Scottish tourism must go green, according to industry leaders, with less dependence on short-haul flights into Scottish airports and protection of scenic areas against planned wind farms.
They warned yesterday that the rapid growth in visitor numbers could be harmed if the wilderness was spoiled by power-grid pylons or turbines, including the prospect of offshore wind farms threatening to spoil sea views.
“Tourism-fragile zones” are being proposed in rural visitor honeypots, where there would be a block on wind farms, at least until a national review of their expansion.
There is pressure also to run power lines along the seabed instead of through Highland glens.
Leaders of the industry, through the Scottish Tourism Forum (STF), say their views reflect the demands from members’ customers to run environment-friendly hotels.
“Scotland is presenting itself as a green destination, and more and more consumers are demanding their destination is unspoiled and natural,” said Alan Rankin, STF chief executive. “Short-term renewable fixes will harm long-term tourism growth.”
The forum wants to go further and faster than government has gone so far, including a shift of tourist traffic out of cars and on to public transport. It has included these ideas among the priorities its members have for action at Holyrood to support Scotland’s biggest industry and employer. The sector’s turnover now exceeds £4bn and boasts more than 200,000 jobs, or one in 12 Scottish workers.
Industry leaders want their ideas to influence political parties’ manifesto planning for the Holyrood election next May, saying MSPs need a clearer strategy on supporting tourism growth.
While the Scottish Executive’s Route Development Fund is credited with having helped the industry by bringing many more tourists directly into Scottish airports, the STF says it will have to respond to the likely challenge to aviation’s growth. They foresee short-haul flights being grounded by the public shunning them because of pollution, or governments discouraging them through ticket tax rises.
“There’s a huge European market on our doorstep, and now they come here mainly by short-haul flights,” said Mr Rankin. “We’d like to see a broadening out of other modes of transport in anticipation of changing travel trends.”
The group, representing a broad cross-section of the industry, wants to see the Route Development Fund expanded to become an Access Development Fund. A priority for it would be a high-speed rail line from London. This could link to the high-speed link from Paris to London, which is scheduled to start running a year from yesterday.
The industry also wants support for more ferry routes across the North Sea, despite the problems faced financially by the Rosyth-Zeebrugge ferry, on which the service schedule was halved earlier this year.
With 68% of tourism journeys now in cars, there is a proposal that transport companies could work with the tourist industry to develop cut-price fares as part of visitor packages out of peak season.
The demand to go further than the executive has already signalled on the greening of their industry is a significant turnaround in business perceptions. But the customer pressure to go green presents a dilemma, because a greener Scotland is likely to mean more wind turbines.
By Douglas Fraser, Scottish Political Editor
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