Greater Victoria Becomes First Canadian Urban Destination To Earn Biosphere Certification

March 17, 2023

Globally Respected Sustainability Certification A Major Step Forward For Visitor Economy

VICTORIA Destination Greater Victoria (DGV) and its members celebrated receiving the Responsible Tourism Institutes (RTI) prestigious Biosphere Certification, making Greater Victoria the first urban destination in Canada or the United States to join an elite group of tourism destinations worldwide recognized for their commitment to principles of environmental sustainability, cultural diversity, equity and social responsibility.

Biosphere certification marks the latest milestone in DGV’s ongoing journey as a global leader in sustainable tourism among Destination Management Organizations. In 2021, DGV was certified by Ostrom Climate as the first major destination organization 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 noted corporate sustainability management firm.

While other tourism sustainability certification programs exist, RTI’s Biosphere certification is the most highly sought due to its credibility, its recognition worldwide and its alignment with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the World Charter for Sustainable Tourism +20 and the COP21 Paris Agreement to combat climate change. The value of certification is tremendous as travellers and meeting planners are increasingly considering factors like local quality of life, environmental impacts, and how a destination, its DMO and its tourism sector affects and serves local communities, when making decisions about where to travel or locate a conference.

Greater Victoria’s certification is based on a rigorous and collaborative assessment of Destination Greater Victoria and the region in relation to the United Nations’ SDGs and the development and external audit of an action plan outlining how sustainability best practices can continue to be fostered, implemented, monitored and improved within DGV and among its membership. The achievement was marked today with a celebration at The Parkside Hotel and Spa, one of four Greater Victoria hotels with its own individual Biosphere certification.

“The relationship between tourism, visitors and local residents is an important one,” said Paul Nursey, CEO, DGV. “The tourism sector is a massive economic driver which directly or indirectly supports two out of every 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 tourism’s sector’s size and potential impact, it’s important to recognize we have an obligation to operate in a way that respects the environment as well as the social and cultural fabric of our communities. That’s why DGV has always been committed to ongoing innovation in destination marketing and management, and authentically aligning the operations of Greater Victoria’s tourism sector with local community values and needs.

“As an organization 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 provide long-term economic benefits to Greater Victoria, just as importantly it provides a platform and action plan for us and our members to continue improving our sustainability practices and maximizing the positive contributions we make every day as community partners.”

Among DGV’s other notable commitments and achievements related to social and environmental sustainability (See backgrounder below) is co-founding the IMPACT Sustainability Travel & Tourism Conference, which annually attracts some 300 delegates from North America and around the world to explore innovative and collaborative sustainable solutions for positive tourism development across Canada. Delegates include private business operators, DMOs, government officials, clean tech solutions providers, Indigenous tourism leaders and research and academia. The event is held in the City of Victoria-owned Victoria Conference Centre, which is certified Carbon Neutral and marketed worldwide
by DGV.

Across Greater Victoria, at least 12 DGV member businesses are participating in the Biosphere program at this initial stage. As the exclusive destination partner for Biosphere throughout Greater Victoria and its 13 municipalities, Destination Greater Victoria is working with its members to have up to 60 businesses Biosphere committed or certified by the end of 2023.

DGV members are able to participate in the Biosphere program for no cost for one year from the date of linking to DGV. Member participation will support the overarching destination-level certification and also provide members with recognition and promotional benefits for the sustainability work they already do as a business. Members are encouraged to visit the DGV website and reach out to DGV’s sustainability team for more Biosphere information, including member-only access to online tools and resources to develop and promote their sustainability commitments and practices.

Worldwide, only 45 destinations and their DMOs have earned Biosphere certification, including, in Canada, DGV for Greater Victoria, the Northern BC Tourism Association, Kootenay Rockies Tourism Association, Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association, Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association and Tourism Vancouver Island.

“Today’s celebration marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter on 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 maximize the benefits our local tourism sector generates for all residents of Greater Victoria.”

“We are witnessing sustainability at the forefront for meeting and event planners who are looking for stronger initiatives than typical recycling programs, diving deeper into who our partnerships and certifications are with. Our focus has been on sustainability from day one and we encourage other businesses to do the same. Biosphere certification is a great place to start as a trusted program, making it easier to reach a sustainable benchmark to share with planners, providing valuable verification when choosing a company to do business with,” said Trina White, General Manager of The Parkside Hotel & Spa and Vice-Chair, DGV Sustainability Committee.

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