Our 2021 Tourism Action Plan explores our response to increasing visitor numbers in the Peak District National Park. We hope it offers some simple ways we can help the area welcome visitors sustainably. We very much see this as a starting point and have lots of plans for further action in the coming few years.
Why We Have A 2021 Tourism Action Plan
We run our business from one of the busiest villages in the UK’s busiest national park. Even in normal times, on weekend or holiday days the parking options will be overflowing. We are in no way saying that we in anyway begrudge people visiting. We are fully aware visitors are the lifeblood of the national park and we are privileged to live and work in a place people are so keen to visit. While we desperately want to share it with others, we also want to protect it.
However, there are an increasing number of times when it is clear the infrastructure is struggling to cope. This is getting more noticeable year on year. Tourism business owners like us might be delighted with the revenue opportunities increased visitor numbers bring. We are also well aware of the issues it raises. We are also aware that many people living and working in our rural communities gain no benefits from increased visitor numbers.
The reality for villages like ours is that numbers are set to keep increasing. This will be exacerbated this year by the staycation effect of the pandemic. Even without this, there are ongoing active plans for this to happen. The national tourism plan is to increase inbound tourist numbers to 49 million by 2025. A rise of 27% from the 38.5 million that visited in 2019. Some of these stats may be affected by COVID-19 and Brexit, but there are undoubtedly increasing numbers of Britain’s choosing to holiday in the U.K in the near future. As the Uk’s busiest national park, there is no doubt the Peak District will be busier than ever in the coming years.
Of course, we warmly welcome visitors joining us from home or abroad. The question is how do we ensure this doesn’t negatively impact on this special area. Some of this needs to be dictated on a policy level, but what can a small business like ours do to play its part? We have always tried to be as sustainable as possible and our environment policy certainly stands up to scrutiny. Here, though, we are specifically trying to manage issues of overcrowding and traffic issues at honeypot sites.
We are also aware that increased traffic brings increased emissions. We’ve recently undertaken training and assessment to meet the requirements of the Carbon Literacy Standard. We are proud of this, but it comes with responsibilities. Part of meeting the standard required us to make individual and organisational pledges to reduce carbon emissions. Reducing emissions from transport formed part of our pledge and forms part of our plan.
So, as we started to look to a post pandemic phase and our 2021 Tourism Action Plan was born. We still aren’t certain exactly where this journey will eventually lead, but we offer the following as a start.
There is no doubt that traffic is one of the biggest issues we face in our local area. Increased visitor numbers bring increased vehicle numbers. We see this more and more. At busy times our village becomes gridlocked with vehicles parking along roadways too narrow to cope. Queues form to get in and out of the main roads. Villagers have had their drives blocked by cars. On the other hand, we also appreciate the frustration of visitors who have travelled to the area and then face parking problems. Nobody wins.
The simple answer is to have less people travelling to the area by car. We know this is tricky too. Everyone loves the convenience of their own vehicle and it can be hard to get to some places by other means. There is also a reluctance to travel by public transport due to the pandemic. If there is anyway to get less people to travel by car we need to make the alternative attractive enough to sway visitors decisions. This is what we are going to do for the coming year;
- We are committing to offering a 15% discount on any of our open courses to anyone travelling to the course by public transport or bike.
- We also commit to collecting the course participants from local train stations or bus stops to transport them to the start of the course free of charge.
- We’ll continue to look for additional ways to make our course meeting points and start and finish times as public transport friendly as we can. Our climbing courses currently meet in Hathersage and that is very close to bus routes from Sheffield and train routes from Manchester or Sheffield. Our navigation courses need a bit more work, but course participants can travel to Bamford train station from Manchester or Sheffield and we’ll collect them from there. The same goes for our mountain biking courses.
- For course participants who have to travel by car we want to ease the parking burden as much as we can. We are looking at alternative venues for some courses to avoid parking trouble spots.
The simple equation is that increased visitor numbers brings increased litter. It shouldn’t, but it does. We have been proactive on this issue for a number of years through our annual Pick and Play litter collection events. This then also extended into our Pick & Play Summer Tour. We have also helped by supporting businesses and organisations to collect litter. This will continue. However, we also want to do more.
Early in 2020 we formed a new plan. We invested, with generous support from our friends at Rab and Lowe Alpine, in a set of litter grabbers and safety gloves. These have been used regularly since but, due to COVID-19, mostly be ourselves and local friends. We will be making these available to anyone keen to use them through our Litter Collection Loan Scheme. This means that visitors to the park can come along and spend a little of their visit time helping to remove rubbish. It is a simple idea that we hope leads to greater awareness of the issue. Of course, it should also mean a cleaner national park. We are excited to see where this can lead.
We’ll also be encouraging all our course participants to collect any litter they see during their courses. We’ll provide the bags and dispose of the litter. They provide the labour. Every item collected is one step to a cleaner park.
To further our 2021 Tourism Action Plan we are seeking ways to combine with others. Our Pick and Play events have benefited greatly from combining with like minded businesses and amazing organisations like the Peak Park Conservation Volunteers. We are also proud to be Peak District National Park Foundation partners We are looking for new collaborations that will help. If you know anyone that would be keen to work with us we’d love to hear from you or them.
We have a lot of local knowledge and we don’t always feel we use this as effectively as we could. We need to offer clear and practical advice for visitors to ensure their visit minimises impact to the area. They may not know that just around the corner from where they are trying to park there is a much better option. They may not know that the bus or train can bring them to the perfect start to a particular walk. We are going to start offering some public transport friendly mountain biking, hillwalking and climbing guides to offer different ideas.
We Are All Ears
Our 2021 Tourism Action Plan is a definitely only a starting point. We want to do much more. If you have a good idea we’d really welcome it. Visitor numbers are going to keep increasing and that isn’t something we can change. We need to find work arounds to help manage this rather than sitting back and waiting for the problems get worse. Please do join us on this journey.