Event: IMPACT Sustainability Travel & Tourism
Date: January 21-24, 2018

IMPACT Sustainability Travel & Tourism was Canada’s inaugural conference on innovation and sustainability in tourism. The goal of the conference is to annually convene the Canadian tourism industry and its stakeholders, focusing on economic, environmental, social and cultural sustainability, and ultimately working towards creating a positive legacy for tourism in Canada.

Presented in partnership with Synergy Enterprises, Beattie Tartan Integrated Communications, Starrboard Enterprises and Tourism Victoria, Victoria welcomed 170 attendees from 10 provinces and territories, with representation ranging from destination marketing organizations, media, federal and provincial government, indigenous organizations, academia, entrepreneurs and travel companies.

From the get-go, organizers wanted this conference to be low on PowerPoint and high on engagement. The intention was to encourage open dialogue and provide attendees with tangible experiences that exemplified sustainability. Care was taken during the planning process to select vendors, venues and activities that reflected these values.

Delegates had the option of partaking in a preconference Policy-in-Action tour, designed to connect participants with local, industry-leading businesses tackling the challenges of sustainability head-on.

Attendees ventured beyond the meeting room on board Eagle Wing Tours’ carbon-neutral vessel, Forever Wild, exploring how organizations within Victoria’s Inner Harbour were implementing sustainable business practices within everyday operations. Guests were treated to a delicious lunch at sea by Songhees Events & Catering, a local indigenous organization.

The day concluded with a welcome reception at The Parkside Hotel & Spa, a venue committed to environmental leadership. Attendees were welcomed with a traditional Lekwungen dance, performed by local indigenous community members, and greeted by Victoria’s mayor, Lisa Helps.

Lekwungen Dance

An array of hors d’oeuvres and drinks were provided by Truffles Catering, a business recognized for its commitment to natural, ethically sourced foods and responsible waste management practices.

The conference format was created specifically to encourage participation from all attendees. Mornings began with a large plenary, followed by short 10-15 minute “Reality Checks and Doses of Innovation” that set the stage for deeper discussion. Facilitators utilized Slido, an online polling platform to harness immediate feedback from delegates to guide conversation during sessions.

Delegates were also able to choose between smaller, more intimate facilitated sessions, geared toward identifying tangible topics and actionable items that could be taken home.

Impact Sustainability Travel & Tourism Presentation

The final evening, coined “The Gathering,” was held after hours in Harbour Air’s floating seaplane terminal, which has been recognized for its commitment to environmental stewardship (e.g. the terminal has a green roof planted with low-water succulent sedum plants and honeybee hives) and helped showcase the destination in an iconic way.

The terminal was transformed from a fully functioning airport into a beautiful closing venue, equipped with live music and tasty food and beverage offerings.

Even the Swag Bags given out to delegates incorporated elements of the destination: The bags were made from upcycled City of Victoria lamppost banners!

This conference is slightly unique in that it wasn’t organized by a typical third-party meeting planner: It was planned and presented in partnership between Synergy Enterprises, Beattie Tartan Integrated Communications, Starrboard Enterprises and Tourism Victoria.

We believe it demonstrates how conferences can integrate localized destination experiences to leverage their mission and values beyond the meeting room.