Responsible Tourism – an opportunity not to be missed

A blog post by Tom Brock

Tom Brock
Chair, Board of Charity Trustees

Posted 04/11/2021

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The tourism sector has suffered over the past two years. A pandemic that keeps people at home, prevents travel and limits social gatherings tends to have that effect.

But, during that uncertain time, many businesses have been planning their comeback.  Setting themselves up to build back better, to return with a greener agenda and to put sustainability at the very heart of what they do.

With the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, being hosted here in Scotland, and our largest city welcoming 120 world leaders this month, the climate crisis has become a more urgent topic of conversation for people visiting and living in our country. Business leaders are acknowledging that they need to do more to meet the increasing environmental expectations and demands of their customers. Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the tourism sector and is now, more than ever, on the minds of our visitors. There is now a massive opportunity for tourism to be an outstanding force for good right across the country. If tourism can be promoted and delivered responsibly – it can truly benefit Scotland’s communities and environment.


To make this happen, it will need the concerted effort of everyone involved in tourism including businesses, government agencies and visitors themselves.

As Scots, we are rightly proud of the undoubted beauty of our country, and we like to show it off to our visitors. We want visitors to enjoy, appreciate and respect what they have come to see. I was therefore delighted to see the launch of VisitScotland’s Tread Lightly Campaign.

In September 2020, alongside VisitScotland and Glasgow City Council, Keep Scotland Beautiful launched the international eco-label for tourism facilities: Green Key. Run by the Foundation for Environmental Education it has been a leading standard of excellence in environmental responsibility and sustainable operation within the tourism industry since 1994. And despite the challenges the industry is facing, we were thrilled to award our first accreditation to the Glasgow Radisson Red in October this year, just ahead of COP26.  With approximately 80% of people being more likely to book sustainable accommodation this is a great time for the tourism industry to plan and deliver its green recovery.

Communities across Scotland have played a crucial role in recent years. They have been improving their neighbourhoods, ensuring that their communities are clean, green and sustainable for those who live within them, and those who visit.  Many communities working with businesses, have taken on the challenge of making improvements, or planting displays, of cleaning up litter, and of engaging a cross section of society. We recognise and celebrate the efforts of around 220 of these groups every year through our Beautiful Scotland and It’s Your Neighbourhood programmes. Without these volunteers across Scotland, our country wouldn’t be nearly as beautiful, and visitors wouldn’t take home the memories and images that they do, nor would they have such rich experiences.

The climate crisis has captured the attention of many, and with the Scottish Government declaring a climate emergency following the Paris Agreement, and with COP26 being held in Glasgow this week, climate change is becoming a more urgent topic of conversation for communities. 

As an environmental charity, we have responded to this demand for knowledge and support at the local level. We have developed new activities to fill the ever-growing demand to help people understand the climate emergency, what it means to them, and how they can respond to the risks, responsibilities and opportunities.

Keep Scotland Beautiful is committed to building on the momentum of COP26 and to work with and support the tourism industry as well as our communities to achieve a low carbon future. We believe that truly sustainable and responsible tourism will bring many benefits for our people and our environment.  And we were delighted today, 4 November to voice our support for the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism - a global initiative to cut tourism emissions in half over the coming decade. This declaration has been drafted by VisitScotland and Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, both supporters of our Green Key programme, alongside the UN World Tourism Organisation and UN Environment Programme.

We look forward with hope for the future of sustainable tourism, but know we all need to do so much more.

Only by working effectively together can we ensure Scotland becomes a sustainable tourism destination.  Only together can we become a Net Zero nation.

Scotland has the opportunity to be a global leader in responsible tourism that helps in the fight against climate change, enhances our precious environment, supports our communities and delivers great visitor experiences. Let’s not miss this opportunity and let’s all ensure that the environment and our communities are at the heart of our vital tourism recovery as we aim for #DestinationNetZero.

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