BACK TO Sustainability Resource Center

Best Practices

Guidelines for Everyday Action
Make a Difference

Best Practices

Whether you are a journalist looking for a new story, an influencer sharing your California experience or a trade partner sourcing, packaging and promoting all the Golden State has to offer, the influence you have on your respective readers, followers and clients – California’s millions of annual visitors – is immeasurable. 

California has experienced nine consecutive years of growth in tourism with trade and media partners playing a significant role in this success. As the state prepares for a future of continued growth, the state’s travel leaders also look to trade and media partners to support efforts in ensuring such growth is sustainable and without detrimental impact to the places and cultures that our visitors are inspired to experience.

Visit California seeks to promote new stories and lesser known attractions, to influence travelers to explore, discover and follow their passions, to tell a year-round story of California at all times of the year to alleviate pressures in peak periods and to choose imagery mindfully. The organization aims to protect and preserve California’s abundance for today’s traveler and for generations of travelers to come.


Costas Christ, a columnist for National Geographic Traveler and global expert on sustainability, says California is uniquely positioned to succeed at its sustainability imperative, given an environmental legacy that includes Earth Day and the farm-to-fork movement. Sustainable tourism, after all, is what the market wants, he says.




Below are some simple practices that can be adopted in your business to promote positive visitor expectations and sentiment while delivering enriching experiences to your audience today and to California’s visitors to come:

 

Media

Together we can work to protect and preserve California’s natural beauty, diversity and abundance for future generations to enjoy. Domestic and international media can help Visit California’s efforts to promote responsible and sustainable tourism in the following ways:

Diversify
Branch out beyond obvious destinations and pitching story angles about hidden gems and less-visited destinations in California. This can include locations and experiences in between major hot spots and major attractions. Visit California’s media team can assist with itinerary planning, research, contacts and tips to help achieve this.

Accessibility and context
Give coverage context by educating readers about logistics, distances, and the geography of California, so they feel informed about how to access these lesser-known areas.

Year-round travel
Tell the story of California at all times of the year to help alleviate pressures in peak periods. If a hotspot really needs to be covered, approach it from a different off-season angle. Highlight the perks that come with off-season travel, such as things visitors can only do during that time of year, accommodation discounts, and other deals.

Just as destination marketing organizations want visiting media to have the best experience, we too want your readers and followers to have this, so if we recommend avoiding an area during a particular month or season or recommend a certain spot as an alternative it probably means it will also be the best for your reader too.

Just as we don't want to send you to an area that might be full of traffic jams and exceptionally high room rates, your readers look to you for sound advice and insider knowledge, so consider the story you’re telling your reader and how you can help them experience the best of California and avoid any pitfalls.

Education
Weave responsible and eco-friendly practical travel tips into stories, reminding readers of their individual impacts as travelers - e.g. eco-friendly accommodation reviews, using refillable bottles, and other zero-waste products or tips.   

Tell the whole story with our travel partners
Your responsibility journey doesn’t just start once you’re in California. Consider what the airlines are doing to promote responsible/green travel and best practices and help join the dots. Many airlines and car rental companies are trying to reduce their use of plastic or offering to offset carbon emissions.

Mindful, responsible reporting
If the focus of a story is reckless tourism and its effects, be mindful to report responsibly by including the perspective and efforts of local destination stewards. This includes careful selection of accompanying images – illustrating bad behavior without identifying it can confuse the message communicated to the reader.  

 

Influencers 

Visit California’s efforts to promote responsible and sustainable tourism extend to our work with social media influencers. In addition to the media considerations above, we also encourage the following guidelines:

Zero-waste messaging
Create content that lives by example and shows how to be a responsible traveler, with eco-friendly habits and tips. Drive home the message to followers about leaving no trace – for example, images or videos of doing a beach clean, or using non-plastic bottles.  

Responsible imagery
Think carefully about the nature of imagery that may encourage irresponsible, dangerous or non-eco-friendly actions in other travelers. For example, carving a name into a Redwood tree, holding a turtle while diving, or standing dangerously near to a cliff edge to get a picture (a recent report asserted that there have been 259 selfie-related deaths in recent years).

Responsible captioning
Beyond imagery, using the power of captions as a platform to share facts, links and details. This can encourage followers to comment and discuss ideas and sustainable solutions to improve everyone’s personal travel experiences in California.

Help us with our mission by captioning your photos responsibly and informatively, and writing your copy with the right messaging. Help to tell the story of the area and any sensitivities you should be aware of when visiting, and use your blog to expand upon this too. 

Connect with locals
Whenever possible speak with locals, either the tourism board office or local businesses such as restaurants or guides etc, about what efforts the area is working on to help support the natural surroundings and local businesses. This really helps you to get an understanding of the community you’re visiting and to understand your impact as a tourist. 

Brand partnerships
Look for partnership opportunities with progressive, eco-friendly brands, or being involved in campaigns that focus on conserving and protecting certain locations. Or, partner with a travel brand to offer a discount code on off-peak travel deals, for example



Travel Trade

The travel trade plays a vital role in shaping the California visitor expectation and experience.  With the traveler in mind, there are a number of ways Visit California’s trade partners can support the state’s goal of visitor dispersal, alleviating congestion and pressure on iconic destinations and attractions and ultimately ensuring an elevated and enriching experience for clients and locals alike.

Seasonality
When considering the weather and time of year, the state’s natural diversity and breathtaking scenery is as changeable as it is spectacular. Understanding the seasonal changes in regional California will support itinerary development that encourages visitation throughout the year. 

More than just a change in weather however, avoiding peak travel seasons is an essential component to alleviating crowding and tourism-related pressures on California’s destinations and attractions.

Build and promote content that supports visitation in shoulder and low travel periods to not only relieve this pressure, but lead to an enhanced visitor experience with reduced accessibility concerns. Crowds, queues and accessibility issues often affect visitor and resident sentiment and may negatively impact the local population and environment. Spreading the tourism love across 12 months of the year will contribute to a positive experience for all and will assist in protecting the destinations and their precious resources for future generations of travelers.

Product Development
Spread visitors across the state and match their passions with California’s abundance of experiences and diverse destinations to ensure ongoing sustainable growth in inbound travel, leading to reduced pressures on gateways and iconic attractions.

Contract the hidden gems, build road-trip itineraries and develop passion-based product and itineraries – such as culinary, adventure, family and luxury experiences – will deliver enhanced and unique travel options for clients beyond the mainstream, often providing superior travel experiences and customized offerings.

Imagery
Be mindful of image selections. Selecting the same iconic imagery as your competitors will encourage visitors to visit the same places regardless of their booking channel and may limit consideration of the breadth of experiences available to them. Consider showcasing smaller attractions and regional imagery to encourage itinerary development with your clients.

Co-Ops and Partnerships
Embrace partnership and marketing opportunities that support visitor dispersion, eco-friendly activities and responsible tourism. Visit California’s research indicates that sustainability is becoming increasingly important to California’s international visitors. Together, we can build awareness of collective efforts to protect the environment for and with our guests.

FAMs
Familiarization tours (FAMs) play a pivotal role in product development and trade education.  Work with Visit California to develop exciting itineraries that showcase the lesser known regions and only-in-California experiences. Include a road trip to illustrate the ease with which our visitors can venture out and explore. Invite a guest to the table, allow a local ambassador the opportunity to meet with your group to welcome them and discuss positive tourism impacts and collective efforts in ensuring responsible and sustainable tourism growth.

Be a California STAR 
Become the expert and stay in the know. California STAR is Visit California’s trade resource hub, home to an interactive and engaging training platform together with product and marketing inspiration to help you expand your California product portfolio.

 

 

Find more California resources

Check out more tools that will set yourself apart and provide expert customized recommendations for your clients’ ultimate California travel experiences.

LEARN MORE