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.
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.