Businesses call for help to deliver eco credentials popular with tourists

Almost half of the £4bn generated by tourism each year comes from people taking trips specifically to enjoy nature and wildlife. 

Lesley McKenzie’s family run Highland Farm Café and Cottages near Dingwall.

They’ve invested in bio-mass heating and solar panels, and work hard to reduce food waste.

But Ms McKenzie says it has not been easy.

“The information is now always easily accessible – you might want to reduce your electricity but there are a lot of hoops to jump through to get the information,” she told STV News.

“Running a business takes a lot of time, you really have to carve out the time to find out these types of things. It is good and definitely worth it but it does come at a cost.”

Scotland’s tourism generates £4bn a year. But as a sector that produces eight per cent of greenhouse gas emissions globally, how easy is it for companies to embrace eco-tourism?

This week, STV News is exploring the big issues facing business when it comes to going green.

Almost half of the revenue that Scottish tourism generates each year comes from people taking trips specifically to enjoy the country’s nature and wildlife. 

But business leaders say more needs to be done to help firms deliver the eco credentials that visitors are looking for.

David Richardson from the Federation of Small Businesses said: “We surveyed businesses right across Scotland at the start of this year. Two fifths aren’t aware of the government’s targets for net zero, as to how it affects them, the implications for their businesses.

“Eighty per cent haven’t taken advantage of any government support and that’s a real concern because there is support out there but they are not taking advantage of it – why?

“We think a lot of it is that it’s been designed without and discussion about what their needs are and how they see things developing.”

Across the globe, tourism is responsible for around 8% of greenhouse gas emissions. Here in Scotland, there’s a real drive to change that. But how easy is it for the industry to go green?

Some 350,000 people a year visit attractions like the Standing Stones of Stenness on Orkney. People still love to travel but keeping their carbon footprint to a minimum is becoming increasingly important for many. 

Kinley Francis runs the guide business Orkney Uncovered. He said: “A lot of our clients ask about eco-tourism, they want to go in a vehicle that’s a hybrid, they feel that by booking with us they get a great experience, as well as reducing their carbon footprint.”

Hospitality consultant Sheetal Revis also believes Orkney has huge eco potential, but the issue of how best to be environmentally friendly can be tremendously confusing.

She said: “There can be a lack of joined-up thinking. There are so many initiatives around net zero, around reducing carbon and I think sometimes is what do the companies focus on? What is it people are looking for?”

At the Hideaway Under the Stars near Aberlour, owner Kym Fraser said: “Everything we do is about regenerating the soil, growing healthy food. People can pick their own fruit and vegetables and cook them.

“I think it is the feeling that people get when they come here – we have had people walk into the Hideaway and tear up. It’s relaxing, it’s just so peaceful and a word that gets branded around an awful lot is the word magical – and it’s just the magic of nature that people love.”

Encouraging more environmentally responsible tourism has been made a key pledge by those at the top of the country’s industry – and climate action is also a priority.

Operators say they’re doing their best to live up to visitor expectations, but there’s still some distance to go when it comes to getting greener.

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