Home Publisher's Point of View Virginia Green Travel Conference Wraps Up in Virginia Beach

Virginia Green Travel Conference Wraps Up in Virginia Beach

Glenn Hasek

I was fortunate to attend the 5th annual Virginia Green Travel Conference last week. It was held at the LEED Gold Virginia Beach Convention Center. Attendance was 170. The Virginia Green program is supported through a partnership between the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the Virginia Tourism Corp., the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Assn., and the Virginia Green Travel Alliance. The program encourages green practices in all sectors of Virginia’s tourism industry. More than 1,800 businesses and partner organizations have voluntarily certified their green business practices through the Virginia Green program that is run by the nonprofit Virginia Green Travel Alliance.

I highlighted Virginia in an article I wrote last year about state and city level green lodging certification/recognition programs. At that time, Virginia led all states and cities in the United States with 582 certified properties. (Virginia Beach alone has 54 lodging establishments represented.) Virginia just recently transitioned its program to the Virginia Green Travel Alliance.

Tom Griffin, Director of the Virginia Green Travel Alliance, announced some additional changes to the Virginia Green program during the conference. First, there are now two levels of certification: Entry Level and Fully-Certified. Entry Level businesses must have recycling, energy conservation, water conservation, green meetings & events, and consumer engagement programs in place. They also must have eliminated polystyrene disposables. Fully-Certified businesses must have the same but also individuals and teams in charge and committed to tracking waste and recycling, water and energy use, and setting goals to reduce environmental impacts over time.

Processing Fee Added to Program

Griffin also announced that certified businesses must now pay a very small processing fee to participate in the Virginia Green program—$50 for restaurants, breweries, etc. and $100 for hotels, conference centers and larger attractions. Fees may be waived for events and other partners that sponsor a fundraising or other promotional event benefiting the Virginia Green Travel Alliance. Businesses certainly will recover far more than the entry fees from the savings gained from their conservation efforts. Finally, Griffin announced that re-certification will be required every two years.

Unique to the Virginia Green Travel Alliance is its chapters program. It currently has 11 chapters but Griffin said he would like to see four or five more. Also unique to the Alliance is its Virginia Green Travel Star Awards. During last week’s conference, 19 Virginia tourism operations were honored for their outstanding commitments to sustainability and green tourism. For example, the Hilton Richmond Downtown was named Green Hotel of the Year. Sixteen additional tourism businesses will be recognized and receive the Virginia Green Travel Leader Award for their efforts to protect the environment and promote green tourism in Virginia.

Behind every successful state level program is a person or persons who are passionate about the greening of the tourism industry. Kudos to Tom Griffin and the many others who have made Virginia Green such a success. Other states have a lot to learn from Virginia.

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