VisitScotland is joining Wild Scotland and Sail Scotland to step up the country’s commitment to responsible tourism and tackling climate change, by becoming the first national tourism organisation in the world to sign up to the Tourism Declares initiative.
Through their activity, these three organisations will aim to play a leading role in the development of Scotland as a globally recognised responsible destination. They have pledged to take action to reduce carbon emissions and support businesses to do the same. With the tourism industry facing huge challenges due to the pandemic, their plans recognise the importance of balancing necessary business survival with a sustainable and responsible recovery.
The collaborative partnership joins a growing list of over one hundred travel groups, businesses and individuals who have declared under the banner Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency; an initiative committed to coming together to find solutions to the climate crisis. The initiative aims to encourage positive contributions toward addressing climate change, especially as the sector looks to recover from COVID-19.
As part of their plan, the national tourism body has committed to reducing its own emissions, working with communities and focusing marketing efforts to encourage responsible tourism, in line with Scottish Government’s targets to become net-zero by 2045, and the national tourism strategy, Scotland Outlook 2030, ambition for responsible growth.
VisitScotland’s plan also includes a long-term commitment to increased promotion of public transport and active travel, including maximising the transformational benefits of hosting the UCI Cycling World Championships in 2023. Wider efforts on responsible tourism will see VisitScotland develop its community engagement and visitor management; work which has been ongoing particularly following the first national COVID-19 lockdown.
There are several pieces of activity to support responsible development already underway at VisitScotland. These include advice for tourism and events businesses through the industry engagement programme, such as promoting green tourism practices and quality locally sourced food and drink, to reduce food miles. The national tourism body also administers the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund which helps manage the success of popular destinations and runs marketing initiatives to encourage responsible visitor behaviour. Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters has also been encouraging responsible engagement and participation through its promotion. And at an operational level, VisitScotland has committed to clear targets for reducing carbon emissions and waste, with progress reported on annually.
Wild Scotland, as the representative body of the wildlife, adventure and activity tourism industry has made a commitment through their own declaration to advocate for change across the tourism industry. Over the coming year the organisation will develop a meaningful Climate Emergency Plan focusing on the adventure tourism sector with a commitment to not only reducing their own emissions but with a strong focus on encouraging members, suppliers and partners to take steps towards responsible and sustainable solutions whilst also encouraging them to declare a Climate Emergency and produce their own Climate Emergency Plans. The organisation is already taking steps to review their own Code of Conduct and Best Practice Guidelines for members ensuring that the Wild Scotland brand acknowledges and represents responsible operators who deliver best practice through sustainable, quality experiences.
Sail Scotland has over the past year worked with sailing destinations and local businesses to promote local trade to visiting vessels through the Shop to Ship and #RespectTheDestination campaigns. Both campaigns sought to work within the restrictions brought by Covid-19 but also celebrated local business, local produce and the reduction of food miles and waste. Sail Scotland is committing to check future activities in terms of potential climate impact and promote the principles behind Tourism Declares across businesses networks operating within the Marine Tourism sector.
The declaration also comes less than a year from Glasgow playing host to COP26 (1-12 November 2021), where nations will come together to review commitments and strengthen ambitions made in the Paris Climate Agreement.
Speaking about the declaration, Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive, VisitScotland said:
“Today we want to set out our vision for the future of responsible tourism and how sustainability, inclusivity and communities will be major focuses for us in the years to come. Our declaration is reaffirmation of our commitment to place responsible tourism firmly at the heart of everything we do at VisitScotland. We will seek to constantly improve our own operations while learning and sharing best practice with others, working closely with the tourism and events industry to be bold, ambitious and innovative.
“These are incredibly challenging times for businesses across the country and during our response to the pandemic, responsible recovery has been key. The declarations of our industry partners Wild Scotland and Sail Scotland, and activity holidays specialists Wilderness Scotland before them, represent the strength of collective feeling that exists across the industry to rebuild responsibly and protect our beautiful country for generations to come.”
Victoria Brooks, Wild Scotland, said:
“We are incredibly proud to join together today with VisitScotland and Sail Scotland to declare a Climate Emergency. It has been a difficult year but there is a real opportunity for Scotland to lead the way globally and build back a new, regenerative tourism industry. Responsible Tourism has always been at the heart of Wild Scotland, the organisation represents a sector that is reliant on the natural environment, we need to work together to not only preserve it but to make a positive difference so that future generations can enjoy, value and take responsibility of the natural world.
“The Wild Scotland brand represents quality, our members are passionate about what they do and they have a genuine love for wildlife and the outdoors and we really look forward to working with them to advocate change across Scotland from not only tourism businesses but all those that benefit from the great outdoors.”
Alan Rankin, CEO, Sail Scotland said:
“The Marine Tourism sector is critically aware and respectful of the environment it operates within. A global threat is a local threat to the quality and range of experiences enjoyed in some of the most stunning waters and coastlines in the world. There can be no better advocates for our environment than the people who commit their lives to work in and around it. The time for action is now and we are pleased to be declaring alongside Wild Scotland and VisitScotland.”