Canadian City Seeks Accreditation as Safe Destination for Travel, Business

Edmonton will soon be the first Canadian destination with a health and safety designation.

Explore Edmonton is collaborating with its tourism and hospitality industries to pursue a city-wide Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) Star accreditation.

“Edmonton’s tourism, hospitality and events industries will play an important role in our region’s post-COVID recovery, getting people back to work, welcoming travellers back to the city and delivering important economic and social benefits to our region,” says Maggie Davison, acting CEO of Explore Edmonton. “Edmonton’s GBAC Star accreditation will ensure our international airport, major venues and hotels are all working toward the same standards for cleanliness and outbreak prevention. By working in partnership, Edmonton can safely reopen for business and provide one of the safest travel experiences in North America, from arrival to departure.”

Administered by GBAC, a division of the worldwide cleaning industry association ISSA, the program is the only outbreak prevention, response and recovery accreditation for facilities and destinations. This means the cleaning and sanitization programs of Edmonton hotels, venues and transportation agencies will be accredited and validated by the gold standard program that prepares them with the right systems to protect against biorisk situations, including COVID-19. Participants are the Edmonton International Airport (EIA), Rogers Place and the Oilers Entertainment Group, Edmonton Destination Marketing Hotels (EDMH), which includes 38 properties, and the already accredited Edmonton Convention Centre and Edmonton EXPO Centre.

“Hotels have always had strong cleanliness standards but operating through a pandemic has amplified those requirements, ensuring the safety of our guests and staff,” says EDMH chair, Barnie Yerxa. “As we’ve advanced over the years with state-of-the-art online bookings systems, increased in-room amenities and gourmet-level food and beverage offerings, the newest standard that participating hotels will incorporate is a sanitized level of safety, thanks to the GBAC Star.”

To become certified, facilities must demonstrate compliance with 20 specific program elements, including maintaining strict cleaning protocols, disinfection techniques, infectious disease prevention planning, staff training and more.

The process involves five steps, with completion time dependent on the size and complexity of the organization.

Facilities can apply to the program online and provide all documentation and supporting evidence with their application.

Accreditation is good for one year. Facilities must reapply annually to remain in good standing.

“Health and safety are always our top priorities and we know how important it is for visitors to feel both welcomed and safe,” says EIA president and CEO, Tom Ruth. “Edmonton’s designation as a city that in today’s challenging world puts outbreak and virus safety top of mind will make a positive difference in attracting tourism, conventions and other events back to our region.”

Edmonton’s accreditation process is anticipated to be finalized this spring. Once complete, Alberta’s capital region will be the only Canadian destination and one of just two in North America to obtain the GBAC Star designation. The other is Dallas.

The Texas city announced its plans to pursue accreditation in May 2020, shortly after the program was launched. The initiative was led by VisitDallas and the Dallas Tourism Public Improvement District (DTPID), which implemented and funded the effort for its member hotels within the area. Additionally, VisitDallas sponsored scholarships for facility personnel at city-owned arts and cultural institutions to enroll in the GBAC online fundamentals course, which trains individuals on infection and contamination control measures for infectious disease outbreak situations like COVID-19.

“We know hotels are initiating their own individual and brand-led sanitary programs,” said DTPID chair, Greg White, at the time of the announcement. “This third-party accreditation program is designed to provide an additional layer of protection and trust to ensure hotels and other key facilities are in a safe, sanitary and healthy condition for visitors and residents.”

The GBAC Star facility accreditation program has been well-received by organizations since its launch. According to GBAC, more than 3,500 facilities in 66 countries are seeking the designation. This includes convention centres, hotels, convention and visitor bureaus, and even airlines and airports.

“We’re excited to see so many organizations commit and follow through to earn GBAC Star accreditation,” says GBAC executive director, Patricia Olinger. “GBAC Star provides the necessary knowledge, tools and resources to meet the new standard of cleanliness and limit future outbreaks.”


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