Mark Twain wrote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Many of us have taken this to heart. International tourist arrivals have increased from 25 million globally in 1950 to 1.32 billion in 2017. More than 10,000 people visit the Mayan Riviera every day; an area where there are no established recycling programs. The impacts of tourism on wildlife and habitat, water, climate, and humans, cannot be understated.
Canada is receiving an increasing share of the tourism pie. 2018 was a record year with arrivals reaching 21.13 million. Visitors love us because we have stunning scenery and are seen to be clean, green, safe, and relatively affordable. The cruise ship industry contributes significantly to our area’s tourism economy. According to the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, 212 ships carrying 440,000 passengers arrived in 2010 and this increased to 243 ships and 640,000 passengers in 2018. The Saanich Peninsula is the gateway to Vancouver Island for millions of visitors each year who arrive by air and ferry.
For many years, communities losing their industrial base were encouraged to develop tourism as a “green” economic diversification strategy. Tourism has evolved in many ways that are not clean, green, sustainable or ethical. Anyone who has visited Venice lately can attest to the impact of overtourism.
As responsible hosts, we have a duty to be aware of and accountable for our impact on the environment and the community. We have an obligation to educate visitors about our expectations around limiting energy and water consumption, the 4 Rs of recycling, and about our culture and customs. We have a tremendous opportunity on Vancouver Island, to lead the world in offering travel experiences for visitors who are mindful of their carbon footprint and are seeking sustainable tourism options.
If you are interested in learning more about sustainable tourism, consider attending the 3rd IMPACT Sustainability Travel & Tourism forum, January 19-22, 2020 in Victoria. The laudable goal for this conference is to align the Canadian tourism industry, as well as stakeholders and communities touched by tourism, behind a vision to achieve economic, social and environmental sustainability. Registration information is available on the events page of our website.
Denny Warner is the Executive Director at the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.