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