While there are many ways tourism businesses can reduce their carbon footprint within its operations, one of the biggest opportunities by far is related to transportation: as guests travel to your destination, as they enjoy their experiences, and even the travel choices made among your own staff.
Transportation is the largest contributor to global warming, and tourism contributes more than 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, most of that coming from travel. Tourism businesses that are looking to operate more sustainably must be taking steps to measure and reduce their carbon footprint. Plus, with carbon pricing introduced or impending in every province in Canada, it makes economic sense to start taking a closer look at your carbon footprint.
One of the unintended consequences of the global pandemic we have been living through has been a wholescale reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, as communities around the world shelter in place. Border restrictions and flight cancellations have meant a massive reduction in air travel, and many businesses switched to remote work between March and May 2020. In Canada alone, the remote workforce swelled to over 6 million, resulting in fewer cars on the road, and even a reduction in public transit usage. While there have been many negative impacts of COVID, cleaner air overall has been one silver lining to a bad situation.
What does this mean for the tourism sector? With domestic tourism on the rise (and here to stay, say some experts) this spells good news for regional tourism and the climate! Whereas in the past, most tourism marketing efforts were aimed at international travellers, Destination Marketing Organizations like Destination BC are now encouraging tourism operators to focus their marketing efforts on the people living in their local communities. Regional tourism provides myriad benefits to carbon reductions, with fewer people taking long haul flights, and instead opting for shorter distance car trips. And with social distancing and “social bubbles” still in place, destinations will likely see an increase in smaller groups, as families and close friends look to reconnect after months of isolation.
Every tourism business can help reduce their carbon footprint by encouraging visitors to use carbon-friendly transportation options, and it starts with the information and the programs you make available to visitors to help influence their low carbon journey. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Make use of existing marketing tools to find your domestic tourism audience! Suggestions: Destination BC’s Content Playbook
- Provide clear and comprehensive information and encouragement about low carbon activities guests can enjoy on and offsite such as walking, running, cycling, canoeing, rafting, horseback riding, etc.
- Provide information on your website and brochures highlighting public transport options, including getting to and from your businesses, as well as travel within the destination. If you have limited public transportation options in your region, you could promote cycling and bike rentals, as well as walking opportunities and private group shuttles and busses that will carry many passengers at once
- Consider offering incentives to guests who choose to use public transportation, such as discounts, special gifts/service, etc.
- Ensure that your facilities are pedestrian and cyclist-friendly, providing drying areas, repair tools and bench, secure storage, etc.
- Encourage your staff to use public transportation and carpooling options, and offer incentives or monthly draws for those that do
- Consider offering staff an allowance for purchasing a bike or bus pass to offset parking requirements/pressure at your business
And as you progress along your low-carbon journey, there may be more “big ticket” items you want to consider, but aren’t sure where to fit them into the budget.
- Provide electric car charging infrastructure for your guests and staff, or point them in the right direction if there are charging stations nearby
- If you have a company vehicle or fleet, create a plan to move to electric vehicles as they become available
- If you operate watercraft, golf carts, ATVs, or other fossil fuel-powered vehicles, look for electric or high-efficiency options whenever possible
Did you know? We created an Eco Fund Program to help tourism businesses capture financial resources for these kinds of projects.
If you’re interested in measuring the carbon footprint of your business, check out ecobase Carbon Software, a super simple to use and very affordable online carbon tracking and measurement tool.
Once you’ve measured and begun reducing your carbon footprint, you might want to consider becoming carbon neutral – it’s often much less costly than you think. We use Offsetters, a Canadian company. They also have an online calculator that lets your guests measure flight or vehicle emissions and then allows them to purchase carbon offsets online to make their trip to and from your business carbon neutral.