Tourism Vancouver Island’s Industry-Leading Transition Helps Local Businesses Thrive

MacMillan Provincial Park
4VI is a new socially responsible model for tourism that will encourage visitors to tread lightly on and give back to destinations like MacMillan Provincial Park.

Tourism Vancouver Island recently announced its transition from a destination management organization to a social enterprise called 4VI. 

This rebrand is not only the first of its kind in B.C., but in Canada as a whole. As such, it has been described as an industry-leading transition meant to make travel to the Island a force of good — forever.

Built on a socially responsible model, 4VI’s profits will go back into stewarding local business, community, culture and the environment — the enterprise’s four pillars. Plus, as a recent signatory to the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism, 4VI is working towards halving emissions by 2030 and reaching net zero before 2050. 

“Before, we were focused on making sure economic benefits flowed from tourism,” says Anthony Everett, 4VI President and CEO. “That’s been achieved. Now, we’re focused on making sure that we’re balancing profitability with the needs of residents and the environment. The revenue we create will be invested in socially impactful programming here on Vancouver Island.”

For most businesses, the pandemic posed unique challenges    and the former Tourism Vancouver Island was no exception. In summer 2021, there was a 16 per cent increase in visitors compared to the previous two years. Inevitably, the impacts of growing tourism are beginning to be felt.

“As we recover from the pandemic, the needs of the community are different,” explains Everett. “That’s why we’re changing to a socially responsible model. We believe that a great place to live is a great place to visit. We have to shift how we operate.

“The environment is changing, and we need to pay attention.”

According to Janet Docherty, chair of the 4VI board of directors, the focus on 4VI’s four pillars will help to attract educated and respectful tourists who “tread lightly” when they visit. This is because sustainability is becoming increasingly important to residents and tourists alike; people want to come to a destination known for prioritizing the environment and people.

“We’re seeing over-tourism in many places around the world, and there are even shades of it in the Tofino area,” says Docherty. “But the environment is changing, and we need to pay attention.

“We’re not just focused on measuring profitability. That’s important, but we need a more holistic approach. Tourism — and tourists — are demanding it.”

Part of 4VI’s holistic approach to tourism is its focus on supporting local businesses.

“Businesses are why people come to a destination,” says Everett. “They come for experiences, and businesses support those experiences.”

4VI offers several services — such as sustainability, operations, human resources and digital audits — to help like-minded businesses with sustainability values succeed. But the enterprise’s first priority is funneling its profits into its businesses and programming that stewards its four pillars of social responsibility. 

“To 4VI, stewardship means working together to positively contribute to a place,” says Everett. “We believe we’re all stewards.”

Beyond working with businesses directly, 4VI will invest in working with organizations like Surfrider Foundation to create healthy oceans through shoreline cleanups. The enterprise has also become one of the few worldwide to successfully receive certification from the Responsible Tourism Institute’s Biosphere, which is an international designation that aligns with the 17 sustainable development goals of the United Nations. 

“We believe that travel changes lives,” says Everett. “We want to communicate our expectations to those that travel here, and we want tourists to leave as small of a footprint as possible.”

Visually, the new 4VI brand features four waves that represent its pillars of social responsibility. The waves are also a nod to the former ocean-inspired Tourism Vancouver Island brand.