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Wilderness Scotland: first Scottish firm to be awarded 5 star status for Responsible Tourism

Wild Scotland member, Wilderness Scotland, an adventure travel company specialising in holidays in the Highlands and Islands, has been awarded a 5-star Responsible Tourism rating from the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO).

The Edinburgh-based company is the first Scottish company to receive a 5-star award – indeed there are only 14 companies in total that have received this coveted status. Stevie Christie, a director of Wilderness Scotland, commented: “AITO represents the very best of specialist British tour operators and we are extremely proud to be the first Scottish company to achieve this status.  It recognizes our sustainability policies and practices at the highest level.”

Wilderness Scotland gained membership of AITO in 2008.  This means that all its holidays offer 100% financial protection, providing reassurance for clients in the current economic climate.  Like Wilderness Scotland, AITO’s key concerns are green tourism and responsible travel and these are the basis for the Responsible Tourism rating system.  The company had to fulfill a number of criteria covering responsible tourism policies, implementation of sustainable office practice, communication with customers, environmental practice and practical destination activity.

Founding Director Paul Easto commented: “Sustainability and conservation have always been at the core of our business. Gaining the Green Tourism Gold Award and now the Responsible Tourism 5-star award are a testament to our green credentials.  By combining commercial success with the highest environmental and social standards we have demonstrated what a sustainable approach to business can achieve”.

Wilderness Scotland’s integrated approach to sustainability is constantly evolving so that they stay at the top of the game. The company recently received accreditation from Climate Care for financially offsetting their carbon emissions by 110%. This is just one of many environmental measures the company takes. Further examples include:
•    Starting its holidays start at train stations where the journey begins, to reduce the environmental impact and to encourage clients to travel by train rather than fly.
•    Removing bottled water from its packed lunches and encouraging clients to bring their own reusable water bottle instead – saving over 5,000 plastic bottles a year.

Wilderness Scotland recently launched its pioneering Conservation Contribution Scheme which provides financial benefits to the Scottish Wildlife Trust, John Muir Trust and Trees for Life; charities which conserve the wilderness areas visited on its trips. This involves an opt-out scheme for clients to make a small donation when booking a trip. Wilderness Scotland match-funds each donation, quickly building funds for its nominated environmental charities.

VisitScotland wants to make Scotland the most sustainable destination in Europe by 2015 and Wilderness Scotland is playing its part in achieving this.  Stevie Christie stated: “The natural environment is our country’s greatest asset and we need to do all we can to protect and preserve it. Our bookings are up this year despite the current economic gloom, proving that green business is good business. We hope that our success will encourage other companies to follow more sustainable procedures, thus helping to protect our precious natural environment”.

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