Become a Sustainable Destination – Charter Part I

Your journey starts here © Jakub Kaspar , Krkonoše NP

The European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas is recognised internationally as a model for sustainable tourism management.

It is in line with the international Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria for destinations, and the European Commission’s tourism policy2 and its priority “to promote the development of sustainable, responsible and high-quality tourism”.

Embedded in the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas are these important concepts:

  • protection of the natural and cultural heritage,
  • participation by all stakeholders,
  • effective partnership working,
  • planning to prepare and implement a sustainable tourism strategy,
  • to realise the environmental, social and economic benefits of everyone working more sustainably.

Why becoming a Sustainable Destination?

The European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas is awarded by the EUROPARC Federation through an independent verification process. The award recognises not just a commitment to sustainable tourism but also the implementation of practical sustainable actions by public and private partners. Such actions;

  •  bring measurable economic, social and environmental benefits from well-managed sustainable tourism,
  • strengthen relations with local tourism stakeholders and the wider tourism industry,
  • provide access and membership of an extensive and dynamic European network.

The Charter provides a model of governance that delivers Protected Areas as sustainable tourism destinations. Further, all actors through the application of sustainable tourism practice in their region ensure the natural habitat and landscapes upon which they all depend are conserved for future generations.

The process of pursuing and achieving the award enables all involved to receive expert advice, maintain motivation and incentive, and obtain international recognition. Engaging in the Charter process is highly successful as a guide and a stimulant for more sustainable tourism in protected areas. It has provided an incentive and a framework for protected area authorities to work with tourism businesses and other stakeholders to agree on future plans and support a whole range of creative actions.

Components of the Charter

After understanding the Vision, Mission and Principles of the Charter, you are ready to start your journey towards becoming a Sustainable Destination.

charter principles, sustainable tourism

Charter principles, key topics and key actions

The components of the Charter involve working in partnership, preparing and implementing a strategy and addressing the key topics. The Charter requires that all Protected Areas have each of the components in place, which are described in more detail below.

1) Sustainable Tourism Forum

A permanent Sustainable Tourism (Charter) Forum, or equivalent arrangement, should be established between the protected area authority, local municipalities, conservation and community organizations and representatives of the tourism businesses. The constitution and numbers involved in the Forum and any associated Executive Committees or other structures, and the regularity of their meetings, should be sufficient to enable effective discourse and decision making.

Links with regional and national bodies should be developed and maintained. The Forum should also engage with other Forums in the Charter Network.

2) Strategy and Action Plan

A Strategy and Action Plan for Sustainable Tourism should be prepared, which:

  • has three main elements: an assessment of the current situation; a strategic direction; and a practical action plan;
  • is based on inclusive and effective consultation and is approved and understood by local stakeholders;
  • covers a five year period (with some flexibility to allow for different planning cycles); and
  • is a separate, self-contained document.

For further details on what should be included in the Strategy and Action Plan please read page 9 of the Brochure “Good for  Parks, Good for People”.

sustainable destination

Strategy and Action Plan_Becoming a Sustainable Destination

3) Evaluation

All protected areas seeking award of the Charter must engage in and facilitate the evaluation process. This involves:

  • Submission of a completed application form, the Sustainable Tourism Strategy and Action Plan, and any other supporting material, which will be checked by an appointed verifier who is an expert in sustainable tourism and protected areas.
  • A visit to the area by the verifier, which will include a programme of meetings and discussion with relevant stakeholders.
  • Preparation of a report by the verifier. A version of this is subsequently made available to the protected area.
  • Assessment of the application and the verifier’s report by the Charter Evaluation Committee, which makes a recommendation to the EUROPARC Council on whether to award the Charter, including any conditions or comments to pass on to the protected area.
  • Subsequent attention to any matters raised by the verifier, evaluation committee and Council.

The evaluation process, including engagement with the verifier and receipt of their report, provides the protected area with valuable feedback and views on their sustainable tourism activity.

4) Monitoring and Review

Monitoring actions and impacts of sustainable tourism should be built into the process from the beginning, leading to review and adaptation. The Strategy and Action Plan should contain indicators and monitoring actions which cover:

  • Progress with the implementation of actions;
  • Results and changes in tourism performance and impacts.

Key data from the monitoring should be submitted to EUROPARC as part of an overall benchmarking and assessment of the Charter process as a whole. The Charter is normally awarded for a period of five years.

5) Partnership and Communication

Protected Areas that have been awarded the Charter join the family of protected areas as partners in the Charter Network.

They are required to publicise and make visible their award. They are also encouraged to engage in networking and communication events and processes.

At a local level, Protected Areas are encouraged to follow a partnership approach in developing and managing sustainable tourism.

The Charter process itself makes provision for the development and recognition of partnerships between protected area authorities and tourism businesses through the award of Charter Partner status to tourism businesses that meet agreed criteria under Part II of the Charter (for local tourism businesses) and Part III of the Charter (for tour operators).

Engagement of protected areas with Part II or Part III of the Charter is optional.