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Destination Stratford’s mission is to develop, manage and market Stratford as a globally competitive cultural destination through regenerative, sustainable and socially responsible tourism that improves quality of life and prosperity throughout our community.

Through planning assistance and funding in 2023 through Regional Tourism Organization 4 (RTO4), Destination Stratford completed the Global Destination Sustainability (GDS) Index, with support and input from the City of Stratford, and many local tourism partners that supplied data for the Index. The Index measured 69 indicators across 4 key areas: Environmental, Social, Supplier and Destination Management Performance. At the same time, the nearby communities of St. Jacobs and Elora & Fergus also completed the GDS index. As expected, the participating destinations within RTO4, being new to the Index and quantifying sustainability, all have work to do. Now that all three destinations are in possession of a Sustainability Action Plan, this has enabled a renewed focus and conversations within our communities, and with each other, to embark on improving sustainable tourism within our region. Destination Stratford has a seat on the new Regional Sustainable Tourism Committee, spearheaded by RTO4, that launches in February, 2024.

The Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index) is a destination-level programme that measures, benchmarks, and improves the sustainability strategy and performance of tourism and events destinations. Its purpose is to inspire, engage, and enable destinations to become more regenerative, flourishing, and resilient places to visit, meet, and live in. Unlike other standards and rankings, the GDS-Index was originally created for the events and meetings industry and is the only programme of its type in the world. Since 2020 GDS-Index has integrated leisure tourism into the criteria, making it relevant for all urban business and leisure tourism destinations.

The Sustainability Action Plan includes long term aspirations, action items, required steps objectives, key performance indicators (KPI), targets, timeline and key partners from the following themes: Strategy, Capacity Building, Collaboration, Communication, Governance and Engagement.


Action items include:

  1. Develop Destination Stratford’s 5-Year Strategic Plan through a sustainability lens, in alignment with City of Stratford’s sustainability and tourism goals.
  2. Develop sustainable tourism training opportunities.
  3. Continue to leverage the Stratford Green Recognition Program for the visitor economy in the region.
  4. Support the creation and collaboration of regional sustainability tourism working group between RTO4, Elora and Fergus, St. Jacobs, and Stratford.
  5. Develop repository of local sustainable tourism best practices.
  6. Establish Sustainable Tourism Advisory Committee that is integrated into the development of Destination Stratford’s 5-Year Strategic Plan.
  7. Establish process to ensure key industry partners (hotels, venues, agencies), visitors and event attendees, clients, key local government departments and the local community are informed about Stratford’s sustainable tourism programs and initiatives; engagement/consultation opportunities; and strategic development process.

Destination Stratford is committed to improving the sustainability of our visitor economy, and to developing new opportunities and partnerships that demonstrably move our community forward with the Sustainability Action Plan objectives and targets.

One item that has already emerged from this work is the inclusion of a tourism category in the City of Stratford’s Green Recognition Program. All local businesses were welcome to apply in the first year of the program in 2023, however, this new category specifically encourages tourism operator applications, acknowledging the importance of the visitor economy for our community and its potential environmental impact. We encourage every tourism-related business or organization to apply in 2024!

2023 Green Recognition Program participants that touch the tourism industry include:

Keystone Hospitality

  • Source produce locally and grow some of their own
  • Support farms that adhere to sustainable practices
  • Focus on bulk sales to reduce paper and plastic packaging material
  • Reuse cooking oil as biofuel
  • Partnered with local business to reduce packaging waste from takeaway containers

Rotary Club of Stratford

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) recycling program including disposable masks, gowns, head and foot protection, and face shields
  • Green Event Program, wherein all fundraising and other events minimize the use of plastic, ensure waste segregation (recycling and organic waste collection) in suitable receptacles

Rosehurst Stratford

  • Kitchen garden growing produce including herbs and vegetables for guests
  • On-site composting system for food waste, paper and yard waste
  • Use of natural water retention techniques and drip irrigation system
  • Egg shells used as fertilizer, negating the need to procure synthetic fertilizer
  • Phase-out of single use plastic containers for soap, shampoo and conditioner for guests

The Green Hair Spa

  • Ongoing waste diversion includes single-use plastics, PPE, excess hair colour waste and hair clippings
  • Reuseable and biodegradable foils that are made from construction waste and converted to stone dust at end of life
  • Refill and bottle return program for select hair products

The Gentle Rain

  • Waste reduction efforts – reduced 4-5 garbage cans to one can per week
  • Installed Terracycle boxes to recycle makeup containers, oral health products, razors – blades, handles, tubes & bottles that are not normally recyclable, and all asscociated packaging
  • Supply plastic waste (that would otherwise end up in landfill) to a business in New Hamburg to create recycled plastic products such as plastic lumber

Do you want to find out more or get involved in sustainable and regenerative tourism? Let us know!