Bristol Report – Sustainable future

1. Introduction

This report will suggest and discuss strategies to meet government targets to reduce the Bristol visitor per day carbon footprint, in order to reduce the South West’s as a whole. Carbon Footprint is defined as a ‘measure of the exclusive total amount of carbon dioxide emissions that is directly and indirectly caused by an activity or is accumulated over the life stages of a product (Wiedmann and Minx, 2008, p.4). It is also important not to the neglect the other problems connected to carbon footprint, for example vehicle congestion.

Simpson et al. (2008, cited by McKercher et al, 2010, p.297) suggest that ‘tourists should travel less often and stay longer in the destination, minimise their air travel by taking terrestrial transport, choose destinations that are closer to home, participate in carbon offsetting programmes, and purchase goods only from certified tour operators, hotels and destinations’.

‘A sustainable transportation system is one that: allows the basic access needs of individuals and societies to be met safely and in a manner consistent with human and ecosystem health, and with equity within and between generations; is affordable, operates efficiently, offers choice of transport mode, and supports a vibrant economy; and limits emissions and waste within the planet’s ability to absorb them, minimizes consumption of non-renewable resources, limits consumption of renewable resources to the sustainable yield level, reuses and recycles its components, and minimizes the use of land and the production of noise.”

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(Centre for Sustainable Transportation 2005, cited in Pauli G, 2010)

‘The 2008 Climate Change Act made Britain the first country in the world to set legally binding carbon budgets, aiming to cut UK emissions by at least 80% by 2050’ ( , 2011). The expected target to reach by 2020 and 2050 shown in Figure 1 illustrates an arduous task ahead. Therefore, it is imperative that we focus our attention on the factors, which will tackle Bristol’s carbon footprint. In this instance the travel sector is causing most problems, especially from overseas visitors coming to Bristol. Overall, transport is by far the most important factor contributing to leisure-related energy use and emissions of greenhouse gases: results indicate that transport may be responsible for almost 94% of the overall contribution of tourism to global warming.

‘Bristol today is an aspirational city; sure of its place as the regional capital of England’s south west and confident of its reputation of one of Europe’s most powerful economies’ (Bristol City Council, 2010). As being a diverse and vibrant city, Bristol attracts people from across Britain, Europe and the wider world. With 1.47 million overnight stays, Bristol was the fourth most popular UK overnight tourist destination in 2008 (, 2009).

Figure 1: Graph showing South West Carbon Footprint proposed targets for 2020 and 2050

Source: Reap Tourism, 2006

Our focus within this report will look at the existing tourism provision in Bristol and strategies that can change and improve the carbon footprint of Bristol within the travel, accommodation and shopping sector. Moreover, a marketing strategy will also be discussed in terms of attracting more domestic tourists which are also aware of their carbon footprint. Examples will be used to see how successful other destinations have been in trying to reduce their carbon footprint. This report will first begin to look at the travel and transport sector in terms of its existing provision and strategies to improve the city’s overall sustainability.

2. Transport

2.1 Existing transport provision in Bristol

Bristol is one of the most easily accessible cities in the UK. The city provides a well developed infrastructure and public transport network, including rail, road, bus, and floating harbour ferries. Furthermore, the city is equipped with numerous cycle routes, ‘acknowledging the city’s growing status as one of Europe’s most bike-friendly destinations’ (www.visitbristol,, 2010) In addition, Bristol has a large international airport, with operators flying into Bristol from 112 different countries.

2.2 Suggested Changes to reduce carbon footprint

2.2.1 Bristol Cycle City

Bristol has the potential to offer itself as a cycle city and influence more visitors to use bikes as a means of sustainable transport. The proposed strategy for Bristol becoming a cycle city will have positive effects on the environment. ‘A bicycle is the cleanest, most sustainable, healthiest and fastest mode of urban transport. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, the bicycle is than 100 times more sustainable than the car and much more sustainable than public transport too’ (Ministry of Transport, 2009).

Amsterdam (Netherlands) is one example of a popular ‘cycling city’. With the backing of local governments the city has enforced and regulated an excellent cycling system which has seen effective results. The percentage of people who use their bike in Amsterdam amounts to more than 30% (Ministry of Transport, 2009). The city offers a park and bike scheme where visitors park in a garage and take a rental bike, but pay for the parking of the car. There are also various bike parking garages as shown in figure 2 below. The city also has excellent cycling infrastructure, one in which provides a safe and convenient way of exploring the city.

The opportunity of becoming a more cycle friendly city will enable Bristol to attract types of tourists who have an interest in cycling and are willing to explore the city by bike. Young families and young couples can be given the opportunity to explore the city and have an enjoyable day out. As mentioned before, Bristol is equipped with numerous cycle routes throughout the city.

In conjunction with trying to influence people’s behavior about cycling, Bristol could offer sightseeing cycle tours throughout the city, visiting various historical and cultural sights it has in place. Whilst using the city’s existing and well developed cycle network the tour could combine various sites including the Downs, Avon gorge, Brunel, Clifton Suspension Bridge, SS Great Britain, St. Mary Redcliff Church, as well as Bristol city museum and Art gallery – voted 2nd best free top attraction with 562,375 visitors in 2009 (, 2011). As implemented in Amsterdam, Bristol might adopt a park and bike scheme, where visitors park their car and then rent a bike, but pay for the parking of the car space.

On the one hand this proposed cycle tour will provide a recreational activity for families and young couples, allowing them to experience Bristol at their own pace. Undoubtedly this would reduce the carbon footprint of visitors to Bristol using this service, but aside to this it could also reduce competing bus sightseeing tours, which again would positively affect the overall carbon footprint in the city.

Government funding is a potential source which can back this project, especially in terms of bicycling facilities. In addition, there is the opportunity to use incomes from car parking to help aid parking spaces for bikes.

Figure 2: Bike garage park in Amsterdam

Source:, 2009

Although highlighted that the main positive of implementing this scheme is because it is seen as the biggest form of sustainable mode of urban transport, however, there are also drawbacks to this strategy. The problem of changing travel behavior and drawing people away from using their cars remains the biggest threat to this strategy. Bristol has one of the highest rates of car ownership of the largest cities in the country (, 2011).

From looking at this strategy there is potential for it to work well within the city. The infrastructure and the sights are already in place so that visitors can explore Bristol in combination with a cycle trip. Bristol’s priorities lie in attracting more domestic tourists to the city. It may, therefore, be appropriate to discuss ways in which the travel sector can decrease the level of International visitors coming to the city, which will be discussed next.

2.2.2 Air tax travel on departure

Another possible strategy would be to introduce an ecological air travel tax on flights arriving and departing from Bristol Airport. A similar strategy has been implemented in Germany since the 1 January 2011 which includes all German airports, but the tax only applies on departure flights. In Germany, the air travel tax is divided into 3 different categories and the rates are based on distance to destination. ‘The initial rates are (category 1) £8 to 2500km, (category 2) £25 2500-6000km, (category 3) £45 6000+ km’ (, 2011).

Bristol would also introduce these 3 tax categories, but charging less, for instance £5 (category 1), £10 (category 2), £15 Pounds (category 3). This eco-tax would apply per passenger for each departure and arrival at Bristol Airport.

The following numbers indicate the potential income from this strategy: In 2009 the total number for terminal and transit passengers at Bristol Airport accounted for 5,642,921 passengers, whereof 3,976,666 were EU international services (category 1) and 530,142 were other international services (category 2/3) (Bristol Airport Report, 2009, p.5).

On the one hand, these air travel tax receipts would contribute as a financial source for environmental funding for instance for low carbon projects in Bristol to meet the proposed government targets in the future. Moreover, this air travel tax could potentially act as a disincentive to fly from and to Bristol Airport which would undoubtedly reduce the carbon footprint of overseas visitors to Bristol. This strategy offers a way to lessen the carbon footprint of overseas staying visitors which are causing most of the CO2 emissions (Figure 1).

On the other hand, the potential consequence of this ecological air travel tax could be a decline of international tourists. This in turn could lead to a decline in foreign exchange and foreign income which could have a detrimental effect on local businesses in Bristol. In addition, this strategy perhaps shifts or even increases carbon emissions in other regions as tourists would fly for instance to London Airports in order to get to Bristol by car or coach.

In trying to discourage international visitors to mitigate the city’s carbon footprint it provides the perfect opportunity to change our domain and focus the marketing of Bristol to a more domestic tourism market.


In 2007, L.E.K. Consulting commissioned a UK-based consumer study exploring some interesting insights into consumers’ attitude towards the issue of carbon footprints.

Figure 3: Additional cost of UK consumers to minimise their carbon footprint

Source: LEK, 2007

‘The research clearly illustrates that consumers now regard carbon as an important element of their purchasing criteria – 56% would value information about the carbon footprint of a product or service, 44% will change their purchasing decisions on the back of this information and 43% would even pay more to reduce their carbon footprint (Figure 3) … This study provides evidence that product and service providers can grasp a competitive advantage by taking action on their approach to carbon management now’ (LEK, 2007, p.8).

As a possible strategy, Bristol could focus on developing a marketing concept to promote retailers and tourism related products and services in Bristol with a lower carbon footprint and companies, which approach carbon reduction strategies.

This would also involve carbon labelling strategies of tourism related products and services in Bristol, so that tourists as consumers are provided with useful information regarding a service/product’s carbon footprint when making a buying decision.

For instance, travel agencies in Bristol could re-direct its marketing approach to attract more people who are aware of their own carbon footprint. This could be done by advertising more carbon friendly holidays domestically. The main advantage of this strategy is that it could potentially reduce the capacity of long-haul flights to and from Bristol, inevitably reducing its carbon footprint. Furthermore, travel agencies adopting this strategy might gain a competitive advantage (LEK, 2007). On the other hand this strategy could lead to a loss for travel agencies specialised on long-haul destination marketing.

In taking this marketing approach, it could attract visitors who are concerned about their own carbon footprint. It may be possible to develop the accommodation sector in Bristol by trying to be more environmentally friendly and attract the visitors that value their own environmental presence.


Existing provision

Bristol offers a wide range of accommodation to host visitors coming to the city. These include Hotels, Bed and Breakfast’s, guesthouses, apartments, campsites and hostels. Bristol is packed with luxury hotels, boutique hotels, beautiful bed and breakfasts, and stylish serviced apartments – essentially something for every taste and budget (, 2010).

Possible strategies and case studies in the accommodation sector

As a possible strategy Bristol could encourage the partnership of existing companies and services in the accommodation sector with ‘Carbon Trust’. Carbon Trust is a not-for-profit company ‘providing specialist support to help business and the public sector boost business returns by cutting carbon emissions, saving energy and commercialising low carbon technologies’ (, 2011a).

The partnership between Carbon Trust and the hotel group Hilton UK ; Ireland demonstrates a good example to the success of this approach. ‘In 2005 Hilton appointed the Carbon Trust to help measure and reduce its energy consumption. Since then the group has seen a £3.8 million saving in energy costs – and reduced its carbon footprint by 45,000 tonnes of CO2’ (, 2011b). Bristol could emphasise and promote the existing carbon friendly accommodation providers on the internet, (e.g. via to try and attract more carbon friendly tourists to the city. Hence, visitors to Bristol will reduce their carbon footprint if they decide to stay for instance with Bristol Hilton Hotel.

Another good example is Scandic, (one of the Nordic region’s biggest hotel chains) which has reduced its carbon footprint by a third. Initially guests used 5.5kg of carbon each night, but Scandic hotels have reduced that figure to 3.6kg per guest night. In doing this, Scandic has incorporated a number of measures to mitigate its guest’s carbon footprint. The measures include allocating recycling bins in every room. As well as this 70% of its hotels run entirely on hydroelectric power. Moreover, waste food goes to an organic recycling mill where it is converted into biogas (, 2007).

Bristol and its accommodation providers can adopt these measures and significantly improve the ecological awareness to try and reduce the carbon footprint of overseas and domestic visitors visiting the city. From looking at partnerships with Carbon Trust, it is suitable to suggest that shopping business/centres in Bristol can adopt similar strategies in improving the existing tourism provision for shopping visitors in terms of sustainability.


Existing provision

Bristol’s city offers the biggest and best choice of shopping in the South West, with nearly 500 stores. The selection of national stores includes Debenhams, Marks & Spencer, Bhs as well as the UK’s second largest Primark. Cabot Circus provides Bristol’s shopping icon and is a gigantic three-tiered shopping and leisure centre, which provides city centre visitors with over 120 shops including 15 major flagship stores and signature stores Harvey Nichols and House of Fraser. (, 2010).

Possible strategies and case studies in the shopping sector

Figure 1 illustrates that shopping in the South West of England accounts for a considerate amount of carbon emissions, especially from overseas staying visitors. Big shopping centres in Bristol such as Cribbs Causeway and Cabot Circus could adopt action plans and strategies to achieve further energy savings, which would reduce the overall carbon footprint in Bristol. For instance, Buttermark shopping centre located in Ipswich achieved annual savings ‘of more than 150 tonnes of carbon dioxide and cost savings of £19,366’ through a partnership with Carbon Trust since 2009. The strategies included: ‘Begin a lighting awareness campaign to ensure that all staff are aware of potential savings, are making good use of natural light and are switching off lighting in unoccupied areas. Automatic lighting controllers could also be considered to reduce wastage. Bulbs should be replaced by energy efficient ones’ (, 2011). Shopping centres in Bristol could adopt similar strategies to the Buttermark shopping centre to reduce the carbon footprint of visitors who come for shopping purposes.


In conclusion, this report suggests and discusses various strategies relating to Bristol in order to reduce the South West per visitor day carbon footprint. Bristol; being the capital of the South West of England has a unique mix of heritage and culture which creates a diverse and vibrant city. Bristol can learn a lot from other cities, e.g. Amsterdam, which has incorporated sustainable transport methods to reduce their carbon footprint. One of the main future challenges in reducing the overall carbon footprint comes from an increasing population in Britain, which is likely to put more strain on cities such as Bristol (, 2010). An increasing population could for instance lead to an increase of travel, which is likely to increase the number of cars on the road. In addition, it could potentially result in more frequent international/domestic flights, as well as an increase in demand for public transportation in cities.

In our opinion, the ‘Bristol Cycle City’ strategy would be seen as most feasible from this report. The reasoning for this is that the city has a well developed infrastructure for cycling, and it would only need enhancing slightly, for example, constructing bike garages in different areas of Bristol. This improvement can be backed through governmental funding, an integral source required for this strategy to work well.

Furthermore we believe that Bristol can help the South West as a whole reach the 2020 target; a more realistic one than what is set for 2050. If everyone is willing to take part as a whole in reducing their carbon footprint and these proposed strategies come to fruition then it is likely we will reach the 2020 target, but the 2050 target looks difficult with an ever increasing population.