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Visit Scotland | Alba

What is responsible tourism?

Responsible tourism focuses on sustainable growth that makes better places for people to live and visit in every corner of Scotland, enhancing the positive benefits of tourism for everyone.

There are three strands to a responsible tourism approach:

  1. Sustainability | Environmental, Cultural and Economic
    • Environmental - looking after the assets that are so vital to Scotland's brand by seeking to address the impacts of climate change, and reducing harm to the natural and built environment.
    • Cultural - protecting our cultural heritage; our attractions, events and activities that make Scotland unique. 
    • Economic – enabling good economic growth whilst ensuring progress is beneficial to everyone. 
  2. Inclusion - ensuring Scotland is a place for everyone by prioritising accessibility and inclusivity, so no one faces barriers to visiting our country.
  3. Communities - connecting visitors and host communities meaningfully while working with local people to make sure they experience the benefits of tourism – economic, social and well-being.

Why is responsible tourism important?

Tourism is a force for positive change; it can sustain communities and the economy by creating jobs, tackling depopulation and improving the well-being of everyone who experiences it.

We have a duty of care to protect our assets for the future. We recognise the importance of protecting those assets, which are so vital to Scotland’s brand and make Scotland so unique. A responsible approach to tourism helps Scotland’s world-famous beauty and communities thrive, enabling good growth while minimising any negative impacts. 

Our approach to Responsible Tourism

We aim to play a leading role in the development of Scotland as a globally recognised responsible destination. We are committed to protecting the natural assets which are vital to Scotland’s iconic identity through our marketing, advice, partnerships and the actions of our staff, including:

  • Internally

    Taking direct action on issues at an organisational level detailed in our annual sustainability report. We want to continue to develop as climate-conscious organisation, recognising where we need to make improvements and can learn lessons from others. We also share our developing approach to Responsible Tourism on a global platform through our engagement with NTOs and other destinations.

  • Marketing

    Highlighting responsible tourism messaging across our channels, using our own marketing and work with industry partners to encourage visitors to stay longer, travel all year round and explore more of what our country has to offer.

  • Events

    Working with partners such as Resource Efficient Scotland to support Scotland’s events and festivals sector in the development and delivery of sustainable events. Responsible engagement is also a key objective of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020.

  • Quality Assurance

    Sustainability is embedded in our quality assurance grading criteria, including a minimum standard for businesses. We also run the Taste Our Best scheme which promotes local food provenance.

  • RTIF

    Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund: we administer this fund to projects that will improve the visitor and community experience by ensuring that facilities meet demand and don’t impact negatively on communities.

Responsible tourism and your business

Travellers are seeking transformational tourism, as identified in our Trends Paper 2020 - a movement among consumers who take trips to maximise their time, give something back to the destinations they visit and consciously off-set the impact of their travel. 

Adopting a sustainable approach can increase efficiency and reduce running costs for businesses. Likewise, visitors benefit through better links with local communities, a high-quality tourism experience and a natural and built environment that is cared for.

There are some great examples of businesses already taking innovative steps to protect and enhance Scotland through responsible tourism initiatives that you can find on our case studies page.

Green Tourism and Green Key

Environmental accreditation programmes like Green Tourism and Green Key provide formalised long-term support for businesses.

Useful resources