Sustainable Adventure Tourism & Tours:
I recently had the pleasure of being asked to discuss my aims for sustainability within adventure activities and tours by the IRF (International Rafting Federation).
Below is the un-edited version of the interview with all the extra detail you would hope for on such a subject as this.
I hope you enjoy, discuss and even think of the implementation of some of the ideas within your life or business moving forward towards a sustainable future.
Sustainable Tours & Adventure Tourism?
Unique Adventure Tours Scotland is a fledgeling business based in Highland Perthshire offering small private tours throughout Scotland, combining stunning nature, lively culture, quality hospitality and high-quality adventure activities, to show off the best the country of Scotland has to offer.
Also hoping to help promote and develop an evolution in the perception of adventure tourism from provider to client whilst continuing to protect our wild and natural environment for the future, developing sustainable tourism as a core element of the business – sustainable adventure tourism is the only way to move forward in tourism development to maintain a natural and economic balance.
How did you come up with the idea to launch these tours within your local tourism industry?
I have worked for a variety of activity providers over the last 20 years, in a wide range of roles from guiding multiple water based activities (whitewater rafting, canyoning, stand up paddleboarding, river bugging), logistics and transport, to operations management. This has given me the opportunity to see the industry and its clients change and evolve, practices for sustainability develop, expectations of quality and delivery, product growth and development, trends in travel, even the complimentary services orbiting the industry – all working towards relevant sustainability objectives to benefit and secure local and national adventure travel destinations and sustainable adventure tourism.
My idea (not a particularly new idea) is to combine this wide mixture of products and services, focused on activities and experiences with personal attention to detail for each specific client group, promote the wider industry and its benefits mentally, physically and environmentally, and to encourage responsible immersive travel to reflect the change in mindset, whilst having as much fun as possible of course.
Adventure travel companies, adventure tourists, supply chains and destinations have a larger responsibility to care for, protect and spread awareness about sustainability to add economic development and business opportunities while protecting the natural environment from climate change impacts. Counteracting the negative effects on our natural heritage to create a sustainable tourism model using some of the revenue from tourism to develop environmental protection, sustainable tourism – social enterprise and responsible travel.
Why have you gone down the line of sustainable tours and outdoor activities?
I am an avid traveller and adventure lover at my core and have explored and enjoyed a wide variety of countries and cultures, my home country of Scotland being a favourite for adventures and outdoor activities on land and water. The passion to share and facilitate others in experiencing this joy goes with the love of sharing ways of respecting and helping these environments, and their natural beauty, they go hand in hand in creating bespoke tourism products and developing sustainable adventure tourism.
Unfortunately, the flip side is being very aware of the damage and impact caused by this industry and our increasing movement back to the wild in general, over-tourism of places, negative impact on the environment from litter to pollution and waste generation, right through to community deserts.
There seems to me to be a change in the way people want to travel and the forms of tourism (experiences, volunteer work, activity – bespoke with a heart is the key), explore and experience a place or activity, more immersive, more connection and possibly more rewarding because of this developing understanding of our natural environment and the benefits on both sides of a more considered approach to adventure travel and travel in general – holidays have changed for people, we all need to care for the socio-ecological system we live and work in.
It is both a financial and moral decision for me in setting up Unique Adventure Tours Scotland. Working on rivers and in natural environments, all this time gives me a feeling of responsibility to help preserve and keep safe these places for the future, for us all to enjoy. So putting myself in a position to share this love and passion seems an obvious choice.
In turn, this should secure my employment and possibly develop a format and business template to expand with and take the idea further and to a wider audience within the adventure tourism segment of the industry.
My main drive is the love of nature and the natural world, which seems to be threatened more and more from all angles, including activities, tours, tourists and tourism activity providers.
If we keep the moral, social-economic and natural sustainability at the front of our plans and actions in growing and developing activities, adventure tours and tourism it will surely become standard practice over time and therefore easier to implement and benefit from as a sustainable tourism model.
Take the current Covid 19 situation across the globe, could this be a perfect reset point to implement a change in approach and delivery of adventure tourism companies while people are heightened in their awareness of our natural world, environmental impacts and our connection and responsibilities to that – our place in the socio-ecological system.
All this would add to the wider awareness and uptake of the need for sustainability throughout all aspects of life; environmentally, economically and socially, making it mainstream over time – we must build sustainable adventure tourism by default.
Other aspects of sustainability within the business, now and in the future.
The Need for Sustainable Adventure Tourism
Business operations, in general, need to have an eye on sustainability in my view, little by little with an element of trial and error and should help develop the tools and systems to help the whole business.
Adventure Travel’s March Toward Sustainability
For me, at Unique Adventure Tours Scotland it is a combination of efforts, from Transport and the ‘EcoBlue’ engine in the Ford Tourneo Tour vehicle providing a cleaner more fuel-efficient mode of transport, and hopefully becoming fully electric over time as the Scottish support networks develop for the benefit of sustainable adventure tourism. Using and providing local produce and services throughout my tours, keeping the ability to align with like-minded providers, from something as simple as packed lunches in fully recyclable packaging to artisan food and drink producers aiming for zero impact produce and community enrichment, right through to charitable contributions for infrastructure within local tourism. Working under guidance from industry leaders and governing bodies to keep aligned to a company, national and international goal through information and education.
Sustainable tourism – investing in local communities:
The idea is for this to be a constantly developing and evolving ethos, keeping it as one of the core principles to guide my businesses development.
Take whitewater rafting and how sustainability can be applied within this area of adventure activities. Possibly one of the largest and most well-known adventure activities, a common entry point, rafting has the opportunity to be a showcase for sustainability in adventure activities. We all know that rafting is great fun and lets you see stunning places, but it is also an access for all activity, the ideal platform for education regarding the sport and in a wider context, the environment and even as a path to employment while supporting or contributing to local economies and the spread of tourism directly and indirectly.
By continuing to work with local and national partners I see this as a way to expand the sport further while developing its benefits – partner projects to enhance the environment (working with fishing groups and landowners), educating a broad range of skills (working with local schools to develop teamwork and confidence-building programmes), community involvement to keep access and egress points maintained and developed, but also diversified to take the pressure off activity hotspots (developing new routes, rivers and runs) while spreading out the work possibilities and coverage nationally.
I do feel that a sport so routed in nature must have more to offer us all.
What do I want clients to “take away” from my sustainable tours?
Ideally, I would hope to help more clients develop an understanding, respect, confidence and an insight into the whole environment rather than just the activity or experience itself.
Help develop the perception of adventure activities from quick disposable fun, to include proactive inclusion and education, further dispelling the thought that wild places and activities are for the few rather than for all.
Creating a renewed sense of connection to nature on multiple levels.
Find out more about or Sustainable aims within Unique Adventure Tours Scotland (Sustainable Tourism).
Are there any sustainable projects Unique Adventure Tours Scotland are aligned to?
Visit Scotland: Alignment to VS recommended industry guidance on responsible tourism.
Wild Scotland: Wild Scotland is the body representing adventure and nature tourism operators in Scotland.
Natural Britain: A hand-picked selection of exciting experiences and unique accommodation where sustainability and adventure come first.
Keep Scotland Beautiful: A charity for Scotland’s environment, with a vision for a clean, green, sustainable Scotland.
I would hope to expand on this as my business grows and I am always open to collaboration to further sustainability.
Chris Wain (Owner Operator)
Unique Adventure Tours Scotland