Destination Greater Victoria is the first urban Canadian destination to implement and recognise an action plan on the 2030 Agenda and the UN's 17 SDGs.
Yesterday, March 16, Destination Greater Victoria (DGV) and its members celebrated achieving the prestigious Biosphere Certification from the Responsible Tourism Institute (RTI), making Greater Victoria the first urban destination in Canada to join an elite group of tourism destinations around the world recognised for their commitment to the principles of environmental sustainability, cultural diversity, equity and social responsibility.
Biosphere certification marks the latest milestone in DGV's continuing journey as a global leader in sustainable tourism among Destination Management Organisations. In 2021, DGV was certified by Ostrom Climate as the first major destination organisation in North America to be Carbon Neutral, and in 2022, the first to be Climate Positive. DGV continues to reduce its carbon footprint and implement sustainability best practices through its collaboration with Synergy Enterprises, a leading corporate sustainability management firm.
While other tourism sustainability certification programmes exist, RTI's Biosphere certification is the most sought-after because of its credibility, its worldwide recognition and its alignment with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, the World Charter for Sustainable Tourism +20 and the COP21 Paris Agreement to combat climate change. The value of certification is enormous, as consumers, travellers and citizens increasingly take into account factors such as local quality of life, environmental impact and how a destination, its tourism and land management agent and its business fabric affect and serve local communities when making decisions about where to travel and where to shop.
Greater Victoria's certification is based on a rigorous and collaborative assessment of Destination Greater Victoria and the region against the 17 UN SDGs, along with the development and external audit of an action plan outlining how sustainability best practices can be further promoted, implemented, monitored and improved within DGV and among its members.
The certification ceremony took place at The Parkside Hotel and Spa, one of four hotels in Greater Victoria with their own Biosphere certification as a company, for the activities and initiatives voluntarily implemented by each of the hotels, in their own individual plans for managing and recognising their corporate sustainability; also connected to the 17 SDGs and 169 goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda.
"The relationship between tourism, visitors and local residents is very important," said Paul Nursey, CEO of DGV. "The tourism sector is a huge economic driver that directly or indirectly supports two out of five working families in Greater Victoria, as well as the many year-round quality of life amenities that make living here so attractive. Given the size of the tourism sector and its potential impact, it is important to recognise that we have an obligation to operate in a way that respects the environment and the social and cultural fabric of our communities. That is why the DGV has always been committed to continuous innovation in destination management and marketing, and to the authentic alignment of Greater Victoria's tourism sector operations with the values and needs of the local community."
"As an organisation that represents Greater Victoria on the world stage and has a mandate to support and grow its visitor economy, the ultimate goal of everything we do is to serve local residents and contribute positively to their quality of life. While Biosphere certification will bring long-term economic benefits to the destination, it is equally important that it provides us and our members with a platform, tools, training and an action plan to further improve our sustainability practices and maximise the positive contributions we make every day as community partners."
In Greater Victoria, at least 12 DGV member companies are participating in the Biosphere programme at this early stage. As the entity in which the destination trusts exclusively for the management and recognition of sustainability, both of its administration and its business fabric, Biosphere is already present throughout Greater Victoria and its 13 municipalities, where its various stakeholders are already working and implementing good practices, with the objective of involving in this first phase up to 60 companies for their commitment and subsequent certification, by the end of 2023; thereby ensuring that these months of work serve to advance in their paths towards continuous improvement and the adoption of more sustainable business models.
Destination Greater Victoria businesses, as with all other Biosphere destinations, can participate and receive all their business sustainability management and certification services free of charge. As such, the business sector's participation will support overall sustainability at the destination level and also provide extra support in recognition and promotional benefits that they already realise as an individual business.
"Certification marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in our sustainability journey," said Nursey. "Our team at DGV looks forward to working with and learning from our members, as well as our municipal, community and Indigenous partners, to maximise the benefits our local tourism sector generates for all residents of Greater Victoria".
The President of the Responsible Tourism Institute, Dr. Tomás de Azcárate Bang, highlighted "the importance of this certification as a first major step towards adopting a more resilient, competitive and sustainable tourism model for the survival of the sector's activity in the destination. Tourism is the largest industry in the world from an economic point of view and belongs to the industries with the greatest impact on the planet on a global scale. Sustainability and tourism will be one in the future, which requires decisive action".
"Congratulations to the Destination Greater Victoria team for their role in achieving Biosphere certification for Greater Victoria. Biosphere certification recognises not only our collective commitment and achievements in sustainability best practice, but also our commitment to continue to move forward as a region and as an international destination. Greater Victoria looks forward to welcoming all travellers seeking authentic experiences in a destination that supports responsible tourism," said Stephen Hammond, Victoria City Councillor and Destination Greater Victoria Board Member at the award ceremony.