Brendan Moffett, the University of Derby’s Director of Contemporary Hospitality and Tourism, lays out a vision of Derbyshire’s potential to blaze a trail as a sustainable visitor destination.
The best connected tourism product
The emerging ambition for a ‘green revolution’ to support a more productive and inclusive economy in our region is a really exciting development.
Indeed, across the country, a strong national narrative to support rural productivity and areas of natural beauty, has been gathering momentum, most notably the Glover Review 2019
The review calls for radical plans for England’s National Parks, closely aligned to the D2N2 Local Industrial Strategy ambition for the Derby and Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire local enterprise area, “utilising natural assets to achieve clean, inclusive and productive ambitions and promoting them as key visitor destinations”.
Our region certainly has the opportunity to harness its globally significant assets, such as the Peak District National Park and Chatsworth House, to become the ‘most sustainable, connected tourism product in the UK’.
As a member of the Derbyshire County Council Visitor Economy Recovery Group this is all very encouraging to see.
‘The Visitor Economy’ is a place-centred concept concerned with the whole environment where visitors, locals and tourists interact.
It focuses on the elements that attract visitors, the infrastructure that supports their visit, and the services provided to them during their visit.
Delivering such a truly ‘place-based solution’ will only be possible by aligning all key stakeholders at the destination level.
Supporting ‘good growth’
However, one of the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic has been a significant increase in ‘staycations’ and while this is a much needed boost for our communities and businesses reliant on visitors, we will need to consider how this new dynamic can be managed to protect the natural environment.
A ‘Sustainable Tourism Development’ approach will enable the region to retain the economic and social advantages of tourism, while reducing or mitigating any negative impacts on the natural, cultural or social environment. This is becoming more important as we seek to deliver the ‘good growth’ needed to support the UK’s commitment to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
The University of Derby is keen to help shape a shared ambition with stakeholders in the region to make this a reality.
Much excellent work is already underway by Peak District National Park Authority, Derbyshire County Council and D2N2 to develop sustainable travel projects that can secure the funding to reduce the reliance on carbon.
These include the better integration of modes of transport, modal shift from extensive car usage and the development of new green infrastructure for electric vehicle charging.
Highway improvements will also be required to better connect with enhanced cycling and walking networks that support ‘active travel’.
The PDNPA Corporate Strategy outlines a strong ambition to enhance the visitor experience by developing ‘Recreation Hubs’ to facilitate better demand management of visitors.
Further re-enforcing the region’s aspirations to be a sustainable tourism leader, the University is working in partnership on the pioneering Gateway at Peak project.
Tourism zone ‘test-bed’
One of the key aims of the project is to become an exemplar for sustainable tourism, by managing visitor flows and facilitating access to the Park in a safe and environmentally friendly way, offering park and ride facilities and reducing traffic and congestion.
The D2N2 area is the perfect test-bed for a ‘Tourism Action Zone’ – the concept highlighted as a driver of sustainable tourism growth in the Tourism Sector deal (2019).
The creation of such a zone would bring businesses and local organisations together to establish a coordinated strategy for growth in the D2N2 visitor economy, building on the excellent work being undertaken by Marketing Peak District and Derbyshire on the ERDF ‘Delivering a World Class Visitor Economy Within Derbyshire’ project.
This scheme is helping to improve the quality and productivity of visitor economy businesses in the area and the new £10 million Kickstarting Tourism package recently announced by the Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Simon Clarke MP.
Combining heritage and innovation
The University of Derby is a strong advocate for an approach which combines our unique heritage and cultural assets with the innovative thinking of leading stakeholders, as well as a dynamic SME community to fully embed sustainability into our visitor offer.
Alongside this, we are keen to utilise the DE-Carbonise ERDF project to support SMEs in the sector with carbon reduction audits and grants to support the adoption of renewable energy, resource efficiency and waste reduction. Broad uptake of this support will further enhance the area credentials as a ‘sustainable tourism destination’
Tomorrow’s visitor will increasingly make decisions about where and how they travel, what they buy and consume based on the environmental and community impact, leading to a preference for locally sourced products and authentic experiences.