Tourism industry must be greener, minister warns

The tourism industry must be "more environmentally responsible" if it is to secure its future and help combat climate change, the government warned this week.

Tourism minister Barbara Follett was speaking as she launched the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) new sustainable tourism framework for England at the Best of Britain and Ireland Show in London last Thursday (March 26) as part of British Tourism Week.

The minister, who opened the exhibition at the ExCel Arena, said: “All of us must try to behave in a more environmentally responsible way and the tourism industry is no exception. If we value the future of our world and if we want to protect our country’s unique tourism offer for future generations, we must take sustainability seriously and not see it just as an add-on luxury.

“There are already many businesses doing exemplary work in this area but more must to do so and soon. We have to challenge our thinking about what is on offer and how businesses are run. This will not be easy in difficult economic times, but a sustainable approach can be good for business too.

The department’s new framework sets out what it describes as “six key challenges” for the tourism sector to both secure the industry’s long term future and help the environment.

They include minimising environmental impact and resource use by cutting waste, energy consumption and water use and recycling more as well as improving buildings.

Another is to tackle the impact of tourism transport.

The government says in 2007, 75% of holiday trips were by car compared to 19% by public transport. It wants the industry to use more target advertising and special offers along with increased environmental awareness to cut reliance on certain transport forms.

The other four challenges are to improve quality and make holidays accessible to all, improve the quality of tourism jobs, maintain and enhance community prosperity and quality of life and cut the seasonality of demand.

The government says it will be monitoring industry progress regularly with a formal review in three years time.

Mrs Follett described tourism as “a vital industry for our economy” and said domestic tourism could “make a difference” in helping the UK out of recession.

It is fifth largest industry in Britain and domestic tourism alone is reportedly worth £114 billion and represents 8.2% of the nation’s economy.

More than 2,000 trade visitors were expected at the first two days of the exhibition with another 20,000 consumers over the weekend when the event opened to the public.

David Gibbs

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