The Forest of Bowland AONB Partnership has won a prestigious Chamber Low Carbon Award for its ground-breaking Eco Escapes sustainable tourism initiative.
In the very first Lancashire Business Environment Awards ceremony at Crow Wood Hotel & Spa in Burnley, the Eco Escapes project won the Public Sector Award, recognizing its contribution to reducing carbon emissions from the county’s tourism and hospitality sectors.
The Forest of Bowland collaborated with Arnside and Silverdale AONB Partnership to develop and promote sustainable tourism in rural Lancashire with the launch of a new website and social media campaign.
Funded by Lancashire County Council’s Rural Recovery Fund, the Eco Escapes initiative encourages visitors to arrive by train and explore the area on foot, by bike or on e-bike. The campaign is also designed to promote ‘slow tourism’ – inspiring visitors to stay longer and support independent rural businesses.
It also asks people to support independent businesses by buying local produce and stay longer at their destinations.
The award judges said they were: “Highly impressed with the achievements of a small, highly motivated team that have achieved a bottom-up approach to growing the tourism sector.
"This has entailed getting the business community involved via collaboration, not to just stamp tourism growth onto the area but to enable low impact and sustainable tourism."
The Eco Escapes website: www.ecoescapes.org.uk provides car-free sustainable travel itineraries which link main stations and visitor attractions and highlight visitor destinations which support sustainable tourism.
Eco Escapes has four main objectives: all designed to reduce the carbon footprint of visitors travelling to and within each of the AONBs while enhancing the resilience of the rural economy.
- Travel light – leave the car at home and use public transport to visit
- Tread carefully – explore on foot, by bike, e-bike or mobility scooter
- Shop Local – support independent businesses by buying local produce
- Stay longer – explore more by extending your trip into a mini-break
At the heart of the initiative is a collection of bespoke Eco Escapes itineraries to help visitors make the most of their time in Lancashire’s rural landscapes. Each itinerary focuses on a different area or aspect of the Eco Escapes offer: from walking and cycling tours to railway walks and foodie tours.
Sustainable tourism businesses, hospitality and accommodation providers across the two AONBs have completed green tourism training and accreditation as part of the Eco Escapes initiative.
Local hospitality and accommodation providers and visitor attractions, as well as local government officers, also attended a Sustainable Tourism Symposium to share best practice and to learn more about sustainable and inclusive tourism in the Forest of Bowland. Hosted by Caz Graham of BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme, 85 attendees participated in the event.
Hetty Byrne, the Forest of Bowland AONB’s sustainable tourism officer said:
“We’re absolutely thrilled to receive recognition for the ground-breaking Eco Escapes initiative.
“Eco Escapes aims to protect and nurture our fragile environments while welcoming visitors who are happy to travel light, shop local and maybe linger a while longer in these outstandingly beautiful landscapes.”
“Slow and sustainable tourism is rapidly rising up the travel agenda and by encouraging both visitors and rural businesses to reduce their carbon footprint, we are helping future-proof Lancashire’s expanding rural tourism sector.”
Shaun Turner, Lancashire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment & Climate Change said:
“Few people outside the county realise Lancashire has some extraordinarily beautiful rural landscapes; these hidden gems are some of the county’s best-kept secrets.
“We backed the Eco Escapes project to help rural entrepreneurs reboot their businesses and build back more resilient rural enterprises.
“Supporting businesses in this way will not only encourage more spending in rural areas but will also help drive further investment in the rural economy going forward."
The principles of sustainable tourism have been at the heart of the Forest of Bowland AONB’s visitor economy for almost 20 years and the Eco Escapes initiative has been pivotal in consolidating this work to establish Lancashire’s outstanding natural landscapes as one of England’s foremost destinations for visitors in search of sustainable holidays in the great outdoors.
Photo: The Eco Escapes Team with their Chamber Low Carbon Award: (from left) Mark Sutcliffe, campaign consultant, Shaun Turner, Lancashire County Council, Hetty Byrne, Forest of Bowland AONB sustainable tourism officer, Karen Lawrenson, Senior Project Manager, Lancashire County Council.