Towards zero-pollution tourism

On Monday 7 June 2021 the European Regions Research and Innovation Network (ERRIN), one of Be.CULTOUR partners in charge of the Community of Practice, hosted an online event on sustainable practices towards zero-pollution tourism. The event was organised by the ERRIN Working Group on Cultural Heritage & Tourism in the frame of the EU Green Week 2021 – Zero pollution for healthier people and planet.

CNR-IRISS, (National Research Council, Italy), the project coordinator, was invited to present the Be.CULTOUR projectAntonia Gravagnuolo, Researcher at CNR- IRISS, highlighted how it is now crucial to move beyond tourism through a longer-term human-centred development perspective, enhancing cultural heritage and landscape values.

By targeting deprived remote, peripheral or deindustrialised areas and cultural landscapes, as well as over-exploited areas, Be.CULTOUR, will co-develop long-term heritage-led development activities in the areas involved and enhance inclusive economic growth, communities’ well-being and resilience, nature regeneration, and effective cooperation at cross border, regional and local level.

Finally, bringing circular economy into cultural tourism will boost the creation of new sustainable and slow mobility systems, the reduction of natural resources consumption, the regeneration of natural, cultural and human capital, the valorisation and adaptive reuse of less known or even abandoned heritage sites and the preservation of healthy and beautiful environment.

A different angle of sustainable tourism was introduced by Aivar Ruukel, member of the European Destinations of Excellence Network (EDEN) Board of Administrators. Mr Ruukel represents the Sooma National Park, recipient of the EDEN award in 2007 in the category Tourism and protected areas.

The peculiarities of Sooma National Park, with its 5th season and wild landscape, make it an excellent example of how tourism and natural preservation should be interconnected. But the diversity between the several EDEN members that were also referenced makes it clear that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to sustainable destination management, a point that is also highlighted by the numerous categories awarded by the EDEN competition over the years.

Three ERRIN members were also selected to share their experience implementing tourism practices focused on natural preservation, sustainable mobility, and digital uptake in tourism with a focus on culture.

Janie Neumann, Sustainable Tourism Manager at VisitScotland, Vanessa Glindmeier, Business Support Officer at Historic Environment Scotland and Claire Munro, Communications Workstream Lead at Zero Waste Scotland highlighted how Scotland’s tourism industry can deliver on Scotland’s national commitment to Net Zero Green House Gas emissions by 2045.

VisitScotland introduced Responsible Tourism in the Scottish context and highlighted examples of activities that look to reduce various kinds of pollution through actively engaging visitors as well as businesses and deliver on Scotland’s NetZero commitments. In the interactive session, Zero Waste Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland drew on joint projects and campaigns (such as the ‘Scotland is stunning – let’s keep it that way’ campaign) to highlight the benefits of partnerships, community and digital engagement as successful approaches to reduce the environmental impact of tourism.

Ward Segers, Project Coordinator at Visit Limburg presented the Flemish experience of designing and building 2000 km of cycling paths that turned Limburg into a well-known cycling destination. The cycling routes allow tourists to experience the different Flemish natural landscapes sustainably, and local citizens to strengthen their sense of ownership of the area, through continuous involvement at all stages of the project – from design to maintenance. At the same time, it increases awareness of natural heritage among all users and boosts the local economy.

Ramón Lasaosa, Councillor for Culture and Festivities of the Huesca City Council presented local practices linking natural heritage preservation and tourism activities. The main specificity of the Huesca local case is the diversity of the natural landscapes, from glacier to desert, which requires targeted promotion and prevention activities in each area.

Thanks to the involvement of different local stakeholders, including the Art and Nature Centre, which focuses its activities on the relationships among art, nature, and landscapes, many innovative activities merging nature and art have been organised and Huesca has offered the location for open-air art exhibitions, music and cinema festivals, that attract visitors and tourists while preserving local natural heritage.