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by Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland
04 November 2021
Associate Feature: Sustainable tourism: a force for good

Associate Feature: Sustainable tourism: a force for good

With the eyes of the world on Glasgow, Scotland’s reputation as a leading responsible destination will come under the spotlight this month.

As we welcome people from across the world to COP26, we are embracing this unique opportunity to demonstrate the decisive action that Scotland’s tourism industry is taking in the face of a growing climate crisis.

Our breath-taking scenery, world-famous views, built heritage and natural environment make Scotland unique. That is exactly why we need to take action against climate change, to protect these assets for generations to come.    

At VisitScotland, we know this is one of the biggest challenges facing our tourism and events sector and we take our duty of care very seriously.  
 
The COVID-19 pandemic has already made people pause and think about the future environment, and their impact on it.  We had the opportunity to reset and as we continue to focus on the recovery of the industry, we are striving to build back responsibly, sustainably and safely.

Last year, we joined Wild Scotland and Sail Scotland to become the first national tourism organisation in the world to sign up to the Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency initiative.    
In doing this, VisitScotland promised to play a leading role in turning Scotland into a globally recognised responsible destination. This includes using our leadership role to steer the development of responsible travel products and experiences.

In Scotland, more and more businesses are already looking at what they can do to embrace responsible and sustainable tourism. This isn’t a niche trend, it is a fundamental part of our country’s fantastic tourism offering as we encourage visitors to consider the impact their visit has on the environment.   

So, businesses are putting locally sourced food and drink on their menus and offering environmentally friendly accommodation, whether a city centre hotel, an eco-lodge or a luxury resort. They are making it easier for visitors to make travel choices that protect our landscapes and boost the local economy, culture and diversity of the areas they visit.  

Along with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation and other industry leaders, we have helped to draft the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism. This includes a promise to cut emissions and reach net zero as soon as possible before 2050. We are already working towards meeting the Scottish Government’s more ambitious target of reducing emissions by 75% by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2045.    

Through our marketing we are encouraging visitors to stay longer, visit all year round, explore more widely and, in turn, contribute to the sustainable quality of life of communities. This will alleviate pressure on honey pot areas and ensure the economic benefits of tourism are evenly spread across the country throughout the year.  

 Projects such as our recently launched Scotland’s UNESCO Trail, our Business Events’ Journey to Change campaign and the Destination Net Zero project have sustainability at their heart, providing a platform on which tourism and events businesses can further their efforts and showcase their sustainable credentials.

Of course, preserving Scotland’s natural assets for future generations requires balance. Travel and tourism sustain communities and make for a more inclusive society. We need to strive to maintain economic activity whilst minimising negative environmental and social impact.

Tourism is a valuable part of Scotland’s economy but its existence goes beyond financial wealth. Tourism is a force for good, creating economic and social value in every corner of the country and enhancing the wellbeing of everyone who experiences it.

This article is sponsored by VisitScotland.

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