SMEs in The Wash and Norfolk Coast care about carbon footprint, survey shows

17 February 2020 - Published by Harald Marencic
Tourism businesses care strongly about the environment: 86% have considered their carbon footprint, and 82% would like to find ways for their business to operate in a more environmentally sustainable way, a survey of SMEs and other tourism organisations in the UK’s The Wash and Norfolk Coast has found.

Aimed at tourism concerns and businesses, public sector policy makers and project partners, the online survey was conducted for Norfolk County Council by the Norfolk Coast Partnership as part of the Interreg project Prowad Link in autumn 2019.

The questions and methodology have since been shared with partners in Groningen; who in return shared their qualitative in-depth interview questions and methodology.

Overall the UK survey underlined that the strengths of small tourism businesses are their capacity to provide high quality service and response to the area; their challenge is to be able to interface with others while still carrying out their business. They find local organisations useful and have links with them, but this is an area that could be improved.


Businesses are keen to talk and to be listened to. Areas businesses would like to see developed to increase their sustainability and the nature-business-benefit cycle include: diversity, accessibility, promotion, badging, health tourism, popular culture, recycling and reducing plastics, public transport, low carbon offers, and an increase in understanding nature.

The survey gave a snapshot of the types of business in the tourism sector in the UK project area, and their challenges and opportunities. Respondents were typically accommodation providers (51%) with responses from guest houses and bed and breakfasts; accommodation agencies and camp sites. Within this sector there were more self-catering (50%) followed by bed and breakfast (45%) and hotel (10%). Much smaller segments are campsite, caravan site and glamping (all around 5%) Other sectors of this market are sites and attractions (23%), then experiences (10%), food and beverages (8%) and retail (5%) with responses from a range of providers including shops; museums; an art gallery; boat tours and an NGO.

The vast majority of responders across all sectors were owners/directors of the business. 27 responders had permanent staff, 16 had seasonal; most have between 1-5 staff although some significantly more. The picture was of established businesses – 58% between 10-50 years old; 13% over 100 years old; but with new growth too – 29% 1-10 years old. In terms of viability over half see themselves as profitable; 33% are ‘breaking even’; just 3% ‘struggling.’

The survey was conducted in the framework of Prowad Link. The Interreg VB project aims to unlock the potential of natural areas as a driver for jobs and sustainable development. Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are approached to develop nature as a brand to create benefits for both, SMEs and the environment. 14 project partners in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom working with interested SMEs will use the “nature-business-benefit-cycle” concept to develop new, sustainable products and offers in the pilot regions of the Wadden Sea (DK, D, NL), Geiranger Fjord (NO), Wash & North Norfolk Coast (UK). The 3-year project is co-funded by and carried out in the framework of the Interreg North Sea Region Programme under the Programme Priority 1 “Thinking Growth”. The programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) of the European Union.

Photo: Norfolk Coast Partnership