6 insights from the 2023 IMPACT Sustainability Travel and Tourism Conference #3

January 29, 2024 by Ben Liegey

In January 2023, BetterTable.ca attended the IMPACT Sustainability Travel & Tourism Conference: one of the biggest event in North America that focuses on sustainable tourism. This event, held annually in Victoria, BC, is designed to provide a platform for leaders in the travel and tourism industry to come together and discuss ways to reduce the negative impacts of tourism while maximizing its positive impacts. The topics covered at the conference range from sustainable tourism practices and eco-friendly accommodations to community-based tourism and sustainable tourism policy.

Here are 6 insights from the 2023 IMPACT Sustainability Travel & Tourism Conference

#1 Responsible travel is the new normal

The IMPACT Conference was launched in 2018 to facilitate a collaborative international dialogue on innovation in sustainability and regenerative tourism. The Co-Founders include:

In 2023, the co-founders have introduced the conference with a great land acknowledgement, as reconciliation is a cornerstone of sustainability. It has then be followed by a climate reality check from Robert Sanford with the United Nations, sharing the latest expert updates: policies currently in place point to a 2.8°C temperature rise by the end of the century. To put things into perspective, when Canada was covered with 3 km of ice 20,000 years ago, the average temperature was only 5 degrees lower than now. So tourism stakeholders need to take action before governments put regulations in place. A first step is to sign the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism.

2023 IMPACT Sustainability Conference Kick off

#2 Successful tourism businesses need to embrace diversity and track new KPIs

Many speakers have shared their expertise during the conference. One session stood up, with Assetou Coulibaly, Project Manager at Accent Inns, and Marsha Walden, President and CEO at Destination Canada. Assetou, a Black female leader, whose mother tongue is not English, calls herself a unicorn pinguin. She shared how to embrace diversity and intersectionality as a tool to be more sustainable: 

the more BIPOC leaders your business has, the stronger it becomes. And more and more studies show that diversity and inclusion are important for sustainability. EDI & ESG targets are interrelated.

The CEO at Destination Canada then mentioned that our business models are broken and vulnerable, especially with new targets from government. What does success look like? “You can’t do new things if you’re measuring old KPIs“. Business as usual is not an option anymore. Sustainability is the only way to thrive as an industry.

Keynote speakers sharing industry insights

#3 Sustainability does not have to be expensive

Ben Liegey, Founder and CEO at BetterTable.ca, spoke at the Circular Economy session at IMPACT 2023. He shared that the carbon footprint of food waste represents 8 to 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions: 4 times the carbon footprint of the aviation industry! At the same time, food waste prevention is a great way to increase F&B profitability. Some free tools are available such as the online trainings from the Better Table Academy and high ROI technology like Food Intel Tech.

Ben Liegey at the 2023 IMPACT Conference

#4 Food sustainability can help reduce the carbon footprint of your hotel or restaurant

The meals for the event have been prepared by the culinary team from the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, with sustainability in mind. The carbon footprint of plated plant-based lunches resulted in 2.53 tCO2e instead of 5.22 tCO2e if it was a high carbon meal. Reducing food waste is of course an additional way to help reduce your carbon footprint, while reducing food costs.

Plated dinner with carbon footprint

#5 The Parkside Hotel & Spa is a sustainable leader in Victoria, BC

More and more local hospitality leaders are embracing regenerative tourism. For example, Trina White, General Manager at The Parkside Hotel & Spa, is a female leader passionate about sustainability, and see the value for her guests. The property has become a Green Key Global certified hotel 5 stars back in 2009 and is now a Climate Positive, Biosphere Certified hotel. Their extensive recycling programme in rooms (separating paper, plastic, glass and cans) and the way they communicate about SDG 12 with their guests is helping to attract guests and increase occupancy. 

Zero Waste Actions at The Parkside Hotel & Spa

#6 The hospitality industry is changing fast to achieve a triple bottom line

Last but not least, some big brands like Marriott have strong sustainability goals. Jeff White, VP of Engineering with Marriott Hotels Canada, shared an update about the Serve 360 Strategy. It has 4 pillars (nurture, sustain, empower and welcome) aiming at creating positive and sustainable impact wherever Marriott does business. In the Sustain Responsible Operations part, one of the goal is to reduce food waste by 50% by 2025, which is aligned with the UN SDG 12.3

Ingrid Jarrett, President and CEO of the BC Hotel Association, was proud to see “how committed the BC tourism and hospitality sector is to greening our industry. Our sector plays a key role in achieving our province’s climate action goals and there is a fast-growing community of operators who are tackling this responsibility head on. In addition to our partnership with BetterTable.ca, the BC Hotel Association has solidified several partnerships to facilitate this important work. We proudly offer our GoGreen Program, which provides members with a complimentary energy analysis to identify energy- and cost-saving opportunities, along with our Ecofund program, which helps accommodators develop funding for their necessary project upgrades. While there is more progress to be made until we reach our climate goals, it was remarkable to witness the vision, innovation, and resolve to build a sustainable tourism industry at the 2023 IMPACT Conference.”

Hospitality leaders sharing sustainability trends in the industry

The hospitality industry is changing. Fast. Do you want to follow those leaders?

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