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Whistler talks sustainable tourism

Leading expert to give free talk at the Whistler Public Library Sept.26



What can a tourism destination do to create a healthy future for its residents and the Earth?

It's a question that has received a lot of attention over the years in Whistler. And on Tuesday, Sept. 26, Kelly Bricker, an expert on the intersection of sustainability and tourism, will share her thoughts. Bricker's talk is free and will take place at the Whistler Public Library.

A professor at the University of Utah, Bricker helped found the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) and now sits as the organization's vice-chair. The organization develops guidelines for policy-makers and certification bodies.

"These are the guiding principles and minimum requirements that any tourism business or destination should aspire to reach in order to protect and sustain the world's natural and cultural resources, while ensuring tourism meets its potential as a tool for conservation and poverty alleviation," explains the organization's website.

The GSTC was created out of a need to develop a "minimum criteria for sustainability in tourism," explained Bricker. "We're trying to set a baseline standard for the world."

GSTC accredits certification bodies, something that guards against companies who promote themselves as environmentally sustainable but actually aren't. Guidelines were developed in coordination with numerous stakeholders, including environmental and human rights groups and representatives of the tourism industry, to advance economic, environmental and societal goals.

"It wasn't just a bunch of pointy-headed people sitting around a table," added Bricker, with a laugh.

GSTC was supported by the United Nations in its early days and became an independent non-profit in 2010.

Bricker's interest in sustainable tourism was inspired by her travels. After graduate school, she visited communities that were negatively impacted by tourism.

A "light bulb" went off, she said: "I realized tourism had the power to affect positive change or really destroy a destination. I was very curious as to what mechanisms were in play to create that positive change," she said.

"I believe we can use the power of tourism to affect positive change and address social ills and create a reason for environmental conservation."

Bricker is thrilled to come to Whistler, and is eager to learn more about how the community is tackling sustainability. She said that Whistler's approach to sustainability has garnered the interest of researchers and is often used as a case study.

"I don't know all the ins and outs of Whistler, (but I) would say people have looked at Whistler as one of those that has been at the forefront (of sustainability), especially with regards to the environmental criteria," she said.

The goal of the talk is to explain the GSTC and highlight real-world examples of what communities are doing to chart healthy, sustainable futures.

When asked if she'd be willing to share any examples in advance with Pique,

Bricker declined. "I don't want to give it away!" she protested. "But I can say there are wonderful examples all over the world. Nobody is doing everything, because it's a journey. But it's wonderful to see people getting onboard."

Bricker believes policy makers need to work in coordination with the tourism industry in order to advance sustainability goals. Despite negative news out of Washington, like President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, she's optimistic about the future.

"There is a movement afoot. The exciting thing is people are becoming more aware," she said.

"There's an increased awareness of sustainability worldwide, and what it would take to get things into a better position to help protect the cultural and natural resources we depend on."

Bricker's speech promises to inspire and generate ideas.

"Sustainability is a journey. It starts with people getting excited about doing things that will affect positive change. There's no endpoint. It's stuff we can all work on every day," she said adding that having buy-in from a wide range of stakeholders and shared vision is key.

"When you have a diversity of stakeholders buying into the same vision. It's going to have a lasting impact."

Bricker's talk at the library is free and no registration is required.