Charter Award Ceremony 2017: 21 areas awarded in Brussels

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On the 7th December 2017, EUROPARC welcomed 21 exceptional Protected Areas to the European Parliament in Brussels for awarding them the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism.

The event was kindly hosted by Scottish MEP Alyn Smith from the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, who opened the Ceremony with a motivating message. Besides, EUROPARC was delighted to welcome a range of high-level speakers to this year’s Ceremony:  Co-Chair of the Intergroup “European Tourism Development, Cultural Heritage, Ways of St. James and other European Cultural Routes” Claudia Tapardel, Vice President of the Committee of Regions Bureau, Roby Biwer and Member of Cabinet of Commissioner Vella for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Andrew Bianco.

Charter Award Ceremony 2017

Charter Award Ceremony 2017, European Parliament © Steffi Burger

With each speaker looking at sustainable tourism from their political angle it became evident that the work of the Charter Parks is not only valued but increasingly recognized as a priceless contribution in achieving overarching European Union objectives of increased environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Charter Award Ceremony 2017

Charter Award Ceremony 2017, European Parliament © Steffi Burger

A shared vision across Europe

The European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas is a practical management tool that enables Protected Areas to develop and implement sustainable tourism strategies, thus benefitting nature and people as well as local economies.

This year EUROPARC re-awarded 14 and welcomed 7 new Charter Parks to the Network. With Kullaberg Nature Reserve from Sweden joining the Charter Network Family we are now counting 164 Charter Parks in 20 countries. They are spread all over Europe, but unite around the shared vision to make sustainable tourism a meaningful quality experience which safeguards natural and cultural values, supports local livelihoods and quality of life and which is after all economically viable.

Kemeris National Park Latvia

Working together

The Charter Award Ceremony has been an excellent occasion to not only celebrate 21 outstanding examples for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas from countries as diverse as Italy, Latvia, Spain, Finland, France, Sweden, United Kingdom and Portugal, but also allowed to share experiences and discover how every Park shares the same passion for their Nature and People, for the natural and cultural treasures.

This shared understanding could be felt in the short thank you speeches given by the Park representatives when accepting the Charter Award Certificate. Even if not all of them were given in English, combined translation efforts allowed to make every contribution understood. A beautiful example of the major aspect the Charter Network is all about. The Charter works, because we work in partnership, highlighted EUROPARC Director Carol Ritchie.

Charter Award Ceremony 2017

Charter Award Ceremony 2017, European Parliament © Steffi Burger

The key principles of the Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas comprise the 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.

…for natural and cultural heritage

That the Charter Network “works” could also be witnessed by the contributions of the invited speakers: Claudia Tapardel, Roby Biwer and Andrew Bianco all clearly called on the present Charter Parks – in representation for the wider Network – to seek close exchange and cooperation with their Institutions at EU level. Especially given the upcoming “European Year of Cultural Heritage”, which will be dedicated to celebrating and discovering the diverse European cultures. With our shared nature forming an inseparable part of Europe’s cultural heritage.

The upcoming year will be a chance to challenge the misconception of a nature-culture divide and to re-connect people with their natural environment.

For this reason, EUROPARC will dedicate a range of next year’s events to reinforce the authentic experience of nature-people connection, and Charter Parks can play a key role allowing people first-hand visitor experiences in their Protected Areas. The first event will be the 2018 Siggen Seminar in March, where we look at natural heritage interpretation as part of our cultural heritage. Participation is free to EUROPARC members and registrations have just opened.

We need to tap the potential of opening “hidden treasures”, as EUROPARC President Ignace Schops referred to often overlooked and undervalued “forgotten destinations”, to the immediate experience of people.

The statements shared by the Awarded Parks left no room for doubt that they are speaking the same language as the EUROPARC President. It made us understand how Protected Areas are eager and capable of bridging gaps: between nature and people or between the seemingly contradicting objectives of local economic development and nature conservation.

Photo album and Parks awarded

Sustainable Destinations awarded in 2017

New 7 Sustainable Destinations

From the 21 Charter areas that were awarded, 7 have just started their path towards becoming a Sustainable Destination.





14 Sustainable Destinations re-awarded

For the first time in the history of EUROPARC, the number of Parks re-awarded was higher than the Sustainable Destinations joining the Network. This number highly reflects the commitment of Parks in working with their local stakeholders, under the standards of the ECSTPA. Several of these Parks are also implementing Charter Part II and Charter Part III, necessary steps for those willing to achieve a higher quality tourism experience, for people and nature alike.



France and Italy






United Kingdom

We would like to congratulate and thank all the awarded Charter Parks once more for having celebrated with us here in Brussels and for having made the Charter Award Ceremony 2017 a real success!

We hope the event left all participants feeling energized and inspired to engage even more with or within the Charter Network. To keep your memories alive we share with you the photos taken throughout the event.