Sustainable tourism in Wales
Directed by the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Tourism Framework (STF), Visit Wales is focusing on sustainable tourism - which is about more than just being green.
Unlike ‘eco’ or ‘green’ tourism, sustainable tourism gives equal consideration to local communities, culture and traditions, economic prosperity, and the environment. Four key objectives support the vision for sustainable tourism:
- Promoting local prosperity;
- Supporting community well-being and involvement;
- Minimising tourism’s impact on the environment;
- Protecting and giving value to natural heritage and culture.
Working in partnership
Visit Wales has developed a number of programmes in partnership with key stakeholders in delivering a more sustainable tourism industry. The drive to make tourism more sustainable is also encouraging organisations across Wales to work together in cross-sector partnerships to achieve shared goals.
Since 2007, a Sustainable Tourism Forum of private, voluntary and public sector bodies has been coordinating the development of sustainable tourism across Wales and has put in place a Sustainable Tourism Action Plan.
Important areas of the forum’s work to date have included bringing the tourism and transport sectors together to look at barriers that visitors face when using public transport, resulting in improvements in information provision and new incentives for visitors to use public transport.
Another example of successful cross-sector collaboration is the Green Sea Partnership, an all-Wales working partnership to safeguard and enhance the coastal environment of Wales. Improving the quality of beaches, the built and natural environment and maintaining and improving seawater quality is especially important for tourism and the economy in Wales. Since its launch in 1996, the partnership has been a key driver in quality in coastal tourism in Wales, securing two successive EU projects.
The focus has been on improvements to beach infrastructure and curbing pollution. It is a measure of the partnership’s success that 15 years ago only two Welsh beaches qualified to meet the international Blue Flag standard while this year 46 beaches and marinas have been accorded the status.
As well as a record number of high water quality Blue Flag awards this year, Wales boasts 46 Green Coast Awards. The Green Coast Award is unique in that it recognises Guideline water quality (the EU designation for excellent water quality) as well as best practice in environmental management for beaches, which may not have the facilities associated with resort beaches. Since its launch in Wales, the Award has grown in popularity and has now expanded to Ireland.
Annual programme for sustainable tourism
Visit Wales sets an annual work programme for sustainable tourism development, divided into partnership working, establishing pilot projects, investing in tourism infrastructure, and improving the quality of the sustainable tourism product inWales.
Examples under this programme of work include:
- National Park Environmental Management Pilots 2010
Wales’ three National Park Authorities undertook environmental management events and seminars designed to address key sustainable tourism themes, eg energy efficiency, waste management, recycling and participation in green certification schemes.
- Tourism Investment Support Scheme (TISS)
Launched in October 2010, TISS is open to existing Welsh tourism businesses for the purpose of upgrading facilities, for instance increasing energy efficiency or environmental improvement.
- National Tourism Awards, Sustainable Tourism Category
In 2010 Visit Wales launched a new sustainable tourism category of the National Tourism Awards. Key sustainability questions were also incorporated within all other award categories.
- Tourism Environmental Satellite Account and Tourism Impact Model
Visit Wales is working with Cardiff Business School on the Tourism Satellite Account for Wales in order to measure key economic and environmental impacts of tourism in Wales. This includes improving data on carbon, water, and waste in tourism.
- Destination Management website
Launched in January 2011 to pull together and build key partnerships with tourism business, communities and public authorities in developing a more sustainable tourism offer. See the Destination Management Wales website.
A leading sustainable tourism destination
Strides have been made towards the vision of Wales as a leading sustainable tourism destination through working in partnership and driving change for the industry.
Visit Wales will actively promote validated schemes through its marketing and industry websites. The current validation programme sets the framework for these improvements and the required benchmark for the industry, as well as helping visitors make an informed choice and meeting growing consumer expectations around sustainability.
More work is needed to engage with the industry and invest in product development to ensure that industry needs are met.
Visit Wales has committed to develop strategic centres of excellence in tourism over the next four years. Around £35m will be invested into two EU Convergence – Environment for Growth (E4G) projects on Coastal Tourism and Sustainable Tourism with seven centres of excellence (CoE) for tourism in Wales:
- For Sustainable Tourism
The adventure tourism Eryri CoE (located in Snowdonia, Gwynedd), the Off-Road Cycling CoE (in Neath Port Talbot), the One Historic Garden project to develop existing garden attractions (Pembrokeshire), and the North Wales Cycling Centre of Excellence (Denbighshire).
- For Coastal Tourism
The National Trust’s CoE for Aberdaron and the Llŷn Peninsula, the Pembrokeshire Coastal Waters Centre, and Swansea Bay Water Sports Centre.
Part of a broader movement
Efforts to promote sustainable tourism are just one aspect of a broader movement to promote sustainable development.
It is clear that tourism can have a significant effect on the environment and the way we live. The long term future of the industry in Wales is dependent on the ability to safeguard the quality of the environment as well as contribute to the economic development and well-being of individuals living, working or staying in Wales.
Through investing in and developing our coastline, beaches, local food, creating local jobs and providing leisure access for all, tourism has a unique opportunity to create an environment where both the visitor and the community feel a greater sense of well being.
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