Column: Forth Valley businesses embracing sustainable tourism

As Scotland plays host to COP26, one of the largest international climate summits ever held in the UK, it brings focus to Falkirk’s own environmental position.

By Neil Christison, VisitScotland Regional Director
Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 4:22 pm

Some of the world’s most prominent leaders are coming together to agree on action to tackle one of the biggest threats facing humanity, climate change. 

It may seem strange that someone who is committed to supporting local tourism would be so invested in the outcome of an event taking place miles away in Glasgow, but at VisitScotland, we know that environmental change is one of the biggest challenges facing our tourism and events sector. 

Scotland’s breathtaking scenery is the number one reason why people visit our shores. Visitors from every corner of the world have fallen in love with our world-famous views and natural assets. They are what make Scotland so special.

Neil Christison

And that is exactly why we need to take action against climate change today, to protect these assets for the visitors of tomorrow.    

The outcome of these crisis talks will impact each and every one of us and will shape how we rebuild tourism sustainably following the COVID-19 pandemic.

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VisitScotland is committed to working with the industry and communities to create a long-lasting sustainable tourism destination which will protect the environment and benefit visitors and residents alike. 

Zetland Park Sporting Activity Day with Forth Bike

The COVID-19 pandemic has already made people pause and think about the future environment, and their impact on it.  For VisitScotland and the wider tourism industry it was a chance to reset and build back responsibly, sustainably and safely.  COP26 presents a unique opportunity to demonstrate the decisive action that Scotland’s tourism industry is taking to secure its future prosperity in the face of a growing climate crisis.  

As the world’s eyes settle on Glasgow, VisitScotland is stepping up its commitment.  Along with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation and other industry leaders, we have helped to draft the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism. This includes a promise to cut emissions and reach net zero as soon as possible. We are already working towards meeting the Scottish Government’s more ambitious target of reducing emissions by 75 per cent by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2045.   

Across the Falkirk region, more and more businesses are already looking at what they can do to embrace responsible and sustainable tourism.

Take Forth Bike for example, Scotland’s largest electric bike-share scheme. With a fleet of 144 bikes spread out across 16 stations, the business is increasing access to and support for everyday cycling journeys, helping visitors make that move to more sustainable travel options. The bikes are also placed near popular attractions such as Stirling train station, Falkirk Wheel and Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway. Launched in 2019 with a 230% increase in rides between 2019 and 2020, the pandemic accelerated the trend further with 78,000 miles cycled in the first eight months of 2020.

One of the downsides of the pandemic has been the increase in parcel deliveries and effect this has on the environment. To help combat this and support local businesses Falkirk Delivers, the town’s business improvement district has introduced a free local delivery service. To date over 2000 parcels have been delivered in Falkirk and the surrounding area saving 15,000 non-essential journeys.

These are just two examples of local businesses playing their part. This isn’t a niche trend anymore, it is a fundamental part of our country’s fantastic tourism offering as we encourage visitors to consider the impact their visit has on the environment.  

In Scotland, almost three quarter of residents agree that climate change is an immediate and urgent problem so there a real opportunity there for businesses to shout about how their eco experiences and cater for a market that recognises the need for action.

And that’s where VisitScotland can also help, as well as working with businesses, we are making it easier for visitors to tread lightly when enjoying Scotland by sharing ideas and inspiration on our website, via social and through our marketing that highlight the best of Scotland’s green offering.

By making sustainable travel choices we can all help protect our landscapes while at the same time boost the local economy, culture and diversity of the areas we visit.

Despite the many challenges we face with the climate emergency, VisitScotland is part of the solution.     

We are committed to working with tourism and events businesses and communities to ensure sustainability is at the heart of their offering. 

And as we market our country to visitors, we will make sure we inspire to enjoy our country in a way that preserves and protects all the things that make Forth Valley, and Scotland as a whole, so special.    

Tourism is a force for good, creating economic and social value in every corner of Scotland and enhancing the wellbeing of everyone who experiences it.    

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Falkirk Herald.