Green Tourism Cake

A cake was cut to celebrate two decades of work

Devon celebrates two decades of sustainable tourism

This month, pioneers of green tourism in Devon met to celebrate more than two decades of hard work to make their businesses more sustainable.

It was in the early 90s that Devon saw some of the first initiatives in the UK to improve tourism’s impact with the subsequent period seeing it piloting initiatives subsequently taken up nationally such as the Green Audit Kit and the eco-label, the Green Tourism Business Scheme.

The celebration took place as part of a meeting of the Devon Green Tourism Business Network which brings together businesses to share their experiences and receive the latest expert advice on key topics.

Hosted by Mark Simpson, owner, in the beautiful setting of the River Dart Country Park, the meeting combined the celebration with a practical agenda, including presentations and discussions about the latest developments in low energy lighting solutions, waste management and other initiatives that have been implemented by several of the participants.

The Network has been recently re-established and is co-ordinated by Neil Warren, tourism specialist at the Centre for Business and Climate Solutions at the University of Exeter. The Centre aims to help businesses in the South West improve their competitiveness and carbon footprint through 12 hour packages of business advice. Tourism is one of the key sectors the project focuses on with over 20 businesses from B&Bs and holiday homes to hotels and conference centres assisted in the first year.

Neil said: “It was wonderful to see so many people at the meeting. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed looking back at the progress made over the last couple of decades, but the real excitement was about how the different businesses can work together in the future. There is a huge opportunity for tourism entrepreneurs to collaborate to cut costs and help the environment.”

As with all meetings of the network, the programme included the opportunity of a tour of the host business. River Dart Country Park is one of Devon’s leading examples of green tourism, being at the cutting edge of renewables which include biomass heating, solar panels and the UK’s first hydro-dynamic screw to generate energy from the river that passes through the site.

Key themes that were discussed at the meeting included the importance of enthusing and engaging  staff and customers ; working in partnership with suppliers ; working sustainably as part of keeping your business fresh; and using an ethical approach as motivation for staff  that  can positively affect recruitment and retention.

Mark Simpson said: “If you can cut costs and help the environment then your business will ultimately be more successful. The Green Tourism Network helps a group of like-minded business people share good ideas as well as learning from each other’s mistakes. By working together, we can make our businesses more resilient and hopefully more profitable.”

The group shared lots of practical hints and tips that have been successful for them. If you would like to be kept informed about the work of the network or would be interested in attending the next meeting or finding out more about the business support, please email Neil Warren

Date: 15 October 2013

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