The Kootenay Rockies have achieved yet another level of excellence.
The region — which includes Nelson and the West Kootenay — is a biosphere certified destination, only the third such region in the nation to achieve the honour.
Bestowed by the Responsible Tourism Institute — an international certification body that maintains an memorandum of understanding with UNESCO, is affiliated to the World Tourism Organization and is a member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council — biosphere destinations are committed to continuous improvement guided by the 17 sustainable development goals of the United Nations, including combating climate change, protecting the environment, supporting economic growth and respecting culture and social values.
The term biosphere certified destination means the region is committed to the ongoing improvement of sustainability in the region, said Sylvia O’Connor, destination development coordinator with Kootenay Rockies Tourism (KRT).
“The certification is based on established standards in areas that include climate change, environment, social, economy and culture — and guarantees compliance and continuous improvement through a private, voluntary and independent certification system — which is evaluated on an annual basis,” she said.
“The certification allows a region to showcase how they take sustainability seriously, but also ensures they are accountable to make necessary and ongoing improvements.”
KRT began its sustainability journey in 2019, said O’Connor.
“This last year the KRT team worked on the biosphere designation to submit evidence of what the destination has achieved so far towards the sustainable development goals,” she said. “The biosphere certification process is quite rigorous.”
The process also highlighted areas of improvement for KRT to continue working on.
Other regional destination management organizations have pursued the designation.
Another tool in the toolbox
Having been named a biosphere certified destination would help KRT and others market the region as a destination by attracting visitors who also value sustainability and share the same values on responsible travel, said O’Connor.
“However, most importantly, we are also building a tourism industry that is sustainable for our host communities,” she said. “Our hope is this will increase our visibility to visitors who understand and value the importance of sustainable tourism practices within a destination.
The biosphere certification is an ongoing process, O’Connor pointed out, with the destination working every year to become more sustainable.
“So, we plan on working through these action items for continued betterment. We also want this to open the dialogue with stakeholders about how we can continue to work together as an industry to make tourism more sustainable.