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IMPACT Sustainability Travel & Tourism 2018 sets new tone

Did you know a five-star hotel uses 1,800 liters of water per day per visitor? That’s compared to 350 for a three-star or 326 for your average Canadian family.

Does this mean you should stay home if you want to help the environment? Attendees at IMPACT: Sustainability Tourism and Travel 2018 in Victoria, British Columbia January 21 – 24 asked plenty of tough questions. With some of the world’s sustainability experts in attendance there were was plenty of lively discussion.

More than a conference this event brought together 170 people from across Canada to discuss how tourism can grow in harmony with host communities and the environment. “We did this event because no one was doing a deep dive into this topic,” explained Paul Nursey, President and CEO of Tourism Victoria.

Victoria with more carbon-neutral businesses per capita than any other community in Canada is a great location for a summit on sustainable tourism. Organizers gave indigenous groups a prominent role – Keith Henry of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada co-chaired, the Lekwungen people performed and several other indigenous groups presented their experiences at conference events.

While attendees agreed they wanted better, not more tourism, it wasn’t clear how to accomplish this or how to spread the word to other tourism leaders. “First you need to know what you’re sustaining,” challenged Elizabeth Becker, author of Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism.

Several speakers stressed the need for government policy on sustainable tourism so it was encouraging to see the Honorable Bardish Chaggar, Minister of Small Business and Tourism (who announced $2.25 million in new funding for B.C.’s aboriginal tourism) and MP for Labrador, Yvonne Jones, in attendance along with Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada.

Jill Doucette – a carbon accountant and founder of Synergy – modeled leadership for sustainable tourism explaining how Harbour Air, Eagle Wings Tours, and Inn at Laurel Point are all carbon neutral. The conference itself was carbon-neutral. Doucette revealed, “It cost $750 to make the conference carbon neutral. It would have been more if we hadn’t been on a carbon neutral boat (for the pre-conference Policy in Action Tour).”

Deirdre Campbell of Beattie Tartan outlined her goals to turn IMPACT into a recurring event with leaders meeting annually to work on measurable outcomes, “my goal for IMPACT for next year is figuring out how to get thought leaders in the same room.”

At the wrap-up session as moderator Greg Klassen of Twenty31 asked people for input on pressing questions (as ranked by participants), he threatened, “you’re all going to answer a question so you may as well get it over with and put your hand up first.” He needn’t have worried as hands flew in the air, some people bouncing in their seats or flapping their hands for a chance at the microphone; the energy in stark contrast to the post-caffeine, pre-departure lethargy often seen after three days of meeting.

Someone suggested “conferences like this allow us to save the world one destination at a time” and the refrain caught fire with other participants. Ideas flew around the room and plans to publish a summary paper by co-chair Rachel Dodds were announced.

Florence Dick of the Songhees people best summed up the reasons for attending IMPACT 2018 even though tourism change is difficult. “You may never see something unfold in your lifetime but you can be a footprint for your people.”

To learn more about next year’s event go to

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