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by Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland
24 May 2023
Associate Feature: A sustainable future for tourism and events

Southern Upland Way at Killantringan

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Associate Feature: A sustainable future for tourism and events

Our tourism and events industry has an incredible power to benefit communities and wellbeing. I’ve seen many examples of businesses and destinations making efforts to become more sustainable, despite the challenges they are currently facing. 

Developments range from investing in new practices, such as installing electric vehicle charge points for visitors, to working with local suppliers, creating voluntourism opportunities or partnering with like-minded businesses to spread the benefits of tourism.

When it comes to our environment, climate change is clearly having an enormous impact on all sectors. This includes tourism, with the gems of Scotland’s scenery and our heritage all at risk without action being taken. And the need for action is widely recognised. Our own research shows almost three quarters of Scottish residents recognise that climate change is an immediate and urgent problem. 

What’s positive is that tourism businesses are already supporting the drive for net zero. Two thirds of businesses have either started thinking about taking action or even better, are actually taking action. To help those at the start of their journey, as part of our Destination Net Zero work with partners, we’ve developed a series of resources on our industry website. They include a new step-by-step climate action planning guide. 

We’ve worked with experts such as Green Tourism and the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute to create a tool that will help businesses to plan meaningful actions to meet the Scottish Government’s net zero targets. Many of these actions can have positive impacts for business. 

Thanks to the progress the industry is making, we’re increasingly taking opportunities to profile and share our achievements on the global stage. Earlier this month, we hosted an event at Scotland House Brussels, Delivering Climate Action in Tourism, where we updated on the successes, and challenges, of our journey to net zero to an audience of EU stakeholders.

It’s important to celebrate our responsible tourism successes. Back in March, the Scottish Thistle Awards recognised the very best in Scottish tourism and events. The Awards showcased some outstanding examples of sustainable practices. These included the WeeCOOK Kitchen in Carnoustie, praised for its local produce and suppliers; Wild Discovery in Ballater, with conservation at its core; and Comrie Croft, whose credentials earned them a win in the Responsible Tourism category. 

This year we’re also celebrating the 5th anniversary of the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund. Funded by the Scottish Government, we’ve helped deliver around £18 million for over 70 projects. Sites across the country have installed cycle facilities, increased parking and toilets, and made accessibility improvements. These investments are helping ensure communities in honeypot areas are comfortable and capable of welcoming visitors, making a better experience for everyone.

The economic benefits of tourism are of course also vital for Scotland. Visitors spend in communities the length and breadth of the country, in turn supporting our businesses, jobs and cultural heritage. But to achieve all of this, businesses need to be sustainable and viable too. Ongoing difficulties linked to the cost of living and doing business crises have presented new challenges. We’re supporting the industry in dealing with those, through advice, guidance and stimulating visitor demand.

With challenges come opportunities and our aim is to help Scottish tourism be as sustainable as possible, to ensure an excellent experience for industry, communities, and visitors. This is not something that we, or any individual business or destination can do alone. We must work together if we want Scottish tourism to be a leader in 21st Century tourism and support a sustainable future for everyone.

This article is sponsored by Visit Scotland

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Read the most recent article written by Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland - Associate Feature: A growing appetite for rural experiences.

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