Sustainable Regional Tourism is on its way…. Year-round destination experiences that build a more sustainable tourism model are being embraced locally. On September 19th the Capital Regional District (CRD) Board gave the go ahead for the soon to be formed, independent, non-profit Southern Gulf Island Tourism Partnership (SGITP). Having local government support for joint Salt Spring Island (SSI) and Southern Gulf Islands (SGI) tourism sector management will lead to sustainable year-round tourism that will also enhance the local economy.
The Southern Gulf Island Tourism Partnership (SGITP) will be a tourism stakeholder-lead organization representing the tourism industry, community stakeholders, local government, and First Nations. The vision is to develop sustainable, year-round destination experiences that reflect our natural, environmental and cultural uniqueness, as well as promote improved community economics and employment resilience through sound destination management.
Brought forward by the Salt Spring Island Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC), the Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce, and the Southern Gulf Islands Community Economic Sustainability Commission (CESC), the initiative represents over 2-years of research, education, workshops, information sharing and communication with the majority of SGI - SSI commercial tourism accommodators and tourism industry stakeholders.
This volunteer activity along, with CRD staff support, has lead to an agreement from the majority of commercial tourism accommodators to enact the Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT). This pass-through tax will provide sustainable, visitor-driven funding for locally-directed tourism industry destination management and marketing. The MRDT program is currently being utilized to successfully manage and market over 59 destinations across BC.
CEDC Chair, Francine Carlin, says SGITP is a collaboration that will provide access to sustainable funding. “A majority of working people across this region depend on tourism dollars for their family livelihood. And as the research shows this crosses all economic sectors, as well as island-centered businesses.” She adds, “It’s exciting on many levels as it will assist many multi-income families who rely on the ripple effect of the tourism economy to sustain their current and future financial security.”
Jeremy Milsom, VP Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce, owner of the SS Inn, and a core volunteer for this initiative, says the MRDT program will provide a much needed boost to all-season local revenues, manage island visitation and sustain jobs, “This is an incredible step forward in building a framework that supports growth and balance in sectors such as transport, health and senior-care, arts, retail, eco-tourism, construction and innovative agriculture”. Milsom adds, “By building more seasonally balanced economic activity and diversity, we’ll be strengthening our community’s future resilience to the benefit of the entire community”.
Randy Cunningham, CEDC Commissioner and co-leader of this initiative, says an in-depth review of the draft 5-Year Strategic Business Plan for The Southern Gulf Islands Tourism Partnership is upcoming. “The next step is to hold information sessions with tourism sector providers to review the draft Strategic Business Plan for the SGITP at the end of October.” He explains, “As facilitators of this project, we are now at the stage of helping the SSI-SGI tourism stakeholders complete the project. Through the SGITP, they will lead the way for a future that will maintain and sustain the desirability of this region as a prime visitor destination.”