Organizations, businesses and government on the Island are making efforts to ensure tourism is sustainable, said panelists and attendees at the Vancouver Island Economic Summit.
Anthony Everett, Tourism Vancouver Island president and CEO, moderated Mindful Travelers and the Future of Tourism at Vancouver Island Conference Centre and asked the audience to think of ways of finding a way forward that achieves balance: economic growth and viability balanced with sustainability.
Trina White, general manager of Parkside Hotel and Spa in Victoria, said her business adheres to environmentally sustainable practices, despite the fact it could affect potential business. Parkside doesn’t offer customers plastic bottled water, she said, and electric vehicles park for free with gas vehicles charged $17 a night. It has furniture handmade in the Cowichan Valley and housekeeping crews use cloth bags, as opposed to plastic.
White said the hotel diverts 77 per cent of its waste from the landfill, with a goal of 90 per cent.
“You’ve got to think, almost yearly, you’re getting rid of all your linens,” said White. “We’re re-doing all the furniture in the hotel over the last year and all our hallway corridors are being renovated right now. All that material has to be re-purposed and re-used wherever we can.”
Michelle Hall, vice-president of Surfrider Canada, a non-profit that aims to protect oceans and beaches, said in the Pacific Rim region, the focus is to eliminate single-use plastics, progressive waste management and working together on ocean standard practices. Beach cleanups led by residents, visitors, youths, First Nations, industry and government are one way to achieve that, she said.
“All of our cleanups are an opportunity to collect data to inform our campaign [and] program that we work on to make beach cleanups obsolete,” she said.
According to Hall, debris is used by Lush Cosmetics for ocean-friendly packaging and Surfrider is working with Tourism V.I. to share tips for tourists in partnership with businesses that have ocean-friendly practices.
Bob Rogers, Regional District of Nanaimo vice-chairman, told the News Bulletin the RDN has sustainable tourism in its scope as well.
“We know people are coming here, so we have to be able to facilitate them and encourage the tourism business to really recognize … sustainability, plastic use, etc.,” said Rogers. “We’ve got initiatives going on now … we’ve got the stuff on the EV charging stations going in, so we’re putting in 10 of those as a regional district, but at the same time, businesses are doing them and hotels and gas stations, so we have to address all of that at the same time.”
Speaking to the News Bulletin after the panel discussion, Everett said further plans are afoot at Tourism Nanaimo around sustainability.
“When we talk about sustainability and tourism for the Island, we also bring that ethic into the work for Tourism Nanaimo,” said Everett. “We’re about to do a tourism master plan for Nanaimo, which will look at all the issues of how people get here, what’s important to visitors and then how businesses meet that sustainability/ocean-friendly lens.”