More than four million visitors come to Edinburgh each year to sample its unique heritage combined with its world class culture.
At a time when climate change is high on the agenda, ensuring the best possible tourist experience whilst striving to be friendly to the environment is not always an easy balancing act.
Anyone who is in our capital over the summer months will know it is a vibrant place to be but it is also busy – and that includes the stands for city bus tours and those coaches departing Edinburgh to move further afield to showcase the sights and sounds of Scotland.
Lothian, which operates the city’s public bus provision, is making strides to ensure this demand from tourists can be catered for whilst keeping our air as clean as possible.
Across 2018, more than 700,000 customers travelled on our services departing Waverley Bridge comprising Edinburgh Bus Tours’ Edinburgh Tour, Majestic Tour, Citysightseeing Tour and Three Bridges Tour. In doing so, Lothian retained its five-star Visit Scotland visitor attraction status.
But just as importantly, the tours were also recognised for their green credentials.
Green Tourism is the market leading sustainable tourism certification programme in the UK and internationally. Sustainable tourism refers to tourists visiting somewhere and attempting to make only a positive impact on the environment, society and economy. A Green Tourism Award allows the consumer to make a clear ethical and responsible decision about where to holiday, stay or visit.
To achieve an accreditation, businesses are graded by a qualified assessor against a rigorous set of criteria that cover a range of areas such as energy and water efficiency, waste management, biodiversity and social involvement and communication. Business types include accommodation providers, visitor attractions, activity centres and corporate offices among many others.
Edinburgh Bus Tours holds the highest recognition for Green Tourism best practice, receiving and then maintaining its gold award status since 2016.
However, that does not mean we can stand still and rest on our laurels.
From this summer, Edinburgh Bus Tours fleet of over 30 vehicles will operate solely on Euro 6 buses, further easing pollution in the city’s most populated areas.
Euro 6 is the sixth incarnation of the European Union directive to reduce harmful pollutants from vehicle exhausts. Euro 6 buses reduce harmful nitrogen oxides emissions by 98% and the decision by Edinburgh Bus Tours is part of Lothian’s Bus2020 campaign – our strategy to only use Euro 5 or better buses by the end of 2020.
The campaign, which began in 2016, will see investment of approximately £78 million across Lothian’s whole fleet, removing older fleet from the road and replacing them with the very latest vehicles. By the end of 2020, Lothian will have removed over 12,000 tonnes of CO2 from our carbon footprint since 2011 – making a valuable contribution towards the Scottish Government’s target of a 42% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Positive strides are being taken across Scotland in the fight against climate change and it is only correct that transport companies of all purposes, both regular, tourism and hire businesses, play their part in making our public spaces the cleanest they can be.
We firmly believe from our conversations with visitors to Edinburgh that they rightly demand not only a great tourism experience in the city but also a clean and sustainable operator. Lothian has achieved the status of the greenest tour fleet in Edinburgh – the challenge is to continue to enhance those credentials whilst welcoming more and more visitors to our great city in the years to come.
Environmental Officer, Lothian