Green Tourism Key to Virginia's Economic Development

"The convention center's commitment to the environment is not only a preferred amenity, but more frequently a requirement for meeting planners looking to book their conventions."

by / March 31, 2009

The Virginia Beach Convention Center saved more than $204,000 between February 2008 and January 2009 by reducing its power and water use by over 20 percent and gas consumption by 40 percent. The convention center was the one of the first to be certified under the commonwealth's Virginia Green program.

Virginia Green is a statewide partnership between the Virginia Tourism Corporation, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association. DEQ awards Virginia Green certification to tourism businesses that commit to waste-reducing activities such as recycling, optional linen service, water and energy conservation, green cleaning, purchasing eco-friendly products and other steps that help reduce harmful environmental effects. Participants in the program, which launched in pilot phase in 2006, self-certify that they are meeting the program's requirements and encourage active consumer feedback to ensure that facilities live up to commitments and become even greener over time.

"Virginia Green helps preserve and protect Virginia's natural environment, which is one of our greatest tourism attractions," Gov. Timothy Kaine said. "It also helps support our economy, as research shows that travelers who are passionate about protecting the environment are more willing to patronize businesses that are working to reduce their environmental impact."

Kaine has declared April green travel month, challenging the Virginia tourism industry to recruit 40 new partners for certification through its "Virginia Green" program. The governor made the announcement at the Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner--one of more than 200 Virginia Green-certified hotels. The Ritz-Carlton has reduced its solid waste by 60 percent, averaging 20 tons a month in food composting and averaging 28 tons a month in recycling of plastic, glass, metal cans, cardboard and paper.

Tourism is one of Virginia's most powerful industries, generating $19 billion in revenue, supporting 210,000 jobs and providing $1.2 billion in state and local taxes for Virginia communities.

"The intent of the Virginia Green travel program is to move a very large industry towards greener practices that benefit the environment, their customers and ultimately their businesses," said Alisa Bailey, President and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation. "These practices are a first step in ensuring the sustainability of our industry."

During the month of April, the state tourism office will highlight green travel packages, green getaways and spotlight Virginia Green travel options statewide. To date there are approximately 450 Virginia Green-certified tourism partners statewide.

"By conserving energy and reducing our costs, we are better able to serve our community and meeting planners," said Courtney Dyer, Virginia Beach Convention Center general manager. "The convention center's commitment to the environment is not only a preferred amenity, but more frequently a requirement for meeting planners looking to book their conventions. Recent trends in the tourism and hospitality industry indicate that clients are very interested in doing business with environmentally conscious organizations."