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VisitScotland's trade campaign helps influence visitors to enjoy outdoor spaces more respectfully

by JoAnna Haugen


In January 2021, VisitScotland became the first national tourism board to declare a climate emergency. It also recently signed on to support the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism, a global initiative launching at COP26 in November.



Its climate-focused and responsible tourism commitments don’t stop with its own organisation, however. In March, VisitScotland launched a responsible tourism campaign to raise awareness of the importance of exploring the outdoors responsibly.


“I’m delighted to see this come to the forefront because it’s something we’ve been preaching for 20 years,” said Stevie Christie, head of adventure for Wilderness Scotland. “We’ve watched gradually as some of the ethics that we started out with have become more mainstream. As people emerge from lockdown and more people want to get into these arguably more fragile environments, it’s important that they’re educated and act in an appropriate manner but also understand the benefits of them being there.”



To help address this, a key piece to the VisitScotland campaign is the visitor guide for businesses. The expansive guide is packed with films, images, and content available for businesses and destinations to use to spread this message to their visitors and communities. “It is encouraging that so many people want to explore Scotland’s landscapes, but it must be done in a responsible manner by respecting local communities, so as not to put undue pressure on infrastructure, communities, and our natural assets,” said Chris McDonald, partnerships marketing manager at VisitScotland.


According to the visitor guide, “the more we talk about it; the more people will hear about it.” And people need to hear about it: “Due to COVID, there was evidence to suggest that a new homegrown audience was discovering and enjoying Scotland’s countryside and national parks and, in some cases, challenging and anti-social behaviours were being observed,” McDonald said.



Christie noted there was an influx of roadside camping and visitation at popular outdoor recreation areas. While companies like Wilderness Scotland have used Leave No Trace principles and other responsible practices for years, many people are not familiar with them, which left visible evidence of this increase in domestic tourism across the country.


The situation has improved in 2021 over the previous year, Christie noted, in large part due to local responses such as national parks hiring extra rangers to patrol key areas. “Not so much to enforce the law but to educate people who are turning up, catch them before they set up camp, and direct them to places that are more appropriate,” he said. “Education played a huge part.”



The visitor guide for businesses provides tools and information travellers need to safely, respectfully, and responsibly recreate. It includes posters, outdoor access guidelines related to COVID-19, and responsible travel itineraries. Additionally, VisitScotland provides royalty-free images and key messages on topics including water and fire safety, camping, motor homing, litter, and responsible dog walking for use on websites or social media.


While the content is all specific to Scotland, the visitor guide for businesses offers a blueprint for other destinations and ideas for any travel-related business communicating with travellers. Available to download HERE



Image Credits:

Forestry and Land Scotland

VisitScotland / Luigi Di Pasquale

VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

VisitScotland / Richard Elliot



JoAnna Haugen is an award winning writer, speaker, and solutions advocate who has worked in the travel and tourism industry for almost 15 years.


She is also founder of Rooted, a solutions platform at the intersection of sustainable tourism, social impact, and storytelling.


A returned U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, international election observer, and intrepid traveler, JoAnna is always on the hunt for her next great adventure.


Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.


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