We can’t keep up with all the solutions out there. And that’s a good thing.
On the Travel Beyond podcast, we tend to focus on one inspiring place at a time, bringing you premiere examples of changemakers and sustainability actions related to travel. We’ve been to Aspen, Inuvik, the Netherlands, and Queenstown Lakes, to name a few. But as our team continues to research solutions to travel’s biggest challenges, our list of solutions keeps growing. We can’t keep up with all the solutions out there. And that’s a good thing.
For our last episode of the year, we’re bringing you some of those solutions we’ve been sitting on. Tyler Robinson, Destination Think’s Climate Strategist, joins co-producers Sara Raymond de Booy (Associate Creative Director) and David Archer (Editorial Manager) to shine a spotlight on remarkable places, leaders, and actions we haven’t yet been able to explore on the podcast.
In this episode, you’ll learn lessons from:
- Noosa, Australia, where civic leadership in destination management shows the power of community-led processes and the benefits of reaching for levers of change beyond the DMO.
- Fogo Island, Newfoundland, where a social enterprise is transforming the notion of profit to make sure tourism is economically nutritious.
- Sitka, Alaska, which is working to transition away from diesel and expand the potential to store green energy.
- Lots of related examples.
Explore these compelling stories with us as we discuss the valuable lessons and share real-world examples of impactful leadership in the travel industry—an embodiment of action, not just words.
Noosa Shire Destination Management Plan Discussion Paper – An invitation to Noosa residents to engage in the creation of the destination management plan.
Fogo Island Inn – An accommodation managed by a social enterprise in Newfoundland.
Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Project – Sitka, Alaska – Project description by the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.
Airport City Solar at Edmonton International Airport – A project set to become world’s largest solar farm built at an airport.
Canada’s first hydrogen train is taking passengers – A CBC article about a new train from Quebec City to Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec.
The world-changing adventures of Aspen Skiing Company – David’s favourite episode of Travel Beyond.
Stewardship looks like this: Aspen’s 4 lessons for DMOs – David Archer’s blog post on Destinations International.
Beyond overtourism: How Amsterdam defines visitors of value – Sara’s favourite episode of Travel Beyond.
David Archer: Hey there and welcome to this special episode of Travel Beyond, a show where we partner with leading destinations to explore the greatest challenges facing communities and the planet. We also bring you their most inspiring solutions, and we’ve packed this episode pretty full. There are green energy projects, destinations managing high visitation, and one place’s take on a more nutritious economic diet.
You won’t want to miss it. Be sure to stick around.
David Archer: Today’s episode is special in part because there are three of us here today from Destination Think, and it’s really nice to be in the same virtual room together. I’m David Archer, Editorial Manager, recording from the village of Daajing Giids in Haida Gwaii, the territory of the Haida Nation.
Sara Raymond de Booy: And I’m Sara Raymond de Booy, Associate Creative Director at Destination Think. I’m mixing it up this time, recording from Orange County, California, which is still home to the Acjachemen and Gabrielino-Tongva people.
Tyler Robinson: And I’m Tyler Robinson, Climate Strategist at Destination Think, and I’m recording from Toronto, the traditional territory of many nations, including the Mississauga of the Credit, the Anishinaabe, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples.
David Archer: Welcome, and thanks for being here. On this podcast, we look at the role of travel and choose to highlight destinations that are global leaders. And as regular listeners will know, we are actively looking for the best examples of efforts to regenerate economies, communities, and ecosystems. So we’re looking for which people and places are doing this important work? Which places need a little more attention toward their efforts? And most importantly, who can we learn from? So we always welcome your input and recommendations.
And today, in fact, we’re going to share an example that was sent in by a listener and subscriber to our DMO Matters newsletter. Usually our podcast focuses on one place at a time and we’ll stay there for a whole season.
So far, we’ve had six seasons. We’ve been to Aspen, Colorado; Revelstoke, B.C.; Queenstown Lakes, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Inuvik in the Northwest Territories, and we’ve also spoken with several European travel leaders thanks to CityDNA’s conference in Bulgaria this year. That’s the season that just wrapped up, and you’ll find that and stories from all the other places I mentioned by scrolling back through our feed.
It’s been a really big year here, so I want to acknowledge that and, again, thank all of the destinations that sponsored or hosted Destination Think to make this show happen. Thank you.
So today’s a little different. It’s our last Travel Beyond episode for 2023. And before we sign off for the year, we wanted to bring you some inspiring examples from places we haven’t yet had the chance to talk about.
So in the spirit of the holidays, we’ve each brought one place to discuss and we’re going to see what we can learn from them and what you as listeners can take away. So there were lots of places and examples to choose from. In fact, we’re sitting on quite a lot of examples of sustainable leadership in the travel space. Isn’t that right, Sara?
Sara Raymond de Booy: Yes, we are. And not just sustainable leadership, but going beyond that to solutions that are being implemented around the world and have a lot to teach destinations anywhere. So right now, we have about 200 plus, I’d say, examples of leadership and actions. And those examples come from research that we’re doing on existing projects, articles that we would come across from just our general curiosity, things shared on LinkedIn. You know, things that relate directly to this podcast.
And these are examples that are big and small. You know, not everybody is going to be able to spend billions or millions of dollars to implement something right away. We’re covering those big solutions in our research and also small ones that can be really easily implemented, by anyone, it might just be a slight difference in how you think about something and a little, a little change that you can make that will really help to benefit your communities.
So, yeah, as you mentioned before, people have sent in things to us for these podcasts. So keep sharing those so we can document them. Some of these topics are shaping themselves into new seasons that we’re going to air in 2024.
And what we also like to do when we come across these examples from around the world is, I’ve been working with Tyler to align his strategy frameworks to some of these, and together we’ve been coming up with categories for all of these solutions, and those all are tied into how they align with Sustainable Development Goals, and it’s really interesting to see, in doing that, how many of these challenges that we’re facing really intersect. Rarely do they stand alone, and they all exist on the periphery or have some relevance to tourism.
David Archer: Yeah, and you mentioned the diversity of examples in terms of, you know, the budgets being put toward different sustainable projects vary quite a lot. And, and so do the types of places, you know, we’ve been to small communities like Inuvik and nations like the Netherlands. The scale and possibilities are going to be different in each place.
But yeah, you’re right. They’re all, They’re all linked. They’re all linked to the sustainable development goals in some ways, and that’s been interesting to work out.
So Tyler, I know you’re having an especially busy fall in your capacity as Climate Strategist. So thanks for being here today. Is there anything you can tell us about your recent work? Like, what’s been motivating you since we recorded our Inuvik season? Where are you seeing some progress?
Tyler Robinson: Yeah, there’s been a lot of exciting work that we’ve been doing over the past months.
Queenstown Lakes’ Climate Action Roadmap comes to mind as a highlight for sure. It’s been one of the most rewarding strategies or projects in general that I’ve worked on, and a lot of this has to do with the possibility for impact, the level of impact and ambition that they’re really striving for there. So that’s really inspiring to me and helps energize me whenever I dive into a project like that.
It’s also the most complex project I’ve probably worked on in a while. And this has really challenged us to refine our theory for change, really lean into collaboration and learn from global best practices to make sure that we’re aggregating solutions for a destination like that, that are really leading examples of, of how to achieve the level of transition that they’re looking for.
Another project I’ve been working on that’s been pretty inspiring has been the Winnipeg sustainability strategy that we’ve been putting together. And this destination is a little bit earlier in their journey. And so the focus there is really setting the foundation to pursue sustainability effectively.
These include certain things like aligning leadership early, making sure that there’s a team in place to, to lead sustainability internally before you even start to look externally, uh, starting to engage with key stakeholders and understand their needs, their friction points and their ambitions for sustainability in the region.
And this has been really exciting so far, and there’s a lot of early signs that they have the necessary ingredients to be quite bold and ambitious in their sustainability pursuits. And a key reason for this is because they have, they seem to have very strong leadership. So that one has been, uh, exciting to work on.
I’ve also been to a sustainability conference recently. That’s been inspiring. Uh, it was called the International Symposium on Destination Stewardship, and there are a lot of really compelling themes that stood out for me as I listened through some of the sessions. Including things like grappling what it with what it means to be regenerative and what regenerative tourism really means within the visitor economy context.
Climate justice was another key theme that stood out. The intersection of climate change, climate action and pursuing an equitable transition. And then indigenomics. leveraging Indigenous economic inclusion, both participation and their worldviews as a means of reparations.
So a lot of learnings for me there that I hope to incorporate into my work going forward.
David Archer: That’s interesting. And all good examples of work that’s going on. Indigenomics is a new word to me. I’m going to have to look that up and find out more about it.
Like I mentioned, we’ve each brought a gift to this party, and each one contains a place with an exceptional example of sustainability leadership related to travel.
And each place has something to teach us. So Tyler, let’s open yours first. What have you got?
Tyler Robinson: Yeah. The example that I wanted to talk about today comes from Noosa in Queensland, Australia. And this is where the Noosa Shire Council is in the midst of developing a community-led destination management plan. The example comes from Andrew Saunders. He’s an Economic Development advisor at Noosa Shire Council, and he mentions that this DMP is in part a response to a decreased social license for the tourism economy to operate due to high visitation, which is not uncommon for us to see around the world, that social license to erode a little bit as the carrying capacity of a destination gets stressed in various forms.
Just to give you a little bit of context, Noosa is one of Australia’s premier destinations. It has about 2 million visitors annually and it generates, um, about 1. 7 billion annually as well. And the key focus of the plan initially – I say initially because so far they’ve released a discussion paper for community review, but haven’t gone all the way to creating the finalized destination management plan.
And so what they’re focusing on at the moment in terms of priorities include things like, the environment, traffic congestion, housing affordability, and other impacts, social and environmental impacts similar to that.
And Sara, I know that you’ve actually visited Noosa before, right? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Sara Raymond de Booy: Yeah. Yeah. I have been to Noosa, um, twice, I think, um, one very, very, very long time ago and one more recently. But, um, it’s about a two hour drive north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland and traditional owners and original custodians, um, are the Kabi Kabi and Gubbi Gubbi people.
And the experiences there are a little, little bit luxury, I’d say. A lot of adventure experiences by the beach, really beautiful coastal ecosystems there, which lend themselves to a lot of activities on the water, like surfing or kayaking. There’s also a pretty extensive trail network, climbing and abseiling are popular, and I know that environment’s known, I would say in my mind, I think beaches automatically, but I know that there is a lot of really unique ecosystems that go beyond that.
There’s everglades there, rivers, lakes, mountains, things of that sort. One thing that stands out about Noosa is that it’s recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. So it has a proud history of preserving its natural environment, and actually 35 percent of the shire is protected as either a national park reserve or conservation area.
So I know that there’s definitely a strong heritage of really protecting that beautiful and fragile ecosystems that are in Noosa. So it’s interesting to think of how that will play into this DMP.
Tyler Robinson: Definitely, and one of the reasons why we selected it as a fairly forward thinking example to highlight in an episode like this. In the DMP that they’ve created so far, or in the discussion paper that they’ve created in advance of their DMP, they’re really interested in highlighting their residents’ values and collecting their residents’ values, hearing from them.
This really speaks to the theme of tourism as a means to an end, instead of an end in and of itself, because they’re trying to make sure that tourism is being shaped or reshaped in a way that really supports the community’s needs and values from the start. And as they’ve conducted initial engagement, it looks like they have narrowed down a handful of priorities that they’re hoping to focus on. This includes traffic management, the environment, waste management, destination marketing, visitor accommodation, visitor experiences and services, major events, and governance.
And now that they’ve narrowed down to these types of priorities, one of the innovative things that I saw them do was to get feedback from their residents on the level of ambition that they hope to pursue with each within each one of these issues or opportunity areas that I’ve outlined. And so the four different levels of action that they’ve highlighted are categorized as do nothing, steady state, aspirational and transformational.
So you kind of get a sense of them laying out a spectrum of ambition here and trying to understand from a resident perspective, how far do we really want to go in each one of these areas?
And to go a little bit further than that, so that it’s not an abstract exercise for their residents to wade through, they’ve really painted a picture with scenarios of what different levels of aspiration might look like within each one of these issues or opportunity areas. And I really appreciated how this allows the reader to grapple with the challenges in a less abstract manner and ultimately allow them to provide more detailed and targeted feedback on the level of ambition that they see for the destination in pursuing these different challenges and opportunities.
The last thing that stood out for me was that they recognize that they’re going to have to pull levers of change that are outside the traditional power structures of a destination marketing organization.
And so they’ve, this DMP is actually being developed by the local government authority, and they have the ability to pull levers of action locally and advocate to other levels of government to enact change. And this is really important. Something that I’ve seen as crucial in a lot of work that I’ve been doing around the world, because if we don’t look to these external levers of change, we can’t really create change on the level that’s required to tackle some of these systemic issues like climate change or like inequality or, or housing crises. These intersectional sticky challenges that destinations are grappling with all over the world that require more than just the traditional destination marketing toolbox that has been a go-to for, for so long.
And so I’m really encouraged to see a destination like this, reach outside of that traditional toolbox and look for other innovative ways to make change in their destination.
David Archer: Yeah, thanks for sharing that, that example. It’s been interesting to watch different forms of community participation and engagement around systems change like this. And uh, something you mentioned earlier about or using tourism as a means to an end. I think that’s something we heard Evert Versloot from the Netherlands say earlier this year on the podcast too.
Is like, that’s an idea that needs to inspire the thinking that happens now. think, And I think the outcomes of some of the recent DMP processes that we’ve been involved with point to signs of cultural or behavior shift and travel and in community planning, in favor of sustainability.
People are asking, what is travel for? So, involving the community is definitely a prerequisite or destination planning. you know, In extreme scenarios where, where the pressure on a destination becomes too high, then you see people taking to the streets or the waterways blocking cruise ships, like in Venice.
Or another example I saw recently was in Hallstatt, Austria, where some residents have put up a fence in front lookout point to stop people from stopping to take selfies there because there was just too much congestion. So, you know, sometimes people will take matters into their own hands. But there are lots of opportunities to make change in other ways and in more systemic ways.
So in Revelstoke, the residents decided that travel was about providing housing in part, and Queenstown Lakes, it’s about reaching carbon zero.
And even places without such clear visions are talking about the environment, economy, and community as being intertwined, and and people are providing the political will to support it. And that’s that’s one reason that I’m also inspired by this example from Noosa.
So thanks for sharing it, Tyler. Uh, Are there any other examples that this Noosa DMP reminds you of?
Sara Raymond de Booy: I would say that this shares a lot of similarities with Aspen. They’re both completely different destinations. I know one is ski and mountains and the other is, is coastal activities.
But they both are similar where there’s a high-end visitor that is attracted to these spots, and you see common things pop up where there’s, you know, traffic concerns in Aspen. There’s traffic concerns in Noosa, housing and rental affordability as well for the staff.
So I think that there’s, even though they’re completely different on the surface, completely different part of the world, there’s still a lot of common threads between them.
Tyler Robinson: It’s also quite similar to the situation that Queenstown Lakes was and is, is grappling with in terms of high levels of visitation eroding the social license for the visitor economy to operate. And it just kind of speaks in general to this idea that destinations will have to become increasingly proactive in the face of some of these over-visitation challenges.
And need to build that stewardship capacity within their organizations as well, because if you have overtourism paired with a perception that a DMO’s main role is to just attract more visitors, then at a minimum, you end up with the risk of budget cuts, and it could even go as far as residents questioning whether the existence of the DMO is even really necessary.
David Archer: Yeah, those are really good risks to point out. If there’s one or two things that Noosa teaches us, what do you think those are for our listeners? What can they take away from this?
Tyler Robinson: First, it would be that destination management plans are more powerful when they’re authentically community-led. I know being community-led or stakeholder engagement is kind of a box that people feel like you have to check, but there’s definitely different levels of authenticity in which it’s pursued.
And you really do have to make sure you’re speaking to enough residents, and a representative cross-section of residents to do this work authentically. And then the second takeaway for me was just going back to my point around reaching outside of the traditional toolbox of destination marketers to pull on those levers for change that are beyond the traditional mandate or power structures.
And I know this can be uncomfortable work and challenging work. But it, it really is necessary to collaborate with branches of government, with the private sector and with the community at large, because it’s the only way that we’re going to create the system level change required to make a difference in the face of these challenges.
David Archer: Those are some good takeaways. And we’ll hear a little bit more later on about how those branches are all interconnected. First, Sara, let’s turn to you. Can you tell us about the example you found that’s inspiring?
Sara Raymond de Booy: Yes, we’re going to spin the globe a little bit. Head on over to Canada. So, the gift I brought you today, David, was Newfoundland’s Fogo Island Inn. Now this isn’t an example from this year, disclaimer. They’ve been around for quite a while, but they did really stand out in our research. And I think the lessons from this, whether or not the hotel was built yesterday or 10 years ago, is something that’s very, very relevant in some of the issues that we talk about a lot now. So Fogo Island Inn has about 10 rooms. And in 2020 they were actually named one of the top three hotels in the world.
So it’s a pretty big deal. It’s pretty, pretty…
David Archer: That is a big
Sara Raymond de Booy: Pretty nice place, hey?
So it’s off the coast of Newfoundland and as you can imagine, what’s available to guests there would be a lot of wildlife and nature opportunities you know, they have a really nice looking sauna on the rooftop. It’s really an architecturally unique-looking place as well.
I’m sure we can put a couple photos of it on the blog for everybody.
David Archer: Yeah, it’s quite stunning.
Sara Raymond de Booy: And also, it really promotes the cultural elements for visitors there. It has a strong seafaring heritage, like boat building and storytelling and singing. And just by looking at the website, you can tell that it’s run by people who, who truly love the place and really want to embrace that culture.
You know, the website’s almost a, a storytelling masterpiece on its own. There’s so much information there about the environment where the hotel’s built and, and the history of the land. So before this turns into a Travel Channel show, the reason I’m fangirling…
David Archer: We don’t mind if this is a Channel show, by the way.
Sara Raymond de Booy: Fogo Island Inn is owned by Shorefast, which is an organization that’s really working to enable local communities to thrive in the global economy. And what Shorefast has done is developed a concept of economic nutrition that speaks to the inn, Fogo Island fish and Fogo Island workshops. And that label, this economic nutrition label, looks like a label that you would see on food, but it’s actually talking about where the money from your stay goes and how it’s reinvested into the community.
So it’s a transparency tool for visitors who know they’re, you know, spending a good amount of money on staying in this exclusive place, but they can see how that money is, is being shared and is benefiting the local community.
This label, they’re working on it becoming more widely available, but the way it would look you were purchasing an item instead of a hotel stay, you take, you know, a sweater, say it’s a hundred dollars.
What this nutrition label does is it will break down the labor, the admin costs, the supply costs, and then list out what, where the “profit,” in quotes, goes. So is that going to be reinvested locally, regionally, nationally, or internationally? So right now, Shorefast is using this on Fogo Island for a lot of their enterprises, but it could be used more widely soon. They’re working on that, from what it looks like on their site.
And Shorefast was established by Zita Cobb, who was actually an eighth, who is actually an eighth generation Fogo Islander who lived and worked all over Canada before returning to Newfoundland. And Tyler, she recently spoke at a conference you attended, right?
Tyler Robinson: Yeah, she spoke at that conference I mentioned earlier called the International Symposium on Destination Stewardship, and Zita’s talk was actually one of my favorites.
Sara Raymond de Booy: Yeah. And it seems that she and Shorefast have really interesting ideas on rethinking what profit means. How did her presentation or any of her topics bring that to light?
Tyler Robinson: Yeah, she, she talked about this concept of flipping the ideas of assets and resources. And what she meant by that was that we often think of the people and the destination or aspects of the destination as resources. But if we flip this and think of them as assets that produce resources, we could have a much healthier relationship with them.
So what I took out of it was that resources have a connotation of being something that we consume, and assets are something that we nurture or steward. And so if we understand the destination within those terms and flip them, then we make decisions very differently.
Sara Raymond de Booy: Yeah, and I think it’s an interesting example of why it’s important to think about who owns what and what value can stay in local communities when tourism’s thought about as a tool just a little bit differently.
Tyler Robinson: Definitely, who owns what has a profound impact on communities. An owner who lives in the community will naturally make very different decisions. I operate in the world of constantly applying these sustainability frameworks and checklists and guidelines to decision-making processes for destinations around the world.
But it’s funny. When you meet an owner of a business who actually lives in that community, they seem to do so many of these things that might be in a sustainability framework just through muscle memory or just through natural intuition because they’re embedded in that community. They understand its needs and values and they naturally want what’s best for the people in place. And so they centre that.
Zita talked about how we often centre society around institutions and therefore we make suboptimal decisions that are in the interest of those institutions and not the people in place. And so it’s inspiring to see how she’s pushing back against that force through her vision and implementation of destination development.
Sara Raymond de Booy: And I think more broadly, you know, we talk about how all of this gets worked into plans and gets discussed. Sometimes it happens intuitively, Tyler, but more broadly, this economic nutrition label is a really simple idea to take these complex topics and make a big impact by communicating that to consumers in a way that’s really easy for them to understand and digest where their money’s going.
Tyler Robinson: Definitely.
Sara Raymond de Booy: I think what also stands out for me about the Inn and the efforts on Fogo Island in general is just, it just shows how the wealth of tourism can improve a place, and I think also enable rural and remote areas to preserve and share their cultural heritage. And so it’s interesting to see how tourism is being used as a tool to make sure that that can continue to thrive for additional generations too.
David Archer: Yeah, for sure. Thanks for sharing this example. The Economic Nutrition Label is one of my favorite little, communication tool examples too. It’s just really fun. You can easily understand it. We’ll post a link to that on the blog for this episode.
This whole operation is an example of the social, cultural, economic benefit that’s needed for a sustainable or regenerative travel industry, and there are just so many crossover benefits.
And I’m going to talk about another example of that happening right now. So we’re going to spin the globe a little bit back to the opposite side of the continent to the west coast, where I am.
I want to tell you a story about the community of Sitka, Alaska, and its renewable energy transition.
This is a small, remote community of 8,500 residents on the southeast panhandle of the state, originally inhabited by the Tlingit people, later colonized by Russia and the United States. And this is kind of in my backyard, relatively speaking. It’s about 500 kilometers north of where I’m sitting in Haida Gwaii. That counts as a medium distance in northern B.C.
Sitka is a common stop for cruise ships heading north from Vancouver. It’s near the Tongass National Forest, which is the largest intact temperate rainforest on earth. Have either of you been up to Alaska or cruising up north?
Tyler Robinson: I haven’t, I wish.
Sara Raymond de Booy: I have not either.
David Archer: Well, I’ll try and take you there a little bit with my story here. I used to work in a hotel in Vancouver where every summer it would be filled with visitors waiting to board their cruise ships heading up there. So it was nice to learn a little bit about this place.
Sitka is known as a place powered by renewable energy. It relies on two hydroelectric dams to generate most of the grid’s electricity, and uses diesel generators as a backup. Sitka’s energy grid is publicly owned, and the city’s leadership is trying to eliminate diesel from the power mix, and that’s for all the usual reasons.
Diesel pollutes, it’s bad for the environment, and it can be really inefficient and expensive for northern communities too. The fuel needs to be barged in to keep the lights on in Sitka, and some northern communities, more remote communities in Alaska, even have to fly it in to keep warm in the winter, and you can just imagine how expensive that is.
But to remove diesel power, Sitka will need to find it from other sources. It’s got two main obstacles in the way of reaching zero diesel. The first is an inconsistent supply of hydropower. So, hydro depends on water, that depends on rainfall, and so, depends on how much it rains. In the rainy years, Sitka produces too much power, and in the drier years, they have to switch to diesel more often, because there just isn’t enough water going through the dams.
The second obstacle is just an increasing demand for electricity. Specifically in Sitka, they’re planning a new hospital and Coast Guard project. Those will consume more power, but also more broadly, electrification is happening as well, as it is in many places.
Aside from moving the energy grid away from diesel, the community also wants to eliminate diesel home heating in favor of heat pump systems. And those use electricity too. Electric vehicles are starting to appear, and those will draw power as well.
So it’s great to get off of fossil fuels with heat pumps and EVs at your house, but there isn’t much point, maybe, if those emissions are just created farther up the chain instead.
Tourism is a factor in energy demands, too. A short-term tourism plan from Sitka in 2022 shows that about 500,000 cruise visitors were expected this year, 2023. And that’s the highest ever, almost double the levels of 2008 when they received 285,000. So more visitors draw more power, especially as more transport switches to electric over the coming years. And there’s, this is kind of an aside, but there’s a pretty lively discussion locally, it seems like, about the pressure that residents are feeling due to the volume of cruise visitors, which has really spiked recently, so it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.
But energy-wise, Sitka’s leadership has taken some really exciting steps forward. They recently partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Project, or ETIPP, I will call it ETIPP from now on. ETIPP is a program for remote communities to transition to green energy, and Sitka was chosen for the program.
They’ve been able to draw on some federal expertise and data to look at sources like hydro power, geothermal power, solar, and wind. And through the new study, they found ways that renewable energy can be expanded while remaining affordable for residents.
What’s maybe even more exciting for the future is that the city is also thinking even bigger than supplying its day to day power needs. They’re thinking about ways of storing green energy. So, what if, for example, if you’re a northern community in Alaska, instead of flying a cargo plane full of diesel fuel, you could capture some of that 24-hour daylight in fuel cells to store that power for the winter? So that’s kind of the dream, and ammonia-based energy storage is one possibility that might make sense for Sitka.
Tyler, do you want to tell us a little bit about how green hydrogen energy works? That’s the technology that’s related to the ammonia-based energy storage. What do you know about green hydrogen?
Tyler Robinson: Yeah, so it can definitely play a complementary role in achieving some of the clean energy objectives of this destination. The way that, green hydrogen production works is that you’re splitting water molecules using an electrical current and electrolyzer. And you end up with an energy source that can be stored for a period of time to be reused in various ways.
So you could end up using this for a stationary energy consumption purpose. Or, for transportation, for example, there’s different types of vehicles being developed that can be powered by hydrogen. Airplanes are being developed right now that can be run on hydrogen. And so this ends up being a method for this destination to take an intermittent renewable energy source that they may not need at the given time that it’s being produced and store it in a usable energy form that can be used down the road.
David Archer: Yeah, this also reminded me of another example I saw recently, in Quebec City. Their Train de Charlevoix is the first is North America’s first hydrogen-powered train, and it had its debut this summer by taking passengers between Quebec City and Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec. That’s about a two-and-a-half-hour trip using green hydrogen, emitting only water vapour.
So that is beginning in North America. Uh, and I know other places are working on green hydrogen too. But in Sitka, this is still something to dream about for the future. The city continues to work with ETIPP program right now, and its next step is formalizing a strategy to get some of those long-term renewable energy sources online.
And for our listeners who want more details on this, there’s a really informative short documentary called, The Alaskan Island Running Almost Entirely on Renewable Energy, produced by Consensus Digital Media. And I just want to thank them for being one of my sources for this topic.
And the documentary also shows how the green energy projects are resonating with the values of local Indigenous communities, including the Tlingit. So it’s quite an interesting story.
And I’m curious to hear how this story strikes you both, but I think the takeaway for me is that individual and collective actions have to support one another to make big changes happen.
So Sitka can’t get to zero diesel through a single decision or pathway. There’s an entire ecosystem around it. And it’s important to understand that, that everything’s linked. And in this case, there are lots of layers working together. So, residents are choosing to replace diesel heating in their homes when encouraged with some subsidies, and those subsidies are made possible through non-profits and departments at various government levels.
Collective action is happening through the municipality and the publicly owned utility, which collaborates with the federal programs like ETIPP, and that’s going to help them remove diesel generation from the wider grid. So you’ve got things happening from both ends there, and the local leadership at the municipal level began with the creation of a climate task force, so you can see the chain from personal to local to national and the impacts that it could have across Alaska and elsewhere.
Tyler, I was wondering if any of this reminds you about what’s happening in Queenstown Lakes?
Tyler Robinson: Yeah, it reminds me about Queenstown Lakes in the sense that they’re also going through a transition where they’re electrifying their visitor economy. Like many destinations around the world who are taking climate change seriously, they will have to massively increase the supply of clean electricity in order to meet the growing demand from the electrification of the visitor economy, whether it’s replacing natural gas and introducing heat pumps into the system, which run on electricity, or whether it’s electrifying various forms of transportation, you can think of this, roughly, or order of magnitude, we’re looking at visitor economies around the world, needing to double or triple their electricity supply in the coming years. Um, say over the next decade or so. And so the scale that’s needed for, for new, clean electricity to come online is, is massive. Um, like you said, David, it’s going to be reliant on an ecosystem of decisions.
So in this sense, some of the challenges that Sitka’s grappling with, there’ll be many parallels, uh, with destinations around the world, like Queenstown Lakes.
David Archer: Yeah, I can imagine almost place that I can think of will need electrify a little bit more in the coming years. And so it’ll be really interesting to see the the green hydrogen takes off as well.
Uh, Sara, is this reminding you of any other examples or how does it, how does it strike you?
Sara Raymond de Booy: I guess in a slightly different way of finding, um, finding renewable sources, the Edmonton Airport City Solar. So that’s actually the world’s largest solar farm built at an airport. And that generates 100 percent clean energy for use by the Edmonton Airport and its tenants, as well as for commercial enterprises and residents located in the surrounding areas.
Yeah, a lot of, a lot of these topics popping up across the, across the globe.
David Archer: Yeah, and generating energy for, for use in travel and other applications too. Uh, I know there are more and more airports building solar platforms because they’ve got a lot of space. So maybe it’s a good place to do it.
Now that we’ve been through our three big examples, let’s recap what we’ve learned.
Noosa taught us that meaningful change requires pulling levers outside the traditional role of the destination management organization.
We went to Fogo Island, where the Fogo Island Inn and Shorefast taught us different ways of evaluating what profit means to ensure that tourism is a tool to benefit local economies.
And finally, with Sitka, where the energy projects taught us that individual and collective actions have to support one another to make big changes happen.
If you’re new to the podcast, and you like what you’re hearing here, and you want to delve into some inspiring examples like these over the holidays, we’ve got a few things to recommend. So I’m going to give a shout-out to our Aspen season, where one of my favorite episodes is episode six, where we talked with Auden Schendler from Aspen Skiing Company, who showed us some really powerful examples of what systemic change can actually look like. And the risks that you might need to take along the way. So it’s quite inspiring. And I’ve also published an article at Destinations International on their blog, which we’ll have in the show notes, about kind of what we learned from that conversation.
Sara, what have you got?
Sara Raymond de Booy: Yeah, for me, one of my favorite episodes was the one we did with Geerte Udo from Amsterdam + Partners, and that’s in the Netherlands season. I believe episode four, but don’t take that to the bank.
David Archer: Yes, it’s episode four.
Sara Raymond de Booy: Okay, thank you for confirming. And what I really liked there is just the exploration of what, what is a visitor of value in a destination and how that’s defined.
There’s the way Amsterdam’s defined it, but it makes you think about, about it in other places of, of what is a visitor of value. And I know Amsterdam’s been in the, the news a lot lately for how to manage the visitor numbers there and certain things that they’ve been implementing. So it was just really interesting to hear from, to hear from her and from Amsterdam and Partners about their perspective on it.
David Archer: Yeah, that’s a great one. Tyler, what comes to mind for you?
Tyler Robinson: David, you actually, uh, stole my idea of highlighting Auden’s episode on creating systemic change. Uh, I feel like a broken record these days, but systemic change is so incredibly important, uh, to focus on as opposed to just individual or change at the, the business level. So I’ll just, I’ll just plus one, that one for now, and, uh, and take a little bit of a different tact and highlight an upcoming season that I’m super excited about.
Our podcast series is taking us to Tofino coming up pretty soon. And so listeners will have the opportunity to drop in on Tofino, BC and understand some of the sustainability challenges and opportunities that they’re grappling with. So look out for that one. I’m really excited, because I’ve actually lived there for a little while and I grew up going surfing there, so that place in the world has a special place in my heart and I’m, I’m looking forward to, to learning more about what they’re doing.
David Archer: Yeah, that’s gonna be a lot of fun to record. I know we’ve captured some really nice footage, as well as interviews from Tofino just recently. So, can’t wait to share those. Thank you, Sara. Thank you, Tyler, for joining me to host this episode.
Tyler Robinson: It’s been great.
Sara Raymond de Booy: Okay, David, let’s wrap this up.
David Archer: You bet.
This has been Travel Beyond presented by Destination Think.
Thank you for joining us. We’ll include links to more resources on the blog for this episode at DestinationThink.com. My co-hosts today are Climate Strategist Tyler Robinson and Associate Creative Director Sara Raymond De Booy, who is the co-producer for Travel Beyond. This episode has been produced and has theme music composed by me, David Archer. Lindsay Payne and Annika Rautiola provided production support.
We would like to thank many destinations, organizations, and their leaders for sharing stories with us this year. Those include Tourism Revelstoke, Tourism Council of Bhutan, Destination Queenstown, Lake Wānaka Tourism, Aspen Chamber Resort Association, The Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions, KLM, Amsterdam and Partners, the Town of Inuvik, Glasgow Convention Bureau, Visit Oslo, Visit Valencia, Wonderful Copenhagen, CityDNA, and there’s plenty more to come when we start back up in January.
You can help more people find this show by subscribing and by leaving a rating and review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. And we wish you all the rest and relaxation you need over the holidays. And we’ll see you in 2024.
Feature image credit: Kim Parco, Pexels