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Green Tourism - A Philosophy, not a Product

This was the strap line that summed it up for me when I came across it during one of my visits this summer to some of the ASSC members who had requested an Advisory Visit prior to their GTBS Assessment.

These visits to member’s properties have taken me to parts of Scotland I have always meant to visit, but you know what its like – the Country you live in is often the one you don’t tour. I have long known, and I am always telling the guests to my cottages how wonderful Scotland is and pointing them in the direction the places I think they should see. This summer as I drove up and down the country I saw the landscape for the first time through the eyes of the Tourist, but most of all I experienced the warm welcome and saw the huge efforts made by the individual members to give their guests the happiest holiday possible. Truly “Highland Hospitality” at its best.

You cannot imagine how many ingenious ideas I came across – all simple, none costing a lot, all ticking the “Green” box and yet these things were not being pointed out to the customer.  We must all learn not to be so modest about what we do. The amount of time I have said “what a great idea – do you prospective customers know you are offering this?”

The good thing is that nearly all are already doing most of the things required by the GTBS to gain an award.

So here are some suggestions for getting the most out of the visit by your Assessor. Many of these things will seem obvious but I have also spent time this summer as a Trainee Assessor shadowing one of the full time Assessors and was often surprised by how unprepared some businesses were when we arrived. You have paid to become a member and it seems daft not to take a little time to organise yourself for the visit

  1. Do read the bumph that is sent to you by the GTBS prior to the visit and fill in the form which asks you for details your energy consumption. Look up the last years bills and add up the total kwh – it will be there somewhere. They ask that you send it back prior to the visit but if you haven’t managed to do this don’t worry Just as long as you have it ready to hand over when he comes.
  2. Have a copy of your Green Policy statement printed out for him to keep and make sure the Policy is visible in you property and on your website. Remember before he comes he will have checked out your website
  3. Have a Green folder in the accommodation with details of the all the things you do on your property to be green and what your guests can do to help you achieve your aims-  for example – recycling advice, support local shops by using them, Where best to see wildlife, walks, cycling routes and copies of brochures showing local places of interest.  Have this folder at hand to show. You will be asked if you are the Green Co-ordinator. If someone else is the person who really knows all about what you are doing in that direction, do make sure that person is there for the initial interview.
  4. Put together a “Green Management” folder. List details of invoices showing your eco friendly purchases. Make a list of the make and model of your appliances and if possible their energy rating – A being the most desirable. We can’t all manage this but an organised plan to replace old appliances with A rated ones shows you are aware of this. Again have this folder to hand.
  5. Make sure he knows if you bake cakes or biscuits for your guests, have your own fruit and vegetables to sell to them or have planted herbs round the properties or in tubs for them to use. Point out the rustic benches made from your own wood or the pictures painted by the local artist on the walls. Tell him about the area you have fenced off for regeneration of trees or point out the bird feeder which he might not otherwise notice All this helps.
  6. After this initial talk he will want to walk around your properties. He will want to see the place where you keep your cleaning materials.
  7. He will check the insulation on your hot water tank and make sure the hot water temperature is set no higher than 60 degrees. See that you have no dripping taps.
  8. If you already have an award and are being revisited make sure you read your last assessors report and as far as is possible have implemented the recommendations given.

Many other questions will be asked and the above are purely personal observations of the most common things that people slip up on during the visit. It is difficult to generalise and every visit is a new experience

Finally, do take pleasure and pride in what you are doing. Your guests will on the whole be pleased and supportive of your efforts and if they go back home and copy just one of the things they have seen you doing you will have made a difference.

Victoria Sutherland

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