From reducing food miles to encouraging responsible travel and encouraging sustainable transport use, Scotland’s tourism industry is already playing its part in tackling climate change issues.

Building greener tourism as well as fighting back from the impact coronavirus has had on the tourist industry, has become a major focal point. But now VisitScotland, along with its partners Wild Scotland and Sail Scotland, have taken it a step further and have signed up to the Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency - an initiative which brings together travel groups, businesses and individuals who are is committed to find solutions to the climate crisis.

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Among the aims is a pledge to take action to reduce carbon emissions and support businesses to do the same and to help develop Scotland as a globally recognised responsible destination.

While some businesses face a battle to survive in the pandemic, plans also include balancing a comeback with a sustainable and responsible recovery.

Chris Greenwood, senior insights manager with VisitScotland, said: "Tourists are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of their travel, but that doesn't prevent them from having the desire to travel and it is up to tourist organisations and businesses to be able to promote how we can influence and promote responsible travel.

"Early on in lockdown we saw people really on locals services and suppliers seeing reduced food miles, and it also gives visitors a closer connection with local food producers.

"We have an opportunity now to build back but to be responsible and inspiring."

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Wild Scotland, the representative body of the wildlife, adventure and activity tourism industry, is committed through their own declaration to advocate for change across the tourism industry.

Over the coming year the organisation will develop a 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 while encouraging them to develop their own plans.

Victoria Brooks, Wild Scotland, said it had been a difficult year but added there is a real opportunity for Scotland to lead the way globally and build back a new, regenerative tourism industry.

She added: “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.”

This year forced those involved in marine tourism to introduce different measures in light of coronavirus, but some of them could pave the way for a sustainable future.

Sail Scotland 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.

Alan Rankin, CEO, Sail Scotland said the Marine Tourism sector is critically aware and respectful of the environment it operates within.

He said: “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.”

As well as reducing its own emissions, VisitScotland is committed to 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, 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.

VisitScotland already offers 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.

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive, VisitScotland said the declarations represent the strength of collective feeling that exists across the industry to rebuild responsibly.