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Visit Inverness Loch Ness: Growing tourism in a sustainable way

Can tourism grow and be run in an environmentally sustainable way? The team at Visit Inverness Loch Ness – an organisation leading the way with firsts – think so. The organisation was established in 2015, just after its previous incarnation had become the first Tourism Business Improvement District (BID) in the UK. 

It has since become the UK’s first carbon neutral BID.

Tourism is a vital part of the economy of Scotland and of the Highlands in particular but, as with most sectors of the economy, coordination is needed to bring operators together in events and ways of working that benefit everyone. Becoming a Business Improvement District was a way to do exactly that. It helped to bring in funding, allowed businesses to get best-practice advice and helped establish important connections across the nation and internationally. 

But Visit Inverness Loch Ness aims not just to help the 400 tourism businesses that are its membership to make more money, it also aims to make those businesses – and the 1,200 square miles it operates over – more sustainable. 

As the CEO of Visit Inverness Loch Ness Michael Golding says: “We believe it is vital to protect the destination not only for the visitors, but for the locals living and working in and around the area for generations to come. Our work includes, what we can do as an organisation, what we can do to support our membership businesses and how we can support our visitors to include sustainability in our work, business and travel decisions and plans.

“There are many ways to enjoy an environmentally friendly break, and travel does not need to be harmful. Taking public transport where possible, opting to walk or cycle instead of taking the car, leaving no trace when you visit the countryside, these are all relatively simple things we can do when we travel. 

“Choosing environmentally-friendly activities also helps, and there are tons of these to do in Inverness and Loch Ness. Look for Green Tourism accredited places and activities, these have been awarded special accreditation for their efforts in making Scotland more sustainable.” 

One of the other actions Visit Inverness Loch Ness has brought in is to calculate their carbon emissions and to offset them by planting trees with Trees for Life. The organisation has signed the Glasgow Climate Declaration that came out of COP 26 and prior to that also signed up to the “Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency” initiative.

Read more: Visit Inverness Loch Ness’ Climate Action Plan

The organisation’s actions have begun to get recognition too. Visit Inverness Loch Ness was named the first carbon neutral Business Improvement District in the UK in 2022. In March 2023 it was also given the Green Destinations ITB Earth Award, which “recognises global leadership in sustainable tourism in the fight against climate change and environmental degradation” 

ITB Berlin is the world’s leading and biggest travel trade show, and as he handed over the award to Visit Inverness Loch Ness, the president of Green Destinations Albert Salman said: “Their project fully embodies the award’s meaning, holistically tackling local climate issues and concerns, creating a robust plan, and actively engaging local stakeholders.”

For more information about Visit Inverness Loch Ness, go to www.visitinvernesslochness.com

To find out about setting up an improvement district in your area, click here

Visit Inverness Loch Ness staff and members showing support for the Scotland Loves Local campaign