Following the Healing Bonanza
Nature Conservation Agency, Pierīga Regional Administration
Region & country
Kemeri National Park, Latvia
This project delivered a process by which local stakeholders (Protected Area managers in the Pierīga Regional Administration of the Nature Conservation Agency, the NGO Ķemeri National Park Foundation, and tourism businesses) joined forces to create an educational tour featuring health issues. The tour highlighted Ķemeri National Park’s unique values such as its sulphurous mineral waters and curative mud forming under the area’s virgin raised bogs, as well as other gifts of nature. Cooperation on this tour triggered subsequent action on health and nature and helped to unite a variety of people and interests present in the park.
Background of the project
Touristic tour offers were provided mainly by three businesses within the Kemeri National Park, the resort recreation centre “Jaunķemeri” www.jaunkemeri. lv, the sanatorium “Jantarnij Bereg” www. sanatorij.lv, and the recreation centre “Valguma Pasaule” www.valgumapasaule.lv. All were functioning perfectly on their own before the tour was established, focusing and highlighting local natural resources. Yet, cooperation and a sense of belonging to one common area – the Kemeri National Park– was somehow lacking. This was especially the case for the two big sanatoriums.
- A lack of exchange and vivid cooperation between providers of health-related tourism products in the Kemeri National Park, Protected Area managers and the NGO Ķemeri National Park Foundation.
- Need for communication measures of higher quality allowing to transmit the importance of nature conservation effectively to people by linking the message to the personal experience of nature’s value.
Solution and actions taken
- Cooperation with tourism businesses increased the number and effectiveness of interpretation measures normally used by the Protected Area’s managing body when explaining natural values and the importance of their conservation: In addition to the existing interactive and exciting ways of communicating the purely biological aspects, it became possible to tell a more holistic story, including personal, and thus more convincing, experiences of “how this relates to me” (mud treatments, walking exercises etc.).
- To those already using nature and its resources for health purposes, the tour provides the opportunity to find out more about where these natural values are created and what measures are being taken to ensure their preservation for future generations.
During the process of creating the tour, all tourism products in the Kemeri National Park related to the theme of “Nature and Health” were listed and their providers brought together:
- treatments involving local mineral waters and mud
- “dosed walking”
- Nordic walking
- barefoot walking
- meditation labyrinths
- further spa and medical treatments
- other physical activities (including cycling and snow-shoe walking)
The creation of the tour brought all the stakeholders together, thus enabling the expansion and further development of the “Health and Nature” topic in many directions:
- nature education and awareness-raising on the interrelation between health and nature
- better image for the region
- improvement of the quality of services
- joint tourism products
The core achievement of the joint effort resulted in a tour starting from just a few hours of walking but potentially stretching into a day-, two-day or even longer activity. The tour options allow to experience parts or the full variety of features promoting people’s health and well-being that Ķemeri National Park has to offer .
The creation of the basis of the tour took about half a year, but it is being constantly up-dated in the light of new product developments. The core version of the tour was published in the Kemeri National Park Tourism Product Manual issued in the framework of the EU Baltic Sea Region Programme project “Parks & Benefits”. No other separate financial funds had been attracted either to the creation of the tour or its maintenance, apart from the staff-time invested.
Other institutions or parties involved
Wider international discussion/a seminar on nature and health matters was organized within the framework of a cooperation agreement between the Nature Conservation Agency of Latvia and Finland’s Natural Heritage Services. The seminar, held in KNP (Latvia), for the first time brought together nature and health experts from the main protected area management bodies in Finland and Latvia, the EUROPARC Nordic-Baltic Section, the Ministry of Environment of Latvia, Latvian Health Tourism Cluster, as well as local tourism businesses. Many useful experiences were shared and contacts forged, laying the basis for future cooperation.
Partnership on this practical project laid a deep foundation and generated interest from all sides for cooperation and further development of health and nature-related matters, so far resulting in:
- Health-related products offered by tourism businesses as part of nature education events in the area, including activities such as “dosed walking”, Nordic walking, barefoot walking, demonstrations of mud treatments, and excursions exploring mineral waters.
- Demonstration of a “dosed walking” approach to members of the Kemeri National Park tourism forum by a physiotherapist from the “Jaunķemeri” recreation centre. The expert explained the important aspects and health benefits of walking in nature and the reasons behind the establishment of special trails of different length so that the doctor can “prescribe” each of their patients at the recreation centre the right “dose” of daily walking. This can be very different depending on the patient’s age, physical condition and overall health.
The tour was awarded as one of the most successful new tourism products by the National Tourism Development Agency of Latvia in 2012.
The perception of Protected Areas and their managing institutions as stakeholders in the health sphere is still very new. As such it might require quite a lot of time and effort to explain the idea and it is hence always good to have a few general introductory presentation materials at hand about previous experiences within the EUROPARC network as well as from other areas in this sphere.
- Through the joint tour development, for the first time, tourism businesses became aware of Protected Area managers as stakeholders in health-related matters, which in turn increased their interest in nature-related matters.
- The main benefits, also partly described above, are not so much linked to direct health benefits but rather to raising awareness about the possibilities of acquiring them with the help of nature.
Nature Conservation Agency Latviahttp://www.daba.gov.lv/kemeri/
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