Prince Harry to host eco-tourism summit in Edinburgh on his return to the UK

Prince Harry is to host a summit on sustainable and ethical tourism in Edinburgh - after flying into the UK from Canada to begin his last series of official royal engagements.

Friday, 21st February 2020, 6:29 pm
Updated Wednesday, 26th February 2020, 12:56 am
Huge crowds turned out to greet Prince Harry when he visited Edinburgh Castle with Meghan Markle in February 2018.

The Duke of Sussex will be travelling to the city months after launching a worldwide drive to help “protect destinations” affected by tourism.

He has joined forces with Booking.com, SkyScanner, CTrip, TripAdvisor and Visa to try to encourage travellers to make “environmentally friendly choices” when booking trips.

Key aims of his Travalyst initiative, launched in September, include “supporting local people, protecting wildlife, tackling climate change and environmental damage, and alleviating overtourism.”

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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were in Edinburgh two years for a visit to the charity Social Bite.

Around 100 representatives of the tourism and travel sector are expected to attend the eco-tourism summit at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on Wednesday, which is being jointly staged by Travalyst, the EICC and tourism agency VisitScotland.

As well as issues about how the growth of tourism has affected Edinburgh, the summit is expected to look at other parts of the country which have struggled with a swift increase in visitors.

Prince Harry is visiting Edinburgh less than a year after it was named one of the world’s worst-affected overtourism hotspots, along with the likes of Amsterdam, Rome, Venice and Barcelona. It was also cited alongside the Taj Mahal, in India, the Peruvian citadel of Machu Picchu, Dubrovnik, in Croatia, and Iceland as famous destinations "that can no longer cope with their own popularity."

The city has seen the number of overnight stays soar by almost a third in the space of seven years, to 4.26 million, while the number of day visitors has soared by almost half a million each year over the same period.

A campaign to “defend” Edinburgh against overtourism, gentrification, festivalisation and the commercialisation of public spaces was launched last April.

When he launched Travalyst in Amsterdam, the Duke defended his use of private planes, saying he spent “99 per cent of my life” using commercial flights but occasionally needed to ensure “my family are safe”. At the time he and Meghan faced criticism after reportedly taking four private jet journeys in 11 days.

A spokeswoman for Travalyst said: “Our ambition is to transform travel and tourism so that every holiday people take, every trip they book, will have a positive impact and better protect the destinations and communities they visit.

“Whether it is through the activities people do, where they stay, or how they get there, we are looking for ways to make it easier for everyone to choose, and for the industry to provide more purposeful and sustainable options.

“Key stakeholders in travel and tourism from across Scotland have been invited to come together for a series of workshops and discussions to explore the sustainability challenges and opportunities at hand, gather critical feedback on the principles and frameworks that have been developed thus far and begin designing pilot projects for further collaboration in Scotland.

"Sessions will also include discussion on the challenges and opportunities around ensuring Scotland receives socio-economic benefits from travel, with an exploration of some of the activities of local social entrepreneurs.”

A city council spokeswoman said: “Edinburgh is a small city which has made it big on the world stage – but we’re working hard to reduce our carbon footprint.

"Over the next 10 years, we’re driving forward ambitious plans to become net zero carbon, aligning our tourism strategies with this vision and putting the right policies in place to manage Edinburgh’s growth.

"With visitor footfall such a hot topic and as a city with such a strong climate change agenda, it’s no surprise organisers have chosen to hold their event here.”

Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “We are delighted to be facilitating Travalyst’s very first working meeting here in Scotland next week.

“The Travalyst team approached VisitScotland not only due to Scotland’s prominence and success as a renowned destination for all levels of traveller, but specifically for our work in addressing some of the opportunities and challenges that can arise.

“We and the host venue of the EICC look forward to welcoming the Duke of Sussex and the Travalyst partners to Scotland, and contributing to this important debate.”