Reshaping cruising for good with environmentally friendly measures

Nancy Houley reveals how Cruise the Saint Lawrence is prioritising sustainability 

Reshaping cruising for good with environmentally friendly  measures
Cruise the Saint Lawrence hopes to promote more carbon-free activities in the region by placing a greater focus on nature and local communities

By Elly Yates-Roberts |

The total contribution of travel and tourism to global GDP rose by 21.7 per cent in 2021, after a steep drop in 2020 due to Covid-19, according to market data organisation Statista. This contribution accounts for $5.81 trillion, approximately 6.1 per cent of global GDP. 

Despite this successful rebound, the tourism industry now faces the challenge of becoming more sustainable. Canadian organisation Cruise the Saint Lawrence – which comprises the nine ports of Montréal, Trois-Rivières, Québec, Saguenay, Baie-Comeau, Sept-Îles, Havre-Saint-Pierre, Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands – is working to grow cruise market activities across the region, now with an additional focus on environmental and social sustainability. 

“Our sustainability strategy is oriented towards partnerships with our destinations, and the cruise and marine industry,” says Nancy Houley, director of sustainable development at Cruise the Saint Lawrence. “The main goal is to reduce the impact of climate change and protect our host communities. For example, we want to foster a connection to shore power and electric transportation, as well as other solutions that make sense for our future.” 

As part of the strategy, Cruise the Saint Lawrence intends to incentivise sustainable behaviour by rewarding activities by critical stakeholders, including cruise lines. “All sustainability strategies need to rely on more than just rewards or punitive measures,” says Houley. “Everyone can contribute to this approach. What can be done, should be done.” 

For example, Cruise the Saint Lawrence will empower its visitors by helping them make more sustainable choices during their trips. “Destinations such as Montréal, Québec City and Saguenay have developed a carbon footprint calculator,” says Houley. “Tourists can calculate the carbon emissions of an entire visit, including transportation, hotels and meal choices.” Should they wish to offset their carbon footprint, they can donate to ‘Carbone boréal’, an offset scheme by Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, which researches tree-planting infrastructure and carbon sequestration. “This provides better ways to offset carbon usage that not only benefit our destinations, but are also valuable for cruise lines and their passengers,” adds Houley.   

In addition, the organisation has created a number of sustainable tourist attractions and shore excursions that visitors can enjoy while in port. These include stand-up paddleboarding, indigenous experiences that highlight local culture, and the Space for Life museum of nature and science. “We believe that our sustainability is the crux of our value as a destination,” says Houley. “It’s a win-win; the success of cruises relies on maintaining the wellbeing of all the host communities and creating collective and sustainable value for all. 

“The passenger is at the core of the experience. We empower them to not only select their destination, but also to realise the benefits of their choices.” 

Cruise the Saint Lawrence hopes that its activities might drive continued change within the cruise industry. “Sustainability has been influencing and reshaping the activities of cruise lines for the past few years, but it is now a fundamental consideration for the entire cruise ecosystem,” says Houley. “This includes everything from shipbuilders prioritising greener fuel alternatives, to tourism boards and shore excursion providers delivering more conscious day-to-day activities.” 

The organisation’s vision in sustainable development also plans to meet the industry’s evolving requirements. “We must re-evaluate the complete programme offering, for example in how we approach tour guides, what tourism capacity each destination has, and how local residents feel about our activities,” says Houley. “A more inclusive approach to all forms of tourism will be capital to all destinations. Cruise lines and their guests can take action at each of the host destinations by buying local and supporting the communities they visit.” 

This article was first published in the 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.

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