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Ecotourism & Sustainable Travel

How Nature-Based Tourism Is a Contributor to Sustainability

Canada’s nature-based tourism industry presents a huge opportunity when it comes to adopting more sustainable practices and standards.

Spending time outdoors strengthens people-nature connection and increases the likelihood of private and civic sustainability actions. The nature-based tourism industry is one of our country’s greatest assets in connecting Canadian and international travellers to nature.

Prioritizing the planet

Nature-based tourism businesses understand the importance of their role as stewards of the environment. A great example of this is the Ecotourism Attestation, issued by Aventure Écotourisme Québec (AEQ). Holding this attestation means being among the leaders in the industry and making the planet a top priority. The process includes assessing the ecological impact of the business, developing an action plan, and ongoing monitoring to achieve sustainability goals.

Not all provinces have an association providing industry-wide standards. In such cases, you can find reputable professionals by looking for the following indicators. At minimum, a business committed to sustainability will follow and teach the internationally recognized Leave No Trace principles. They will provide information for clients to minimize impact on fragile areas of the sites used. Businesses caring about sustainability will often provide interpretation activities for clients to increase nature connection. Professionals caring about quality will usually be members of a guiding association.

By following accepted practices and teaching their clients, these businesses minimize impact during trips and teach the skills to minimize impact when individuals go outdoors on their own.

Reducing the industry’s ecological footprint

Whenever possible, the industry invests in helping humanity address the significant challenges of climate change and global ecosystem degradation. The 1% for the Planet Outdoor Fund, coordinated by AEQ in partnership with 1% for the Planet,is a great example. On a voluntary basis, businesses donate one per cent of their yearly sales to the fund. The fund supports non-profit organizations leading projects aimed at protecting ecosystems and different animal species and at fighting against climate change in the province of Quebec.

Part of the funds raised are also invested directly in nature-based tourism businesses to support the implementation of sustainable practices. The goal is to unite efforts and reduce the ecological footprint of the industry.

The fund, which launched amid the COVID-19 pandemic, has already raised $400,000, which was used to support 16 projects and to compensate 5,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

Embracing opportunity

According to a recent study from Expedia, 90 per cent of consumers are looking for sustainable options when travelling and two out of three want more sustainability information from providers. This is a clear opportunity for travel businesses. The nature-based tourism industry is a formidable asset for Canada to become more sustainable. When the industry is coordinated and supported by government, we see industry-wide commitment taking shape. For example, in Québec the adventure tourism and ecotourism sector is on its way to achieving 13 sustainable development goals by measuring its carbon footprint, setting indicators and goals toward carbon neutrality, and piloting projects with an ever-growing number of businesses. The industry works with Tourisme durable Québec, thereby positioning the entire province as a responsible and sustainable tourism destination.

Destination Canada estimates that tourism has the potential to generate $142 billion by 2030. Nature-based tourism is integral to achieving this goal. This industry has significant economic contribution potential, favours sustainability in its economic activities, and brings good jobs to rural areas. Canada has a long history of bringing people on the land, and it’s time to leverage this industry for the benefit of the whole country.

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This article is a collaboration between the Outdoor Council of Canada and Aventure Écotourisme Québec.

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