Tourism Cares Meaningful Travel Summit Gives Back to Victoria

<span>Tourism Cares Meaningful Travel Summit Gives Back to Victoria</span>

By: Paul Nursey, Destination Greater Victoria

Greater Victoria is known for its natural beauty. A coastal city on the Pacific Ocean, it has towering evergreens, beaches, fresh air, and jaw-dropping scenery. Preserving this setting for generations to come is a core value of our community. It is no surprise then that these values manifest in Greater Victoria’s second-largest economic sector – its visitor economy. 

From September 28-30, 2022, Greater Victoria hosted the Tourism Cares Meaningful Travel Summit. Tourism Cares is a US-based non-profit that advances the travel industry’s positive impact to help people and places thrive. They believe it is in all our best interests to support the destinations on which our industry depends so that communities, travelers, and businesses can prosper.  The Tourism Cares Meaningful Travel Summit brought 120 tourism professionals to Greater Victoria for three days of conversations on environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Speakers included Maureen Gordon from the Small Ship Tour Operators of BC and Maple Leaf Adventures, who created a movement to remove debris from coastal waters, and Eddy Charlie, member of the Cowichan First Nation who has worked to raise awareness of the Canadian residential school system and the harm they caused for First Nation children.  

The Tourism Cares Meaningful Travel Summit is more than conversations and presentations at the Victoria Conference Centre. It is an immersive experience. The conference program is designed for delegates to disperse across Greater Victoria and visit organizations making positive contributions in the Greater Victoria community. In some cases, delegates volunteered their time with these local organizations. Destination Greater Victoria member Eagle Wing Whale and Wildlife Tours hosted conference delegates for a half day experience on the Salish Sea. On board Eagle Wing’s vessels were representatives from the Songhees First Nation who provide catering as well as storytellers from the Nation to add interpretive commentary regarding their traditional lands. Naturalists also educated passengers on the amazing biodiversity of the area.  

Another experience was provided by the Peninsula Streams Society, who hosted conference delegates at nearby Tod Inlet. Volunteers with the Peninsula Streams Society assist in revitalizing the area to help with traditional food ecosystems of the inlet. Volunteers from the Tourism Cares Meaningful Travel Summit assisted with the removal of invasive species and deposited crushed oyster shell hash on the intertidal areas of the shores of the estuary to regenerate shellfish habitat. At the Sandown Centre for Regenerative Agriculture, conference delegates learned about bringing the worlds of tourism and agriculture together. How can partners create an agritourism experience that is beneficial to all parties? Conference delegates planted crops that will later be sold to the local community and restaurants.  

Environmental sustainability is often the focus of discussions at a conference like the Tourism Cares Meaningful Travel Summit, but social and economic sustainability are important as well. As a legacy of the Summit, Tourism Cares will support Indigenous businesses in Canada with grant funding provided by Tauck Ritzau Innovative Philanthropy. Tourism Cares’ impact grants focus on investing in the resilience of destinations through community-level tourism initiatives that create social and environmental impact. Total grant amount awarded will be approximately $30,000 CAD and up to three organizations will be chosen in two rounds: fall 2022 and early 2023.   

Destination management and destination stewardship has become a core function of our organization. Examples include creating the IMPACT Sustainability Travel & Tourism Conference, establishing a Sustainability Committee within our governance framework and Destination Greater Victoria achieving a Carbon Neutral designation. The Tourism Cares Meaningful Travel Summit aligns with Destination Greater Victoria’s values of working collaboratively with stakeholders, including First Nations groups, and giving back to our community.