Sustainable Tourism: Treading lightly on the Earth

“Tread lightly on the Earth.” Strange words, perhaps, from someone who sells beer.

Charlotteville Beer

Charlotteville Brewing Co. Beer

But these are enlightened, welcome words in a community that supports environmental sustainability. The fact a tourism business operator is saying them speaks volumes about their maturity and foresight.

“We are seizing on sustainability, which is at the core of our business philosophy,” said Melanie Doerksen of Charlotteville Brewing Co., which recently won the Sustainable Tourism Award from the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve Foundation.

Sustainability philosophy

Charlotteville Brewing Co.’s sustainability philosophy includes:

  • Utilizing re-purposed materials
  • Growing raw ingredients organically or purchasing organic
  • Recycling grain stock used on-site as livestock feed
  • Recycling water
  • Paying personnel a living wage so they too can prosper
  • Striving for zero waste
  • Serving artisanal food and drink that’s as sustainable as it is delicious
Melanie Doerksen, Charlotteville Brewing, Photo: Jim Byers

Melanie Doerksen, Charlotteville Brewing Co. Photo: Jim Byers

Charlotteville’s Melanie Doerksen also told the Simcoe Reformer newspaper. “We’re trying to tread lightly on the Earth and show the community how you can own a sustainable business and make a profit at the same time.”

Fortuitously, at the same award ceremony, Doerksen was named Norfolk County Entrepreneur of the Year.

While business owners are leveraging the power of sustainable tourism in their day-to-day operations, elected officials are also taking risks, by staring down multinational companies.

Politicians are catching up

Bonaire cruiseships

Cruise ships docked at Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean

One of those politicians is Edison Rijna, Governor of Bonaire. This tiny Dutch Caribbean island is world renowned as a scuba-diving destination. A few years ago, Bonaire started to welcome cruise ships at 75 cents per person. The economic impact has been minimal, and the residents worry about the negative impact of big ships so close to a pristine marine environment. The divers hate the cruise ships — and now others are agreeing. In an interview in Trouw newspaper in the Netherlands, Rijna firmly supports a sustainable tourism model.

“We are prostituting our island”, he said. “I once spoke to an American from such a mass cruise on the quay in Kralendijk. He had paid $ 279 for a week. Unbelievable right? ‘Yes’, he said, ‘for that money I have a week vacation, here and there I buy a souvenir, I walk through the city and I eat and drink myself full on board for seven days’.”

“What are the benefits for us?” Rijna asked. “We don’t want people like that on Bonaire.”

The Governor would rather see efforts focused on smaller, specialized ships with a different audience, such as sailing cruises.

How can a tourism business benefit from sustainability?

  • Aim for consumers who can afford a higher price point
  • Focus on experiences that enlighten and educate
  • Rejig price points to generate bigger sales to a smaller customer base
  • Don’t compromise your philosophy, ever

Want to work on a Sustainable Tourism Strategy for your business? Contact me to discuss.