The Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Spain

Cabañeros National Park

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By Javier García Gómez-Limón. Expert of EUROPARC-Spain and Responsible for the ECST in Spain. (ALSO AVAILABLE IN SPANISH)

Phase I, Awarding protected areas (Sustainable Destinations).

Spain is the European country with the highest number of protected areas awarded as sustainable destinations, with a total of 42. The Spanish environmental authorities have opted for the ECST that effectively links conservation, sustainable tourism and local development. The re-evaluation of the ECST, for some areas, is proving being a complicated process. However, the new strategy of the EUROPARC Federation, with a new procedure for the re-evaluation and an amnesty until December 2017, surely will help clarifying the situation.

Delta Ebro National Parque, Spain

Delta Ebro National Parque, Spain

Phase II, the awarding of Charter local tourism businesses (Sustainable partners in Charter areas)
The awarding of the Charter local tourism businesses in Spain has proved being very successful. There are now more than 400 awarded companies in 27 protected areas.
In a study, recently developed by EUROPARC-Spain about the opinion of these companies on the Charter, it is highlighted how the project has achieved its objectives, as the companies recognized a “significant improvement in the relationships and in the connection with managers of protected areas” and how this “has favoured a higher quality of the offer and information provided to visitors”. Also, a significant contribution of the Charter on improving the environmental performance of companies is observed, such as:

– Reduced costs associated with the use of resources (energy, water, etc.).

– A considerable improvement in waste management.

It has also increased and diversified the training offered to businesses, which is another objective of the project.

On the negative side, companies highlighted missing direct improvements in access to grants and subsidies for seasonal tourism and the promotion of the Charter. They had not noticed a significant increase in economic activity through tourism. No doubt all these aspects should improve in the future.

Phase III, the awarding of tour operators (Sustainable tour operators in Charter areas)
EUROPARC-Spain launched in 2014 a working group to develop the Spanish awarding system for sustainable tour operators in Charter areas.

Cabo de Gata Nature Park, Spain

Birdwatching at Cabo de Gata Nature Park, Spain

The group had been working on the text of the new awarding system for over a year. This group consisted of representatives of EUROPARC-Spain, regional and national tourism administrations, technicians – staff of Charter protected areas, tourism operators associations, travel agencies and tour operators.

In October 2015, the EUROPARC Federation Council approved the awarding system. The objectives of this system are:

  • Encouraging the marketing of tourism in protected areas fulfilling the ECST principles, and therefore contributing to the conservation and local development.
  • Contributing to the recognition of the benefits of this specific offer for conservation and local development.
  • Improving the visibility and recognition of the sustainable destinations and the sustainable partners that have made a continuous commitment to work for sustainable tourism.
  • Recognizing and differentiate the travel agencies for their volunteer commitment on sustainable tourism development in protected areas in which they operate, giving them the opportunity to collaborate with environmental authorities, territories and benefit from the joint work on the preparation of unique and attractive offers for tourists.

The system will start being applied during the first months of 2016, when the first travel agencies will adhere.

To learn more about The European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas download the brochure below.

To contact Javier Puertas please follow the link Section EUROPARC Spain - Section EUROPARC Spain

How can nature and biodiversity help improving public health and social cohesion?

Transboundary Special Nature Reserve Gornje Podunavlje (HR/RS) © Jaroslav Pap

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A two-day intense workshop took place last week in Brussels organised by IEEP (Institute for European Environmental Policy) to present the results of a research on “Health and Social Benefits of Biodiversity and Nature Protection” and took place in the Committee of the Regions, on the 27th-28th January 2016.

Institute for European Environmental Policy

Institute for European Environmental Policy

How can nature and biodiversity help improving public health and social cohesion? What are the benefits of Natura 2000 sites, other protected areas and wider green infrastructure to human health and wellbeing? Those were some of the aspects discussed during the workshop, with the support of a large number of case studies from all over Europe.

The crucial role and the benefits Protected Areas are providing for health and social cohesion were highlighted by EUROPARC President Ignace Schops, with the support of brilliant case studies presented by parks and member organisations. Among them: Scottish Natural Heritage, Parks and Wildlife of Finland, Hoge Kempen National Park (Be), Razna National Park (Lt), Medvednic Nature Park (Cr), Pembrokeshire National Park (Uk).

Protected areas are Community Hubs and Health Hotspots and EUROPARC is committed to value those experiences and move from the guidance to the wider implementation and promotion of good practices across protected areas in Europe

said Carol Ritchie, EUROPARC Director.

EUROPARC congratulates IEEP and the EC for the successful workshop and the interesting research, and is keen to contribute to future developments in this field.

Below you can download the IEEP background report, with interesting information about the cases studies introduced at the Workshop. Take the opportunity to learn more about Health in Protected Areas with a set of case studies from EUROPARC Network, created by EUROPARC working group on Health in PAs.

EU Parliament votes for Biodiversity

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On the 2nd of February the European Parliament has approved –  with a very large majority – a report on the Mid-term Review of the EU Biodiversity Strategy.

The Parliament calls for a more effective implementation and better enforcement of the Birds and Habitats Directives and express its opposition to a possible review of the two directives.

In order to halt the biodiversity loss, the Parliament expresses also the need for more adequate financial resources, better coherence and integration with other legislations and improvements in conservation and management measures. 

EUROPARC welcomes the result of this important vote which shows a concrete ambition to effectively implement and strengthen nature protection in Europe.

The report is available here.

Workshop: Managing invasive plant and animal species in the protected areas of Central and Eastern Europe

Invasive Species CEE workshop © EUROPARC CEE Section

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On the 2nd May 2016, experts from protected areas of Central and Eastern Europe will gather at Hortobágy National Park (Hungary) to share their practical experience on how to combat invasive/alien species in protected areas. The workshop is organised by the Central and Eastern Europe Section and is based on a simple idea: to organize cost effective workshops for „our own” experts to collect relevant experience on nature protection practices.

Therefore, the Section is currently inviting international experts from protected areas within the CEE region to join the event and share their practical experience on how to combat invasive/alien species in protected areas.

We are looking for „practical management/field experience” type presentations and experts. Participants will have 20

Registration is free, but due to limited places, the first round of provisional registration is until 15.03.2016.

Download below the invitation with the full description of the workshop.