Students seated at large tables network and interact in a dining room

Camosun co-hosts sustainable hospitality and tourism summit for students

Climate change is impacting many aspects of our daily lives, including how we spend our leisure time and where we choose to travel.

Two female students and one male student in business clothes smile and face the camera

Tourism and hospitality students are ready to learn about sustainable practices and network with students from other post-secondary institutions.

Students in Camosun College’s Hospitality and Tourism Management programs will have the opportunity to explore the impacts of climate change facing the industry at the second Annual Hospitality and Tourism Student Sustainability Summit on January 25 and 26, 2024. Co-hosted with Vancouver Island University and Royal Roads University, the first day of the event will be held on Camosun’s Lansdowne campus and the second day will be at The Parkside Hotel & Spa in downtown Victoria.

“The purpose of this event is to encourage students to see what’s happening and how they can contribute to the change rather than just talking about it,” says David Pritchard, chair of Camosun’s Hospitality and Tourism Management programs. “It’s an opportunity to meet and make positive change within their selves, their institutions and their workplaces.”

Impacting the hospitality and tourism industry

The timing of the student-centred conference intentionally aligns with the IMPACT Sustainability Travel & Tourism summit co-presented by Destination Greater Victoria, Synergy Enterprises, Tartan Bond Integrated Communications and Starrboard Enterprises from January 21 to 24. This alignment allows opportunities for students to connect with industry professionals from across Canada for panels and networking. IMPACT partners have expressed support and generosity towards the student summit by sponsoring tickets for students to attend.

IMPACT guest Bob Sandford from the United Nations University Institute for Water Environment & Health will also be the keynote speaker at the student summit, inspiring students to take on the climate challenge through their emerging roles in the industry.

Breyn Banks is a second-year Hospitality and Tourism Management student at Camosun who attended the 2023 student summit hosted by the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Royal Roads University, and will be present at the IMPACT event. “Last year’s student summit was a starting place for thoughtful awareness,” he says.

“Since then, I’ve become more aware that fewer tourism and hospitality business are using ‘sustainability’ as a buzzword and are instead incorporating it into practices and mission. It’s good to see leaders come together to foster collaboration and I’m excited to see what the industry does in the future.”

- Breyn Banks, Camosun Hospitality and Tourism Management student

Vancouver Island University hospitality instructor Jonelle Knowles agrees that the industry is moving beyond buzzwords and ‘greenwashing.’ “The four pillars of sustainability include environmental sustainability, as well as social (designing systems that support people), cultural (protecting heritage and cultural values) and financial (falls into place when other pillars are taken care of) sustainability. Responsible tourism covers all four pillars, and the future leaders will learn how to do it at this summit.”

The next generation of leaders and change-makers

Responding to the challenges of a changing climate requires collaboration at all levels across industries and sectors. This event is an opportunity for post-secondary institutions to model collaboration and exchange ideas.

“We strive to support new practices by teaching about climate action in collaboration with our industry partners,” says Moira McDonald, school director and instructor at Royal Roads University. “Students learn about sustainability in tourism through projects, research, case studies, guest speaker presentations, and internships, where students apply their understanding of sustainability in their employment. Ensuring the next generation of leaders, as individuals, are change-makers today and in the future is in everyone’s best interests.”

This summit will demonstrate the value of working with industry partners by taking the second day of the event off campus and into The Parkside Hotel & Spa in Victoria. The hotel is an innovator and leader in sustainable practices, having been the first LEED-certified hotel in Canada, then Green Key-certified since 2011 and carbon neutral since 2020.

“It’s so important to bridge the learning in the classroom with practical application, and this is a great chance to help support the learning,” says Trina White, Camosun alumni and general manager of The Parkside who will also be a panelist at the summit. “I feel that the students will take away actual examples and action plans for how businesses have set the bar with creative ways to reducing greenhouse gasses and adding value to the economy.”

In recent years, the tourism and hospitality industry has weathered a global pandemic, climate disasters and labour challenges – proving that resilience, collaboration and innovation are more necessary than ever. The second Annual Hospitality and Tourism Student Sustainability Summit will prepare future industry professionals and leaders to face the changes that lay ahead.

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Roseanne Harvey

Marketing & Communications Strategist

Camosun College