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Sustainability Destinations Hero Mobile

The Sustainable Way: Destinations Adapt to New Normal

By Jack Chang | 3 min

While much of California’s hospitality industry struggled to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, pristine destinations along the Sierra Nevada and the San Bernardino Mountains had the opposite problem: Managing scores of new visitors, many of them new to camping and hiking, all of them eager to escape the city for fresh air and a change of scenery.

That weekly influx disrupted destinations not accustomed to the volume of visitors. It also left behind trash, crushed vegetation and annoyed locals. DMOs adapted.

  • Visit Tuolumne County launched its “Trail Heads” program to guide responsible behaviors, direct travelers to the most developed trails but also award people points for hiking the most trails, creating enthusiastic and conscientious hikers all at once.
  • Mammoth Lakes Tourism’s “Hug What You Love” included trail hosts (hug ambassadors) and community clean-up days (Trashy Thursdays) to engage and educate residents and visitors alike.
  • The North Lake Tahoe Marketing Cooperative invited visitors to take a Traveler Responsibility Pledge through its website, racking up more than 12,000 page views and 150 pledge commitments.
  • Other examples include Visit Big Bear’s Care for Big Bear, and the Camp Like a Pro partnership involving organizations in Mono and Inyo counties, including Mono County Tourism.

All that work promises to produce a new generation of visitors who will know how to both enjoy and protect their state’s stunning landscapes.

The pandemic rush to enjoy California’s rich environment not only prompted DMOs to respond in the moment with educational campaigns encouraging responsible and safe travel, it also elevated the imperative for sustainable practices long term.

Many California destinations have developed multi-layered sustainability programs, including Sonoma County Tourism and Visit Truckee Tahoe.

Sonoma County Tourism's sustainability program is comprehensive and permanent, embracing the full breadth of destination stewardship principles -- from arming hospitality workers with responsible travel talking points, to executing practical partnerships and promoting low-carbon air travel and the community benefits of the industry.

Visit Truckee-Tahoe fully has embraced sustainable practices, converting from a marketing organization to a management organization. It has built a creative, multi-platform approach to all aspects of stewardship, including strengthening partner relationship and promoting volun-tourism.


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