AITO: The Association of Independent Tour Operators

McKinlay Kidd Sustainability

McKinlay Kidd

Our sustainable Tourism Vision

Sustainable Travel Policy Objectives

For us, true sustainability means promoting and helping to maintain a way of life in remote, often rural locations, where the economic benefit from tourism can make a genuine difference. That’s why we work almost exclusively with local, family-run businesses, not with large corporate organisations. We build close and lasting relationships with our business partners, based on mutual trust and an unerring commitment to customer satisfaction.

We often help companies to develop a new revenue stream through tourism – for example, the creel fisherman who will take you out on his boat while he brings in his catch, which you can then enjoy for lunch, and the owner of an oyster farm who will show you how these delicacies are cultivated in the waters off the west coast of Scotland.

Our wildlife holidays contribute to research and understanding about the species viewed, helping to protect their habitat and future sustainability. Scotland and Ireland offer the chance to see rare and often protected species such as whales, dolphins, basking sharks, otters, badgers and eagles. We believe it is worth getting to know what is on our doorstep without needing to fly half-way around the world!

We are continually increasing our range of public transport holidays for those who want to leave the car behind. We grapple with the timetables of trains, boats and buses, and fill-in the gaps with short taxi transfers to make this possible in the more remote areas. Not having a car in-tow can transform your experience, especially on a Scottish or Irish island – exploring on foot and by bike helps you to properly engage with the environment and experience the place at a more appropriate, slower pace.

We directly employ a small team of local people in Glasgow. We offer part-time and flexible working. We ensure staff take undertake at least two recce visits in a year so that they have first-hand experience and knowledge of our products throughout Scotland, England and Ireland. All staff share our values of environmental and sustainable responsibility.

We are corporate members of the John Muir Trust, an organisation committed to protecting the wild land of the Scottish highlands and islands.

We are members of AITO, the Association of Independent Tour Operators, and adhere to their strict code of conduct.

On our wildlife holidays, we work only with the most knowledgeable and responsible guides and boat-trip operators, who adhere to strict codes on wildlife observance so as not to disturb the animals being viewed. We offer whale-watching holidays in both Scotland and Ireland with specialist conservationists and guides, who also collect data on the cetaceans seen, contributing to research on behaviour and habitats. We do not over-promise – these are wild animals, so sightings cannot be guaranteed. Our customers frequently see minke whales in both Scotland and Ireland, and fin whales in Ireland. However, our website does not lead with pictures of killer whales or humpback whales – sightings are rare in these waters, albeit very special when they do happen.

We predominantly market our holidays via the internet. We produce a small quantity of compact brochures each year for past customers and enquirers. If we do have any left over, we ensure these are recycled.

We encourage our customers to try local produce – and provide recommendations for the best places to visit to do this. From seaweed lamb on Shetland and Orkney to langoustines, crabs and scallops caught off the west coast; from many varieties of Scottish cheese to all sorts of Irish bread and baking… not forgetting local ales from microbreweries and the chance to sample a dram of Scotch whisky or Irish whiskey. The accommodation providers we select share this commitment – many have kitchen gardens growing their own herbs, salad and vegetables, and some even have chickens roaming in the grounds to provide eggs for breakfast. Dinner menus focus on local specialities. We make it possible for our holidaymakers to learn more directly from the producers, through a trip with a creel fisherman, a visit to a Scottish oyster farm or a holiday uniquely designed in association with Good Food Ireland.

Every holiday includes “Robert’s Recommendations” – these are our personal recommendations for extra things to see and do during your holiday, such as the best local walks, hidden-gem beaches and visits to local craftspeople – from weavers of Harris tweed in the outer Hebrides to driftwood sculptors in the west of Ireland.

Sustainable Tourism Projects from McKinlay Kidd

Protecting Scotland's marine life

McKinlay Kidd was the first tour operator in the UK to offer fully packaged tours including a whale watching element in Scotland, something we are very proud of. Our pledge for 2020 is therefore to support the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) to help conserve whales, dolphins and porpoises in Western Scotland. We will do this by raising awareness amongst our clients (particularly those travelling to the Isle of Mull) about the organisation, local whale and dolphin species and the need to protect them.

We will promote HWDT’s activities, research and educational programmes on our website and social media channels reaching around 8,000 people. In the holiday documentation we provide our clients travelling to the Isle of Mull (approximately 240 people per year), we will also include information about HWDT’s discovery centre, their “Whale Track” app and local whale and dolphin species.

With this commitment, our clients can learn more about local marine life and be given the opportunity to contribute to research into the protection of cetaceans and dolphins by reporting sightings during their holiday. We hope that this in turn will help enhance their experiences with these amazing creatures and provide special memories to treasure for ever.

Pledge Testimonial Summary

Our 2019 pledge was to support the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust by promoting their activities and raising awareness towards whale and dolphin protection. In this testimony, we look back at what we have achieved and the challenges we were confronted with.

Protecting Scotland’s marine life – McKinlay Kidd’s 2019 Pledge Testimonial

To reflect on the outcomes of our 2019 pledge, let’s take a look at John’s story…

John visited the Isle of Mull with McKinlay Kidd in August 2019. Prior to departure, we provided John with some reading materials about the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) through his holiday app so he could find out more about the organisation and get excited about the species he might see on his trip. This is now standard practise for all clients embarking on a whale-watching holiday to Mull.

Whilst on holiday, John got extremely lucky and saw minke whales, common dolphins, and even a basking shark! McKinlay Kidd suggested downloading HWDT’s “Whale Track” app however, John did not download it. Instead, he enjoyed looking at the local species identification information provided in his holiday documentation. After his boat tour, John followed our recommendation and visited the HWDT’s discovery centre – he found it fascinating! John is an avid supporter of wildlife charities and thanks to his experience with the HWDT, he is making future plans to volunteer with them.
Through the holiday documentation provided to over 200 of our clients who travelled to Mull in 2019, we have raised awareness of the HWDT, their discovery centre and their whale sighting app. We also dedicated a section of our website and social media to the HWDT. We measured the success of this by collecting testimonies from a sample of clients who visited the Isle of Mull this summer (including John).
We found it challenging to measure the outcome of our pledge. We therefore realise going forward it would be beneficial to design a better measurement tool. Our 2019 AITO survey highlighted that 44.3% of respondents are not aware of McKinlay Kidd’s environmentally-friendly vision and actions. We will thus aim to raise more awareness towards our commitment to sustainability in the future.
As the first tour operator in the UK to offer fully packaged tours including a whale watching element, we are happy with how our pledge has been received and are excited for the future.