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VisitScotland regional director David Adams McGilp has spoken of the opportunities this year’s Climate Change Conference (COP26) could bring for Argyll and the Isles.
Currently under way in Glasgow until November 12, the conference is the biggest political gathering in Scotland’s history.
‘Some of the world’s most prominent leaders have come together to agree action to tackle one of the biggest threats facing humanity; climate change,’ said Mr McGilp.
‘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 in Glasgow but, at VisitScotland, we know that environmental change is one of the biggest challenges facing our tourism and events sector.
‘Scotland’s breath-taking 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. This is particularly true for visitors to Argyll and the Isles, Helensburgh, Loch Lomond and Dunbartonshire.
‘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 in Glasgow will impact each and every one of us and will shape how we rebuild tourism sustainably following the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘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.
‘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.’
Mr McGilp added: ‘Across Argyll and the Isles, Helensburgh, Loch Lomond and Dunbartonshire, more and more businesses are already looking at what they can do to embrace responsible and sustainable tourism.
‘There are now over 70 Green Tourism accredited businesses in our region, with half of those achieving gold status – including Calgary Self Catering and Cill-Mhoire Lodges on Mull, to Iona Abbey and Nunnery, and Iona Hostel, Dunstaffnage Castle and Cruachan Visitor Centre.
‘Reducing the distanced travelled and emissions through the supply chain is a key part of a sustainable business.
‘Glenegedale House on Islay focuses on sourcing, celebrating and championing local produce to serve to guests, with suppliers including Islay whiskies, Orsay Sea Salt, Gigha Halibut and Argyll Coffee Roasters.
‘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 quarters 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 them to enjoy our country in a way that preserves and protects all the things that make Scotland 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.’