Sustaining the Visitor Economy and Environment in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
While the visitor economy brings many benefits, there are associated impacts for infrastructure and the environment. The COVID-19 pandemic, a subsequent rise in domestic holiday-making, and increased concern about the climate and ecological crises, are fuelling interest in addressing these issues in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The key stakeholder organisations (destination management organisations, Local Government and conservation bodies) all share commitments to promote more sustainable tourism. This research project examined ways to foster positive synergies between the visitor economy and the natural environment, and to generate additional support for protecting and restoring nature in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
This project, running from January to March 2021, identified, evaluated, and tested acceptance of locally relevant evidence-based ideas to:
- Reduce any negative impact of tourism on nature in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly;
- Generate understanding, funds, and increased volunteer effort to protect and restore nature in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
We worked with key partners in each of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to:
- Scope best practice from existing literature and consult project partners about their understanding of the visitor economy.
- Hold a participatory workshop with a wider group of stakeholders in each area to produce a shortlist of top innovations for further development.
- Develop the shortlist of new policy ideas and innovations to be further explored through interviews with stakeholders and related surveys.
The project identified the following ideas as worthy for further development in the Isles of Scilly:
- A Scilly Pledge to raise awareness and appreciation of Scilly’s environment and culture, encouraging responsible behaviours.
- A baseline assessment and monitoring programme to understand the changing ‘State of Nature’ in Scilly.
- Ways to raise charitable donations from visitors to help maintain Scilly’s natural environment including promotion of the Friends of Scilly Wildlife Scheme.
The project identified the following areas for further development in Cornwall, and to do this work via localism and the deployment of new technology:
- Nature encounters led by hospitality staff.
- Supporting local networks of nature-friendly businesses and inland tourism.
- Opt-out visitor gifting for nature’s recovery
These ideas are contributing to ongoing work led by the Islands’ Partnership and Visit Cornwall, as part of Industrial Strategy crafted by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, as well as the nature recovery plans led by Cornwall Council and the Local Nature Partnership (which includes Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust).
The pandemic has boosted the selling power of the natural environment of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. We know that record numbers of people are wanting to visit and at the same time, we know that it is more urgent than ever to protect and restore our precious ecosystems. This research project has identified new initiatives that can help us generate positive synergies between the visitor economy and nature’s recovery. For the Isles of Scilly, we explored support for a Scilly Pledge that would engage and educate visitors about the environment, promoting pro-nature behaviour. This would be accompanied by a robust measurement and monitoring system to track changes in the natural environment over time. For Cornwall, we explored ways to engage visitors in understanding and appreciating the natural environment through training for hospitality staff who can then lead local activities, with links to nature-recovery projects and the development of inland farm-based attractions. Our hope is that these ideas can be further developed by the project partners who are well-placed to pioneer regenerative tourism in future.
Prof Jane Wills
Sustaining the Environment and Visitor Economy in Cornwall : Report
Sustaining the Environment and Visitor Economy in Cornwall : Short policy summary
Sustaining the Visitor Economy and Environment in the Isles of Scilly : Report
Sustaining the Visitor Economy and Environment in the Isles of Scilly : Short policy summary
Jane Wills (University of Exeter)
Steffen Boehm (University of Exeter)
Dan Bloomfield (Tevi, University of Exeter)
Christopher Gaskell (University of Exeter)
Victoria Smyth (Tevi, University of Exeter)
Calum Harvey-Scholes (University of Exeter)
Natalie Craig (University of Exeter)
Rowan Hartgroves (Cornwall Wildlife Trust)
A collaborative project funded by the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund.