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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 14/09/2020

Hear from our Chief Executive, Malcolm Roughead, in his latest blog as part of Climate Week (14 – 20 September 2020).

This week is Climate Week Scotland, offering a moment for us to reflect on how we can contribute to a more responsible future – and a chance to celebrate some of the work that’s already underway.

For VisitScotland, the COVID-19 pandemic has set responsible tourism at the heart of this moment for change. It's an important time for us as an organisation, and for our industry, to consider what comes next and how the future we pursue could be a better one.

Scotland has already established a strong position on environmental sustainability, selected to host the first public event for the sustainable tourism initiative Travalyst in February of this year. Within VisitScotland, our Quality Assurance scheme encourages tourism businesses to engage in sustainable practices – and in 2019/20 just over 4,000 businesses received sustainability advice through their quality grading. There are some great examples of businesses already taking innovative steps to protect and enhance Scotland through responsible tourism initiatives. We’ll be celebrating these throughout Climate Week across our website and social media channels.

We have a duty of care to protect our assets for the future, so Scotland continues to be a great place to live and to visit. It’s important to think about responsible tourism in the holistic sense – including working with communities. After all, they are intrinsically linked to tourism whether as business owners, employees in the industry, or residents. Since the beginning of the pandemic we’ve worked closely with partners and communities, undertaking roundtables across the country. Those ongoing conversations help identify where there are issues or concerns, and how we can work collaboratively to address them.

While our partners focus more on legislative or infrastructure developments, our remit is mainly related to marketing – putting us in a strong position to guide, influence and offer advice to visitors. That’s why we’re mindful of highlighting responsible tourism messaging across our channels and ensuring we promote a good geographical spread to our visitors.

The Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, administered by VisitScotland, has also helped with this by funding projects in areas where there is pressure on services or infrastructure.

Harold Goodwin is a renowned commentator on responsible tourism – in a recent article he discussed some of the actions Scotland is taking toward being a global leader in this area. In particular, he describes how we seek to create meaningful connections between our visitors and our country. This fosters a long-lasting bond, offering an excellent opportunity to encourage return travellers and engage with visitors who will give something back, in a positive way.

Our own 2020 Trends Paper identified that travellers are seeking this type of ‘Transformational Tourism’. While people’s attitudes toward travel have shifted during the pandemic, it seems environmental and social considerations remain important for consumers.

A recent Euromonitor report Travel 2040 showed baby boomers and millennials especially will continue to choose sustainable experiences and engage with brands which are values driven. We need to take a bold approach to responsible tourism to appeal to the visitors of tomorrow.

While Scotland can thrive in responsible tourism at a destination level, we’re also proud of achievements within our own operations at VisitScotland. We’ve developed ambitious plans for reducing our carbon footprint and landfill waste – since 2008/09 we've reduced CO2 emissions by 74%, with a 58% recycling rate. Good, but not good enough.

Like many organisations, our physical office operations changed overnight due to coronavirus; but we’ve still been encouraging staff to continue their commitment to sustainability from home on our internal staff platforms.

Although there is more that all of us could do, activity at VisitScotland and across the industry has set us up firmly to help grasp this moment for change – to make sure tourism contributes positively towards, and benefits the lives of, visitors and communities.

Join in the Climate Week conversation @visitscotnews using #ScotClimateWeek.