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Responsible Tourism

Making Scotland a better place: strengthening communities, safeguarding the environment and sharing the rewards


The national tourism strategy Scotland Outlook 2030: Responsible Tourism for a Sustainable Future was published on 4 March 2020. Its commitments include -

  • Scotland's tourism sector will make a full contribution to our national ambition to become a net-zero society by 2045
  • we will ensure that tourism leads to improved community wellbeing and nurtures thriving places across Scotland
  • we will ensure that the value of tourism to Scotland's economy continues to increase and delivers shared prosperity for all, by encouraging the right growth in the right areas

Despite the impact of COVID-19 on Scottish tourism, the vision remains to be leaders in 21st century tourism.

In March 2022, the Scottish Government published the National Strategy for Economic Transformation with the following vision:

“Our vision for Scotland in 2032 is a wellbeing economy: thriving across economic, social and environmental dimensions, one that delivers economic prosperity for all Scotland's people and places.”

The Scottish Tourism Observatory project was born out of the development of Scotland Outlook 2030 and will provide a robust evidence base for decision making. The data resources will be developed alongside the projects supporting the Responsible Tourism and Destination Net Zero ambitions.

A cyclist travels along the road next to Loch Assynt
Credit: VisitScotland / Airborne Lens

Support for Scottish tourism

The Destination Net Zero programme is a key strand of the Tourism Recovery Programme which aims to support Scotland’s tourism industry on the journey to net zero.  It is being delivered on behalf of the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group by Scottish Enterprise, VisitScotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, South of Scotland Enterprise and partners.  

The programme consists of research to discover where we are now, advice on taking climate action, and funding to support our businesses and destinations to transition to a greener, more sustainable future.


VisitScotland’s approach to developing responsible tourism in Scotland focuses on four priority areas:

  •   Supporting Scotland’s transition to a low carbon economy
  •   Ensuring tourism and events in Scotland are inclusive
  •   Ensuring tourism and events contribute to thriving communities
  •   Supporting the protection and considerate enjoyment of Scotland’s natural and cultural heritage

Information on responsible tourism, Destination Net Zero and the support available to businesses and organisations, can be found through the links at the bottom of the page.


Research has been carried out with our communities and visitors in Scotland, exploring people's attitudes towards:

  • Tackling climate change
  • Travelling more sustainably
  • Adopting sustainable behaviours whilst on holiday
  • The perceived role of tourism and the impact of tourism on local communities

Reports of the research findings are available on VisitScotland's website

Looking towards Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow with the equestrian Wellington Statue
Credit: VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories

The UNWTO International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories (INSTO) is a network where tourism observatories come together to monitor the economic, environmental and social impact of tourism at a destination level. The purpose of this network is to support UNWTO’s commitment to sustainability and growth.

Across the world, there are currently 30 tourism observatories, from China to South America. These all operate with the same goal: to provide relevant and useful data to support sustainable tourism in their destination.

Our aim is for the Scottish Tourism Observatory to become a member of this network, as it will open up opportunities for support and learnings.

To become a member of INSTO, there are 11 mandatory areas which must be monitored. A priority for the Scottish Tourism Observatory team is to work together with stakeholders to identify the most relevant indicators for Scotland and sources of data in these areas.

  • Tourism seasonality
  • Employment
  • Destination economic benefits
  • Governance
  • Local satisfaction
  • Accessibility
  • Climate action
  • Energy management
  • Water / waste water / solid waste management

For more information please visit the UNWTO INSTO website