Update: As of April 22, 2019, Green Tourism Canada is now Sustainable Tourism.
This is the second in a series of articles that is responding directly to what the tourism industry in Canada has identified as their top priorities when it comes to being green.
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 Canada 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.