. If you don’t feel like you have time to tackle all of these steps right away, download a copy of the recent presentation we did at the Tourism Northern Ontario Summit, that gives you a cheat sheet of actions based on the Green Tourism Criteria Checklist that we use in our assessments and certification of tourism businesses.
- Form a Green Team: Ensure that you have senior management, as well as front line staff. The GM, CEO or ED should be on your team. Commit to a monthly green team meeting, and up to 2-4 hours per month to complete actions coming out of the meeting.
- Gather your baseline data: What gets measured gets managed! Start tracking your consumption of key inputs and outputs, with energy/fuel, water and waste being the most important to start with. You can then expand to other things like consumables (paper, disposable cups, water bottles, etc.)
- Set some big, hairy, audacious goals: Crafting a lofty yet realistic vision and set of goals is an exciting and challenging task. What will your company look like if you are truly sustainable? Where do you want your company to be in five years, 10 years 25 years? Now what specific goals will help you get there? Pick three to six categories that you can create stretch goals for such as energy, waste, water, purchasing, etc. Some examples include reduce energy consumption by 35% by 2020, divert 90% of waste by 2025, or use 100% renewable energy by 2030.
- Brainstorm actions that you will get you to your goals: Once everyone agrees on your vision and goals, talk about each category one by one and get the team to offer ideas. Write them all down. There’s no such thing as a dumb idea. Map it all out then expand on the great ideas to turn them into actions. You could even put your big goals into a lunch room or staff area, and leave a comment box/board for staff to leave their ideas.
- Build Your Plan: You now have everything you need. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and solidify your plan. Using your favourite organizational program (we use Excel for the ease of sharing, updating and sorting), set up your document with the correct columns. Successful sustainability action plans have the following column headings or categories:
- Action (what you plan to do)
- Category (water, waste, energy, etc.)
- Action Steps (steps to complete)
- Team Member(s) (person responsible)
- Budget (actual $$ or low, medium, high)
- Timeline (use actual dates)
- Status (in progress, competed)
- Measurable (how is it measured?)
In each row, include a header line for the category as well as your goal, and then add in all the actions you brainstormed. Now fill in all the other columns. You can sort by the timeline, responsible person or whatever makes sense to your organization. Keep it updated, (monthly will do) and celebrate successes!
This is the sixth in a series of articles that is responding directly to what the tourism industry in Canada has identified as its top priorities when it comes to being green. If you’d like to share with us what’s important to you, please complete the survey we have created, in partnership with the Tourism Industry Associations of Canada, Ontario and British Columbia.
What's going on and how can you avoid these two mistakes that are bad business? see more
You have the fluffiest towels, the best views, the most intimate experiences with nature or the most amazing [insert your top guest benefits here.]
Sound familiar? Research by Xavier Font, Islam Elgammal & Ian Lamond, published in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism, has demonstrated that most tourism businesses focus their marketing and communications exclusively on the features and benefits that they provide their guests. While these are things marketing expert Jacquelyn Ottman, in her book “The New Rules of Green Marketing,” suggests you should lead your message with, there is also a growing body of evidence that suggests you also need to find ways to connect with the values of your guests. For many tourism businesses, this means digging into your operation and identifying the areas where you are making positive impacts, environmentally, socially, economically or culturally, collectively known as sustainability.
Yet, most businesses are only communicating 30% of all of their sustainability related activities, or “Greenhushing.” Many others are “Greenwashing,” or exaggerating their sustainability achievements. What’s going on and how can you avoid these two mistakes that are bad business?
After talking to thousands of tourism businesses over the past several years, we know that the number one reason tourism operators pursue sustainability is because of the marketing benefits. Unfortunately, many of these same businesses that are implementing green practices, and even some that have achieved Green Tourism certification, are guilty of Greenhushing. Xavier Font et al. suggests that this is due to a conscious effort by tourism operators to limit how much they are sharing and how they are sharing it. This is done to prevent a perceived disconnection that they believe exists between their own sustainability values or practices, and their customers, thereby mitigating a potential disconnection between what they think their customers want and their own views on sustainability. Talk about paralysis by analysis!
Research indicates, year over year, that the demand for socially responsible and environmentally friendly tourism products is growing. More than 70% of travellers want (and many expect), tourism businesses to be operating in these ways.
We have often heard the arguments, “I don’t want to brag,” or, “we don’t want customers to poke holes in the things we aren’t doing well yet.” The problem is that in the communications void left by the tourism businesses that actually are doing great green things, the fakers are able to gain more traction with their greenwashing. Don’t view sharing a compelling story of your sustainability achievements and goals as bragging, but rather as an inspiration for others to do the same, and a way to resonate instantly and deeply with the growing body of leisure and business travellers that care.
The best way to get around the “we’re not doing enough” concern is to admit that you’re on a journey, that you know you’re not perfect, and then highlight the things you’ve done already, the things you’re working on, and the things you’re planning to do in the future.
Check out our handy little guide, “3 Ways to Kickstart Your Green Story,” to help you get started.
Green Tourism Gold accommodations are leading the way to help you enjoy a greener travel experience. see more
These Green Tourism Canada Gold accommodations are leading the way to help you enjoy a greener travel experience. Now is the perfect time to book your stay with an incredible, forward-thinking Canadian green hotel, inn, campground, B&B, lodge, resort, spa, ranch, or chalet. The hardest part will be deciding, with so many great options!
The earth-loving team at GreenStep Solutions* has ensured that each tourism business that achieves certification is meeting a high level of sustainability stewardship that rivals most others, through a detailed, one-one-one assessment process. By completing the steps necessary to become Green Tourism Canada Certified, these businesses are ahead of the game and ready to give you an incredible, sustainable experience. What are you waiting for? Check out some of these amazing Green Tourism Gold members today.
Paddler’s Inn – Sointula, BC (Broughton Archipelago)
THE CANADIAN PRESS
IMAGES/ PAUL WRIGHT
Paddler’s Inn is situated in the beautiful Broughton Archipelago of coastal BC and offers an earth-friendly oasis for conscientious travelers. The Inn is primarily solar powered and food is grown on-site, with a full cycle of compost year over year. If ever there was a place to stay in the wilderness after pristine BC kayaking, this is it.To top it off, any fish on the menu was likely caught by the hosts!
Sooke Harbour House – Sooke BC
An oasis away from the traditional is what to expect at the Sooke Harbour House. With its menu and artisan flair that changes daily, no experience is the same here! The facility leads by example in local purchasing, onsite water treatment, and reuse and use of garden grown teas. It is itself built from locally sourced materials inside and out, challenging guests to think local and support local.
The Wickaninnish Inn – Tofino, BC
‘The Wick’ has always had a strong affinity with nature. Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island in Tofino, BC, its rocky outcrop provides excellent nature and storm watching. Its minimal footprint includes original building plans adjusted to accommodate existing trees and they contribute to their local community in the form of room, food, and spa donations.
Pacific Gateway Hotel – Richmond, BC
The Pacific Gateway Hotel continues to make great strides in their sustainability efforts. They recently implemented Bullfrog Power for meetings and the restaurant, are growing menu produce onsite, and have made some significant capital investments to upgrade energy systems. They have also introduced bulk soap systems and eliminated bottled water from rooms. As well, their Car2Go car share program is accessible to both staff and guests, reducing car-dependency and opening the doors to more low-carbon transportation options.
Pointhouse at Sargeant Bay – Halfmoon Bay, BC
Photo Credit: Pointhouse
at Sergeant Bay
Pointhouse at Sargeant Bay has done an excellent job of creating modern design while maintaining a natural landscape in such a beautiful location. Major sustainability principles are a a way of life at Pointhouse and include passive heating and cooling design principles, small green roofs, solar hot water, a well-maintained compost program, and great access to nature (either from a pair of binoculars on the balcony or immediately out of the front door).
Sunlund by-the-Sea – Lund, BC
Photo Credit: SundLund by-
SunLund By-The-Sea is an RV park and camping facility nestled in the peaceful harbor community of Lund, British Columbia. Boasting both cabins and campsites, owners Ann and Ron have gone to great lengths to organize and facilitate an increasingly sustainable experience for their guests. Onsite waste sorting facilities, on-demand water heating, and onsite bicycle rentals allow for guests to decrease their adventure footprint and enjoy what the region has to offer.
Sunwolf Riverside Resort – Brackendale, BC
Sunwolf, located on five acres of grassy woodland in the stunning coastal mountains of Squamish, BC, offers cozy accommodations, a unique wedding venue, bucket list eagle tours, and the legendary Fergie’s Café. They have worked hard from the inception to make their inherited resort a great place to stay and work. Currently working to renovate several old cabins to expose original features, Sunwolf is continuously improving to reach its sustainability goals.
Pemberton Valley Lodge – Pemberton, BC
Giving back and reducing their impacts is high on the list of priorities for Pemberton Valley Lodge. They support ‘Clean the World’, an international soap recycling program, as well as focusing strongly on energy reduction principles onsite. The Lodge continues to prove that it is a leader and has added to its “sustainability is business as usual” philosophy by adding a place for local artists to show and sell their wares, offering locally roasted coffee, composting, and extending their reach out to the amazing trails around them.
Bear Claw Lodge – Kispiox, BC
As we travel from the coast inland, our journey takes us to Kispiox, BC and the Bear Claw Lodge. From the solar panels to fresh garden produce, from the hand carved beds to the honey from the bees and local native art that adorns the walls, the Lodge is a haven for simplicity and low-impact traveling. The past couple of years have seen a consistent improvement philosophy with increased solar capacity and water reduction as well.
Echo Valley Ranch & Spa – Clinton, BC
When we think of Echo Valley Ranch, we think: unique. Yes, it’s a ranch with outdoor activities including horse treks, gold panning, and nature walks… but it also provides Thai health treatments, a Tesla charging station to further progress truly sustainable travel, and geothermal ground source heat pumps. Food and drink menu offerings are crafted with consideration of personal health, including a focus on local, organic, and seasonal products.
Siwash Lake Ranch – 70 Mile House, BC
If ever there was a time to include Siwash Lake Ranch in your travel plans, this year would be it. Hit by the 2017 wildfires, Siwash came out of the summer blazes shaken, but not stirred and is very much open for business. While the scenery surrounding Siwash will be forever changed and a few of their structures unfortunately were lost in the fire, the soul behind Siwash remains unwavering and continues to prove its excellence and commitment to sustainability. The site is off-grid, producing its own power via solar, and filtering its water to very high standards. A National Geographic honoured property, this is a destination not to be missed!
A View to Remember – West Kelowna, BC
Moving further inland, we arrive in the Thompson-Okanagan region of BC and are met with A View to Remember. The jewels in their crown are the local treats they provide; homemade jams, sauces and fruits from the garden, organic seasonal produce from the farmgate stand; and of course the dozen or more local wineries visible from the breakfast balcony. Major sustainability achievements include wireless water irrigation to decrease excess water consumption, organic teas, and increased signage in rooms to inform guests about their green efforts and their help to achieve those goals!
Best Western Plus Kelowna – Kelowna, BC
The Best Western of Kelowna continues to demonstrate that they are committed to reducing their impacts in any way possible. A great example of this was their installation of a new roof over the breakfast kitchen to reduce noise with the intent to decrease the amount of paper plates being used by guests. LED lighting has increased greatly and advanced energy systems in the building are being recommissioned for maximum efficiency. And of course, their Tesla charging station with ample space continues to promote zero-emission transportation for guests with electric cars.
Cedar House Chalet & Restaurant – Golden, BC
Venturing further east, Cedar House Chalet in beautiful Golden, BC offers its guests access to great trails in both seasons and snowshoes come included. Their waste diversion is as neat and tidy as the property itself and is sure to inspire any guest to take action at home. In addition, their restaurant is award winning with much of the produce used in its dishes grown onsite.
Island Lake Lodge – Fernie, BC
Island Lake Lodge is a place of passions. For cat skiers, hikers, bikers, wildlife enthusiast, and food connoisseurs; guests can’t help but leave more passionate about all of them than when they arrived! The well-maintained trails in all weather provide an environment that is untouched but managed all in one. The micro hydro power from a nearby stream also provides wonderful drinking water. To top it off, there is the nostalgic ski museum! Island Lake is a true paradise that is a must for anyone who loves the outdoors.
Fairmont Palliser Calgary – Calgary, AB
At the heart of the Fairmont Palliser is a strong and well-run Green Team that is the catalyst for creating ideas and consistent action implementation towards their sustainability goals. They maintain excellent community connections, offer guests a restaurant menu with varied ethical sourcing, and have created a robust waste collection system. Guests choosing to drive electric vehicles are offered free valet service and the Fairmont recently installed rooftop beehives which produce lots of great honey for guests to enjoy as well as lip balm crafted from the beeswax. It’s the little things!
Westin Ottawa – Ottawa, ON
The Westin Ottawa is part of the Starwood chain of hotels and as such, they have corporate mandates for sustainability efforts that have been in place for the past decade. The Westin Ottawa is part of a corporation that has solid goals, great tools, and established green programs. Not only do they implement policies and procedures to decrease their footprint, they also involve their staff in the community, working to clean up the streets and support numerous social and environmental programs.
For even more choices and locations, check out all of our 100+ Green Tourism Canada Certified businesses, from coast to coast.
*Assessments and certification are provided by GreenStep Solutions, a certified B Corporation.
Transportation is the largest contributor to global warming see more
While there are many ways your tourism businesses can reduce your carbon footprint within your operations, one of the biggest opportunities by far is related to transportation. As guests travel to your destination, as they enjoy their experiences, and even the travel choices made amongst your own staff.
Transportation is the largest contributor to global warming, and tourism contributes more than 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, most of that coming from travel. Any tourism businesses looking to operate more sustainably must be taking steps to measure and reduce their carbon footprint. Plus, with carbon pricing coming or increasing in every province in Canada, it makes economic sense to start taking a closer look at your carbon footprint.
Even if you operate a tour bus, power boat or snowmobile tour company, like some of our Green Tourism Certified members, all tourism businesses can help by encouraging visitors to use less polluting options and the travel information you provide to your guests can influence them to make their journey with a lower carbon footprint. The Green Tourism Canada Criteria Checklist includes an entire section with good ideas related to travel and transportation, including policies and procedures to promote alternative modes of transportation for your guests and staff. We know not every business can do all of these things, but here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Provide clear and comprehensive information and encouragement about low carbon activities guests can enjoy on and offsite such as walking, running, cycling, canoeing, rafting, horseback riding, etc.
- Provide information on your website and brochures highlighting public transport options, including getting to and from your businesses, as well as travel within the destination
- If you have limited public transportation options, promote cycling and bike rentals, as well as walking opportunities and private group shuttles and busses that will carry many passengers at once
- Consider offering incentives to guests who choose to use public transportation, such as discounts, special gifts/service, etc.
- Provide electric car charging infrastructure for your guests and staff
- If you have a company vehicle or fleet, create a plan to move to electric vehicles as they become available
- If you operate watercraft, golf carts, ATVs, or other fossil fuel-powered vehicles, look for electric or high efficiency options whenever possible
- Ensure that your facilities are pedestrian and cyclist friendly, providing drying areas, repair tools and bench, secure storage, etc.
- Encourage your staff to use public transportation, carpooling, and offer incentives or monthly draws for those that do
- Consider offering staff an allowance for purchasing a bike or bus pass to offset parking requirements/pressure at your business
If you’re interested in measuring the carbon footprint of your business, try out ecobase Carbon Software, a super simple to use and very affordable online carbon tracking and measurement tool.
Once you’ve measured and begun reducing your carbon footprint, you might want consider becoming carbon neutral – it’s often much less costly than you think. We use Offsetters, a Canadian company. They also have a online calculator that lets your guests measure flight or vehicle emissions and then allowing them to purchase carbon offsets online to make their trip to and from your business carbon neutral.
Celebrate your surroundings see more
As mentioned in our last post, Destination Canada has identified two priority audiences using their Explorer Quotient intelligence. The largest of these audiences is made up of Learners and represents 35% of the global tourism market. Learners prefer destinations with a beautiful landscape and wildlife to observe, and enjoy activities set in nature like biking through a park or hiking in the mountains.
These are the top five recommendations our Green Tourism advisors make for helping tourism businesses both promote and conserve the natural heritage of your place.
1. Bring Awareness to the Unique Natural Heritage of Your Region
Introducing and connecting your guests with information about special and unique nature-related attractions and places can greatly enhance the visitor experience and inspire travellers to visit, stay, return to and rave about your destination.
Go beyond promoting the most popular natural attractions. Put together a guide, a display or a section on your website that helps guests find special and unique wild and natural places in parks and less well known natural places around your community. Check with your staff and local parks offices to help you uncover some of the hidden gems and favourite places of locals. How and what to present to your guests will be different for each tourism operator, but here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Guide books of flora and fauna
- Species lists
- Reference books
- Natural history display
- Guided or self-guided nature walks and hikes
- A nature library
- Loaner binoculars and backpacks
Try to make the information interactive. The more you can get your customers involved the more they will notice things around them, and the better their experience. Urban sites are not precluded! The built environment can be a haven for wildlife if you know where to look.
With all of this comes a level of obligation to provide your guests with advice on how to be a responsible visitor. Consider developing a responsible visitor code of conduct, and incorporate elements like a wildlife viewing guide and code of ethics to help avoid unnecessarily disturbing wildlife, to promote safety and to provide education about Canadian laws protecting the trade or movement of certain species of wild flora and fauna.
2. Start A Nature Diary
Speaking of getting interactive, having a nature diary allows you and your customers to make notes of what they see and when, and is an opportunity to support the interests of your wildlife enthusiast visitors.
Providing an annual summary such as a nature calendar on your website to let guests know what wildlife they might see in your neighbourhood and when takes the nature diary concept to the next level. Guests could contribute photos, sketches, etc., which also builds upon good communication between the business and the visitor. Nature diaries can become a valuable record of wildlife over time and can be related back to changes in climate patterns.
If you’re not a bird watcher or wildlife enthusiast yourself, consider linking guests with such individuals and resources in your community.
3. Native Tree and Species Planting
Planting native trees and other species is an important contribution to your ecological landscape and provides natural habitat and food for indigenous wildlife. You can plant native species on site, or if you don’t have the space onsite, consider reaching out to your municipal or regional government to see if they run programs to improve the tree canopy, or national organizations like TD Tree Days.
4. Wildlife Habitats and Refuges
Many tourism businesses have grounds which would allow for a nature preserve or other natural area to be created. This could include a nature walk or interpretation, which has a direct experiential benefit to customers as well as being good for biodiversity. Even in urban settings, businesses can create natural habitats through ‘wildlife gardening’ which involves planting species, or constructing habitat that attracts native wildlife.
An excellent example of this comes from Green Tourism Gold member, the Fairmont Waterfront. In the heart of downtown Vancouver, the Fairmont Waterfront has constructed a mason bee hotel and planted pollinator-friendly species to help attract and feed the wild bees, in addition to a pathway through the garden complete with interpretive signage.
Other ideas, depending on the size and location of your property could include:
- Mount bird houses, butterfly, bat and bee boxes
- Create or leave undisturbed natural habitats such as small ponds, piled logs and brush, and rock piles
- Plant wildflower meadows
- Preserve and protect native forests, marshes and coastal areas
5. Support Local Conservation Efforts
Some businesses take an active and leading role in habitat conservation and working to preserve threatened species and habitats. Often leadership is provided by the business owner but can involve a wide range of staff in supporting positive actions. Actions can include information, education and/or interpretation provided on specific issues and may include writing letters, providing articles and establishing or supporting campaigns.
There are many non-profit organizations whose missions are to preserve our natural environment, species and habitats. Most of these are funded through donations. There are a number of ways your business can support such groups. The simplest is through membership – larger businesses should consider corporate sponsorship, and smaller organizations can make smaller contributions, or even “adopt” a Canadian endangered species.
It is also worthwhile letting customers and staff know of this support – it may even encourage them to join or even better, volunteer! Employee volunteerism is a great way to help to foster a positive relationship with the local community and motivate staff.
Find some staff or outside local expertise to help you generate some ideas and identify other organizations and individuals you can connect with. Try natural history museums, parks societies, naturalist clubs and even outdoor stores.
Don’t forget to include information somewhere on your website, in-room guides or at the front desk, right next to your nature diary.
Top 4 recommendations from Green Tourism expert advisors see more
Although implementing technology, infrastructure and policies to improve your environmental performance are all good things, engaging the primary influencers of how effective these initiatives can be is the key to maximizing returns for the both the environment and the bottom line.
Here are the top four recommendations our Green Tourism expert advisors make for engaging your guests on your green journey.
1. Share Your Commitment
First and foremost, you need to let your guests know that the environment and sustainability is important to your business. Having policies and programs in place that improve your environmental performance are the first step, but to get the most out of them, you need both staff and guests to be engaged.
Ensure that you share your sustainability policy in public places, and that you remind guests of the green actions that you have taken at various points throughout their experience with you. Depending on the type of operation you have, this can be upon arrival, with signage, interpretation, etc. In a future post we will touch on ways to best communicate your green initiatives. If you are a Green Tourism member, be sure to include your Green Tourism sign, certificate and window decal in conspicuous places, and include the digital logo to help bring attention to your green commitment.
Many customers will be interested to find out more about actions you have undertaken as well as broader sustainability issues. Some may want detailed information, others just the basics. Either way there is a great opportunity to educate and inform them about sustainability. Consider developing a green customer file, prominently displayed, or a notice board dedicated to green matters you have undertaken. It’s also worth thinking about a green bookshelf or library with reference materials for customers to borrow or peruse. This could include books about environmental issues, natural or cultural heritage, renewable energy, etc. – whatever makes sense for your operation.
2. Encourage Guest Green Actions
While some of the simple things guests can get involved with include what have now become commonplace programs, they are still worth mentioning. A few of the easy-starters include:
- Recycling and composting options in common areas and rooms
- Water conservation messaging in restrooms and kitchens
- Water refill stations (an alternative to plastic water bottles)
- Switch-off reminders for lights, televisions, etc.
- Linen reuse programs
- Vouchers in exchange for skipping housekeeping
- Buy Local promotion
3. Develop a Responsible Visitor Charter
If you want to take encouraging guest green actions one step further, create and post in public places a “Responsible Visitor Charter.” This is essentially a document that highlights your commitment to sustainability and shares a list of suggestions for how your guests can get involved with messages such as “buy local,” “switch off,” and “recycle,” and other ways your guests can be responsible during their experience with you and in your community.
Download our Sample Responsible Visitor Charter and use it as is, or work with your team to customize it and make it your own.
4. Promote Guest Financial Contributions
There are several ways you can support your guests in becoming financially involved in supporting your own or other local sustainability-related projects. Visitor contribution programs can either encourage or require guests to make a contribution while they stay, with proceeds going to local green projects. One such example is Green Tourism’s sister program, ecobase Certified, where guests make a standard contribution of approximately 1% of the cost of their experience or room night. These funds accumulate in an ecofund for participating businesses to then be used to invest in energy, waste and water conservation projects at their own business, that will also directly reduce carbon footprint and operating costs. Green Tourism Gold member, the Best Western Plus Kelowna Hotel and Suites, generated more than $100,000 in their ecofund within two years, and is installing a large solar PV array. Guests can also be linked to carbon offset programs that would enable them to offset the carbon emissions related to their travel.
Some businesses prefer to see guest contributions go to local conservation efforts. Green Tourism Gold member, Burrowing Owl Winery, donates 100% of their $3 per person tasting fee to the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of British Columbia, which incredibly makes up the majority of the society’s funding. Another Green Tourism Gold member, Eagle Wing Tours, has instituted a $2 per passenger fee with 100% of funds raised going to support important projects directly related to the sustainability of the southern resident killer whales.
Some tourism operators may encourage guests to personally contribute to local non-profits that are focused on environmental, social or cultural sustainability.
Don’t make your guests check their values and green habits at the door when they visit you! Likewise, don’t miss out on the opportunity to help educate those guests who may have different cultural norms. Giving your guests opportunities to learn and get involved can go a long way to creating enjoyable and memorable experiences.