StReS C – a simple checklist for reducing carbon emissions of the whole visitor journey?
18th September 2023

Responsibility – both formal and felt – for visitor travel carbon crosses many different types of organisation and scales – from trans-national to sub-destination scale. Given the complexity, absolute responsibility is a bit of a hot potato and often viewed as SEP (Someone Else’s Problem). This doesn’t mean that the sense of importance by individuals and cultures within organisations is not genuine, but that the lack of formal responsibility means that other priorities are more important for them. In short, if carbon emissions aren’t cut, no-one is going to get the sack.

Given that this is how things are, what can be done? Framing carbon reduction in ways that (also) deliver on other outcomes or co-benefits (such as quality of life, road safety) help, but this just doesn’t hit the scale and urgency required.

A 4-point checklist

So what about a checklist? Indeed, a checklist with a cheeky acronym?

I looked at the reduce (or avoid) – shift – clean (or improve) hierarchy that is applied broadly in sustainability, but more specifically to transport[1]; it rarely seems to hit the visitor travel world. So here’s what this might look like. Thinking about the places I know or have visited, the issues revealed and conversations I have had during this study, I’m adding a Stop stage at the beginning. Read on, it’ll make sense (perhaps?).

Whilst we need to do all of these, and the hierarchy is meaningful(ish) in terms of order of importance.

This complements (i) any visitor transport carbon budget – i.e. the evidence that shows which parts of the visitor journey are responsible for different scales of carbon emissions and (ii) the 6-component model – cascading things down to the parts of the visitor journey. Apply all of this to a specific place – as this normally is the focus of visitor organisations – and it might just help provide that pair of goggles to look at local issues from a better informed carbon perspective.

1.    Stop doing things that make carbon emissions worse

Anything that makes flying or access by car easier is bad for carbon emissions


Expanding airports; marketing air travel as a way of accessing a destination; preferentially enhancing the ease of accessing a destination from airports

Focus on domestic markets and rail/coach/rideshare access within the UK

Road building

Anything that encourages more or easier access by car. This doesn’t just mean big new roads, but maybe that dualling scheme or junction capacity improvement. See (2) for better solutions and the Welsh Government’s Roads Review Panel report[2] for a more comprehensive set of approaches to dealing with this.

Car park construction and expansion

In visitor destinations, any new car parks should only be considered either as

  1. Temporary measures as part of broader demand reduction strategies; c.f. coffer dam – i.e. a structure designed to be removed once the substantive works that focus on the problem have taken effect
  2. As part of parking rationalisation – such as new car park at a gateway to replace car parking within the destination.

2.    Reduce demand

  • Marketing or incentivising longer, less frequent stays – moving away from “quick break” or “short break” – making sure that the carbon of the approach trip provides more in-destination days
  • Information & marketing of exploring locally – reducing long in-destination trips
  • Marketing multi-site trips within a destination coupled with local exploration around those sites – reducing the number of longer in-destination trips
  • Information & marketing of one-way exploration (walks etc) using public transport

3.    Shift modes

  • Design places for lower-carbon access and exploration – (visitor) car-free, parking restrictions & exclusions – to shift options available & default travel to non-car alternatives
  • High quality public transport: extensive network, reasonable/high frequency, affordable/part of visitor pass; “mobility guarantee” – make non-car access not just easy(ier), but more attractive than car use
  • Extensive, safe routes for active travel; widespread, affordable bike/ebike rental & share, ideally integrated into visitor pass
  • Enabling and legitimising active travel – especially walking and cycling – as default modes for local journeys
  • First/last mile (to/within destination); baggage transfer – an enabler of non-car travel
  • “fun” mobility
  • Visitor travel card “Your guest card is your ticket” – embed getting around into the whole visitor experience
  • Resident travel pass – ensuring that residents have fair access to the enhahnced local transport system

4.    Clean up transport

Ambition for all in-destination transport to be as low emission as feasible

  • All buses and coaches to be as low emission as possible
  • Rail – electric or hybrid
  • Extensive EV charge point network (but not providing preferential (electric) car access)
  • Incentives for resident & work vehicles to be replaced by low emission at end-of-life


Will this crack the scale of carbon reduction required? No. It might however help people and organisations filter ideas and inform decisions – it might stress the importance of carbon – StReS C?



[1] City Science’s Net zero transport: The role of spatial planning and place-based solutions interprets this as Substitute trips – Shift modes – Switch Fuels; https://www.cityscience.com/case-study/rtpi-transport-research/

[2] https://research.senedd.wales/research-articles/the-future-of-road-investment-in-wales/

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