British Columbia's tourism leaders gathered in Vancouver recently as Kevin Krueger, Minister of Tourism, Culture, and the Arts and John Yap, Minister of State for Climate Action, announced BC's role in piloting a nation-wide sustainable tourism certification program and unveiled new tools to support greater sustainable development in the tourism industry.
Minister Krueger announced that British Columbia, with the support of ETHOS ( British Columbia's sustainable tourism network) was chosen by the Canadian Sustainable Tourism Advisory Council (CSTAC)to lead a pilot for a nation-wide sustainable tourism certification program.
Defined internationally as a best practice, leading sustainable tourism destinations around the world have built consumer confidence through making certification programs available to local operators.
Starting in July, twenty-four tourism operators across BC's six tourism regions will go through a full assessment of the Green Tourism Certification Program developed by UK based Green Business Ltd. The feedback provided by these BC based tourism operators will create the performance indicators for the Canadian version of this program.
'This will be the first sustainability certification program designed for all sectors of the tourism industry in Canada,' said Krueger. 'It shows real leadership in the further development of the sustainable tourism sector and we are proud to be a partner in this innovative new program and confident it will help keep British Columbia at the forefront of sustainable tourism initiatives.'
Following the announcement of this groundbreaking certification program, Minister Yap unveiled two new sustainability tools for tourism operators. Available immediately is the ETHOS Travel Offset Calculator tool. Minister Yap demonstrated how this easy to use web-based tool enables visitors to offset their travel carbon footprint and encourages them to use offsetting as a regular part of their booking process. Offsets purchased through the online calculator, a free tool for ETHOS members to place on their websites, are provided by Pacific Carbon Trust.
'There is a growing awareness of the linkages between how we work, travel and vacation and our carbon footprint', said Yap. 'Tools like the ETHOS travel calculator build on that awareness, give tourists an opportunity to offset their emissions and brand B.C. as an eco-conscious tourism destination.'
In addition to contributing to a low-carbon BC economy, the calculator also presents an opportunity for operators to introduce visitors to the leading role BC plays in addressing global climate change.
Currently Tourism Vancouver is showcasing the ETHOS Travel Offset Calculator on the homepage of their visitor website. ETHOS expects to have over 100 operators from across British Columbia using this value added tool by early 2011.
'Perhaps more than any other sector in BC, tourism offers a unique opportunity for BC to spread the message of sustainability to the world,' said Pacific Carbon Trust CEO Scott MacDonald. 'By purchasing Pacific Carbon Trust offsets through the ETHOS Travel Calculator, visitors will know they are investing in credible made-in-BC emissions reduction projects that are leading to cleaner and greener environment.'
Minister Yap also presented Passion for Action's GOBI Carbon Management Business Tool. Supported by ETHOS, and offered at a discount to members, GobiSOFT is a comprehensive, web-based system which enables organizations to easily measure, report and manage their carbon footprint. GobiSOFT is based on international standards, thorough research and published data sources, making it one of the most credible and complete carbon management systems on the market.
With the introduction of both tools and the certification process, ETHOS now offers its members the opportunity to fully participate in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, at both the consumer and operational levels.
'Our goal today was to highlight the progress that has been made for British Columbia to lead the way within Canada in sustainable tourism development,' said Paul Vallee, Chair of ETHOS and Vice President of Tourism Vancouver.
'Our vision at ETHOS is a tourism industry in BC that is healthy, vibrant and thriving, socially, culturally, environmentally and economically. We think this first year of operations shows there is a willingness to work collaboratively to reach our sustainable development targets and put us on the world stage as a sustainable tourism destination.'
CSTAC, which represents tourism industry members across Canada, collectively endorsed the decision to have BC based ETHOS take the lead in developing and implementing the national certification program.
'British Columbia has shown such insight in creating and supporting a unique alliance of government, industry, and non-government partners when it created ETHOS,' says CSTAC Chair, Randy Williams. 'And as a member of CSTAC, ETHOS has been instrumental in the Council's development of the Canadian Sustainable Tourism Criteria , ensuring that it is directly aligned with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria.'
Today, tourism within BC attracts over 24 million visitors annually and employs 131,000 people across 18,000 tourism businesses.