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New horizons – Sustainable Tourism

Clean Breaks

27-04-2012 | Whether it’s a weekend away or the trip of a lifetime, travel and tourism can enrich our lives and has the potential to do the same for the people living in the destinations we visit. And by providing an introduction to a more sustainable lifestyle, the impact of tourism can last much longer than the holiday itself, with visitors bringing home far more than just happy memories.

Asset Management 

With the right approach, tourism can be the lifeblood of entire regions, providing the economic input that enables local communities and culture to flourish. Sustainable tourism goes beyond ‘eco’ tourism, addressing social, cultural and economic issues alongside environmental factors. To be truly sustainable, tourism must consider the needs and quality of life of local communities, contribute to wider local economic prosperity as well as minimilising damange to the environment.

Manda Brookman, Director at CoaST, a Truro based social enterprise working towards one planet tourism, explains the impact sustainable tourism can have on a region: "In Cornwall, tourism makes up a quarter of the economy and is worth £1.7bn a year. It’s a huge industry with its fingers in the pies of everything including water, habitat, waste, energy and communities. 80% of visitors come down to the South West because of our natural asset, so we need to look after it. If we don’t we’re just degrading that asset – we’re killing the golden goose.

"By running a tourism industry sustainably, you are investing back financially, socially and economically, making sure you’ve got local jobs, local purchasing and you’re looking after the landscape."

With the right approach, sustainable tourism can encourage visitors to take more away with them than just happy memories.

"Tourism has an extraordinary opportunity to be an agent of change. To actually take that moment of change for people who are on holiday and make them engage with a completely different view of the world. It might be the only time they’ve had a chance to stop and think about it," says Brookman.

"This is about having a better holiday, but also having a really positive impact. It’s about making people feel inspired, getting them to try something different and take that back home with them. That’s what impacts on what they do when they get back home – and that’s the power of tourism to change the world."

Sustainable Tourism - Clean Breaks

"By running a tourism industry sustainably, you are investing back financially, socially and economically, making sure you’ve got local jobs, local purchasing and you’re looking after the landscape."

Manda Brookman, Director, CoaST

Slow travel 

So how can you encourage people to consider environmental and social factors when considering their choice of holiday? Toby Sawday, Managing Director of the Alastair Sawday Publishing Company, famous for their ‘Special Places to Stay’ travel guides, thinks the secret is not necessarily focusing on sustainability at all.

"The market for specifically green tourism is quite limited. To some extent it’s too closely associated with giving up pleasure," says Sawday. "A holiday is a discretionary spend in someone’s budget and it’s hard to get them to give something up. So the way you present your messages have to be exciting, not about sacrifice.

"You don’t harp on about relative carbon footprints of holiday X verses holiday Y. What we can do is to tell people that there’s another way to travel, to ensure when they arrive they’re staying at places that keep money in the local economy and help it to thrive."

Sawday believes their most exciting expressions of sustainability have been through their slow travel guides. They celebrate life in the slow lane, going beyond advice on where to stay with guidance on cultural, historic and gastronomic places to visit while you’re there.

"Slow travel is about really getting under the skin of the place - taking your time, supporting artisan families and heritage buildings. In celebrating the magic of travel we can focus on a wider audience than green tourism. That’s full of sustainability benefits without banging that drum – it’s really much more compelling ."

Local heroes

Jeff and Jill Sutheran run St Cuthbert’s House, an award winning bed and breakfast in Seahouses, Northumberland. From the start they’ve run the business to the highest environmental standards and feel they, and the guests that stay with them, benefit as a result.

"When we opened our business five years ago, sustainability was already part of our lifestyle," says Jeff Sutheran. "We really champion local food, suppliers, through to local guided walks. We’re trying to build and sustain the network of people who make our area a wonderful place to live and work, and a great place to visit.

"It’s not about compost toilets and wearing a hair shirt. We are a very high-quality, luxury business – we don’t want our visitors to feel that they’re roughing it. We’re saying that you can come and enjoy a luxurious stay and yet holiday responsibly, help build our local infrastructure, support our village and Northumberland, create and sustain jobs – and go away feeling really good about the holiday you’ve had."

Of the guests which visit St Cuthbert’s House, 87% have said that their sustainability drive was important to them.

"I’m not suggesting they make a decision about where to stay on that basis, but it’s encouraging so many consider sustainability important. Clearly it makes businesses sense, so even if it costs a little more to have our laundry done locally, it’s worth it," says Sutheran.

Bank holidays

Triodos sees great potential for the UK’s sustainable tourism industry. With many household’s budgets knocked by the recession and the increasing popularity of holidaying close to home, UK destinations are becoming more and more in demand. Alongside this, a growing number of people are more conscious of their environmental impact and want a holiday which reflects their values.

We work in partnership with the Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS), the national sustainable tourism certification scheme, to ensure the enterprises we lend to in the sector really have sustainability at their core.

"GTBS provide us with credible, independent guidance on best practice in sustainable tourism, and their certification enables us to ensure our customers meet high standards of sustainbility," says Kate Lewis, Assistant Relationship Manager in our food, farming and trade team.

GTBS certify tourism businesses across the UK, considering over 150 criteria and awarding businesses bronze, silver or gold based on their assessment.

"They have a holistic approach, looking at all different aspects of a businesses from energy and water management to whether they plant native trees and encourage wildlife in their grounds. They also help businesses to become more sustainable, providing action points following an audit and practical advice and support," says Lewis.

She concludes, "combining benefits to local communities and the environment, and by providing a introduction to greener lifestyle, sustainable tourism is a win-win solution which we believe is set to thrive."

Words: Will Ferguson

The Colour of Money

Customer magazine - Autumn 2016

Colour of Money - Autumn 2016

In this issue:The Food Waste War | Introducing Bevis watts | Bristol Energy Cooperative | Kurt Jackson | Satish Kumar | Linton Hydro | Changemakers | Thrive Renewables

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