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Jan 19, 2024

TIABC Voice of Tourism Newsletter – January 19, 2024


Not long after I told the story about purging my old trophies (see October 27 newsletter), I made a further commitment to get rid of at least one thing each day to reduce clutter, simplify my life, and ultimately prepare for when I decide to downsize.

Gone are clothes and shoes I no longer wear, tents that haven’t seen a campground in 10+ years, dishes, Christmas decorations, blankets, pictures…all now in someone else’s possession to utilize. What’s more, my daily expunging quest has extended beyond home to TIABC’s Vancouver office.

Earlier this week, I was joined by my colleagues Deb and Fiona to pour over old files and materials with a goal to get rid of stuff we no longer use or need. All of us concurred that there was something cathartic about shredding documents, throwing stacks of paper into the recycling bin, and removing broken or woefully outdated computers, monitors, cables, and other electronics to take to a certified recycling centre.

But as you know, sometimes one can’t be too ruthless when discarding items, especially when it comes to certain documents that aren’t saved electronically but are nonetheless important for one reason or another. Case in point…on a messy shelf I found a letter of understanding dated April, 2008 between the Ministry of Tourism, Sports & the Arts (now Tourism, Arts, Culture & Sport), Tourism BC (now Destination BC), and COTA – the Council of Tourism Associations of British Columbia (now TIABC) to support an accompanying framework and action plan for a Green Tourism Strategy for Sustainability.

The framework was developed following a meeting of 42 tourism industry leaders who convened for a first-ever Green Tourism Forum to strategize for a greener, more sustainable BC tourism industry. A Sustainable Tourism Working Group was then formed to cast a vision and flesh out the scope of what the tourism industry needed to do.

Anchored in COTA’s Foresight Project vis-a-vis a sustainable tourism vision, as well as government’s Tourism Action Plan, the working group agreed that a sustainable, green tourism sector in BC is prepared for and readily adapts to change, addresses the needs and aspirations of future generations, promotes and encourages ethical behaviour by visitors, promotes the long-term health and well-being of visitors, as well as the natural and built environment, promotes long-term socio-cultural and economic viability of the tourism system, and is seen as a leader around the world for tackling the aforementioned objectives in a successful, collaborative and unified way.

The paper identified six key actions:

1.   Develop an overarching green tourism strategy for sustainability.

2.   Develop and track key indicators.

3.   Develop and implement tourism actions to address climate change.

4.   Develop an incentive program.

5.   Communicate.

6.   Answer outstanding questions through research.

With priorities consisting of Green Tourism Forums, a Sustainable Tourism Steering Committee (not to be confused with the Work Group), and a Sustainable Tourism Secretariat, stakeholders were asked to serve in one of three areas – vision, oversight, or project implementation. It was proposed that COTA take responsibility for the Sustainable Tourism Secretariat role which included three new positions and a relatively healthy budget.

I won’t bore you with further details other than to say the initiative launched but ultimately folded within a few years largely due to lack of sustained funding and other factors. Regardless, the white paper I discovered is interesting from the perspective of how far we’ve progressed (or not in some cases) on sustainability as an industry over the past 15 years and the work that lies ahead.

To that end, last year, in partnership with GreenStep Solutions, TIABC responded to a call for proposals for a grant of up to $500,000 to help tourism operators advance sustainability initiatives within their place of business. Although our application wasn’t successful, all is not lost because the initial program morphed into something much larger and better.

Earlier this week the province launched the BC Tourism Climate Resiliency Initiative (BCTCRI) to harness opportunities to build a climate-aware tourism industry that is better prepared to proactively respond to climate change. The program builds on the work of the BC Regional Tourism Secretariat that began in 2022. BCTCRI has been in the making for several months and will help tourism businesses build on their current sustainability or climate adaptation plans, among other objectives (see full details below). Suffice it to say, it’s satisfying to see the measured but steady progress on the sustainability file between 2008 and today.

Recently during my daily purging ritual, I discovered a couple of compact digital cameras with old images worth saving. Even though some digital cameras may be considered obsolete and disposable, these two were in perfect shape. So rather than adding to the growing electronic waste pile, I gave them to my grandchildren who love taking pictures but are still too young for their own smart phones. It brought me joy to see how happy they were with these new toys which are being put to good use. I was also relieved to be able to extend the lifespan of the cameras and help fuel the so-called circular economy in the name of sustainability.

Footnote – Destination Greater Victoria, Synergy Enterprises, Starrboard Enterprises and Tartan Bond Integrated Communications are hosting the annual Impact Sustainability Travel & Tourism Conference next week in our capital city. Impact was launched several years ago to drive, inspire and demonstrate innovative and collaborative sustainable solutions for positive tourism development across the globe. I will be attending the event and moderating one of the sessions. There is still time to register HERE. I hope to see you there!

Walt Judas,


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