In a time of climate emergency it is vital that we all take a serious look at how we make our businesses more sustainable.

VisitScotland, as the National Tourism Organisation for Scotland, focuses on promoting our country as a sustainable tourism destination. Tourism is worth £11 billion to the Scottish economy each year and supports 206,000 jobs across the country.

We believe that by investing in the future of Scotland as a world-class, year-round destination we are enabling the sustainability of Scotland’s economy, communities and environment.

In line with the Scottish Government declaring a climate emergency and the 2019 Programme for Government, we are looking at the actions we can take as an organisation and industry leader to reduce the impact of tourism on climate change and also ensure that the growth in tourism does not negatively impact on the lives of communities, or the visitor experience.

A number of national tourism organisations are starting to feel pressure from stakeholders, communities and the media to demonstrate actions to respond to the need for more sustainable growth

Reputational benefit

There is significant reputational benefit and opportunity in being recognised as a leader in sustainable tourism development.

VisitScotland, has a key role to play, not only to integrate sustainability and low carbon principles into all our activities, but to also influence improvements in the visitor economy across Scotland. This is an investment in the future of Scotland as a successful and sustainable destination.

There is a growing expectation that destinations and tourism businesses do more to safeguard the environment and communities. There is a clear reputational risk if we are not doing so. Younger people in particular are more knowledgeable and are pro-actively making purchasing choices based on environmental and ethical factors.

It is also important to ensure tourism makes a positive contribution to the communities in which it operates, and reducing climate change impacts and building resilience, is one important aspect of ensuring tourism’s positive reputation. This will also contribute to the place-based approach of developing Scottish communities, improving the lives of people, supporting inclusive growth and creating more successful places.

Fragile environments

Scotland’s tourism industry is well aware of the balance required between tourism and fragile environments. Visiting these environments are a key part of any trip to Scotland for our visitors. By working together Scotland’s industry, agencies and environmental partners are tackling the issues emerging from a rise in tourism and pressures in some areas at some points in the year.

An example of a very successful project is the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, which was started with £6 million from the Scottish Government. Some 30 projects have been awarded funding to provide improved walking paths, car parks with EV charging points and toilets. This funding will help to reduce the potential of negative impacts of tourism on communities and on the local environment. RTIF is set to continue through 2020 with a further fund of £3 million.

There is also an opportunity to educate visitors on the need for responsible behaviour. In 2020 Scotland will celebrate a year dedicated to our coasts and waters. The promotion of responsible enjoyment is central to the year.

Sustainable travel patterns

Travelling to Scotland from within the UK on surface transport is something VisitScotland actively promotes. By working with rail and ferry operators, visitors are encouraged to consider all possible routes to and then around Scotland. Included in the latter is active travel, allowing visitors to experience the very best of Scotland on foot, by bike or by paddle.

There is an opportunity here to help our visitors understand the end-to-end impact of their trip and encourage them to find ways to reduce it whilst still enjoying the very best on offer here in Scotland.

Tourism can lead

Sustainability is another area where tourism is on the frontline and has a positive contribution to make. We can help shape and lead the debate and deliver ways of working that will ensure Scotland is enjoyed as a tourism destination by generations of visitors to come.