Sustainable tourism pays off: results from the French Sustainable Tour Operators

Parc Naturel Régional du Pilat, FR

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Since 2014, EUROPARC France and IPAMAC have been developing, for the very first time in Europe, a certification scheme for Sustainable Tour Operators in order to formally work with the Protected Areas. This new phase of the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas (ECST) provides an opportunity for operators to organise touristic activities in and around French National and Regional Parks, by following the principles of sustainable tourism proposed by the Charter.

Currently, there are 15 tour operators working with French parks, 12 certified in 2015 and 3 certified early this year. But which are the benefits of this certification? What is the turnover for the entrepreneurs? How does nature benefit from it?

To answer these questions and evaluate the first year of cooperation, IPAMAC analysed the 12 travel agencies certified in 2015. An online survey was conducted and the results are impressive. Over 80 tours were co-developed or validated by Protected Areas, which attracted 2500 customers, representing a turnover for travel agencies of €950 000. On average, tour operators lead groups up to 30 visitors who are highly attracted by eco and sustainable tourism and pay an average of €370 per capita/per tour.

At the same time, nature is also benefiting.

sustainable tourism, quercy,  ecst, charter, europarc

Vue du Causse, Parc Naturel Régional Causses du Quercy

Sustainable Destinations, awarded with the ECST, are implementing a sustainable tourism strategy that gives priority to nature protection. Through a participatory approach, Parks and all relevant stakeholders come together to create a common vision for the territory that ensures nature protection whilst bringing benefits for the local economy.

They commit themselves with concrete actions to be implemented in the course of the following years, as established by the shared strategy. Moreover, the certified Sustainable Tour Operators ensure a high-quality information disseminated on behalf of the Protected areas’ authorities, as well as the respect of accesses and carrying capacity limits, as foreseen within the ECST.

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The ECST principles, “Good for Parks, Good for People” © EUROPARC Federation 2015

Furthermore, being a certified tour operator is not only about making profit. 7 out of 12 tour operators stated an increased effort on improving their ecological footprint, regarding waste, transport and eco-construction. They are more rigorous selecting their suppliers, with whom they require better practices. Striving for transparency also brings a better involvement with local partners and a higher recognition by customers and other institutions.

Tour operators also saw an increased flow of visitors in their websites and a higher level of engagement from potential customers, who were keen to learn more about the Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas.

By following the good results, tour operators aim to start cooperating with other parks, suppliers and agencies at European level and wish for a better promotion of their enterprises and products. For that, they ask for better communication with media and regular organisation of meetings and incoming-tours with other European travel agencies.

The complete study and data are now available in IPAMAC report, in French, and can be downloaded below.

Good for Parks, Good for People - ECST benefits, conditions and guidelines

Good for Parks, Good for People – ECST benefits, conditions and guidelines

The European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected areas is a managing tool awarded by the EUROPARC Federation through an independent verification process. It provides a model of governance that delivers protected areas as sustainable tourism destinations. The award recognises not only the commitment to sustainable

tourism, but the implementation of practical sustainable actions by public and private partners. To learn more about the ECST download the document below “Good for Parks, Good for People”.

Discovering the Italian Regional Parks

Showshoes trip in Ossola Regional Parks © Stefania Petrosillo

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Issued by Stefania Petrosillo available in Italian here

Only four days to know the Italian regional parks! Impossible mission?

Nevertheless, Mr. Ulrich Köster (Director) and Mrs Katharina Denkinger (project coordinator) of the Association of German Nature Parks – VDN, accepted the challenge. From 14th to 18th of March, in the framework of the “Europe’s Nature-, Regional-, and Landscape Parks Project” (on which the EUROPARC Federation is partner), Ulrich and Katharina, accompanied by Mrs Stefania Petrosillo (protected areas expert, in charge of the organization of the study tour) traveled across Italy to collect data and information and to have a perception of the rich and composite reality of the regional parks in this country. The decision about which experiences to visit was not easy, with such a network of regional parks in Italy (134)!

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From the left: Ulrich Köster, Katharina Denkinger, Stefania Petrosillo with Federparchi director Francesco Carlucci and Federparchi officer Corrado Teofili © Katharina Denkinger

For the first taste of the Italian complexity, the delegation met Federparchi-Europarc Italia, for a general overview of the Italian protected areas network, the differences of the Regions legal framework, the challenges on nature and culture protection and sustainable agriculture and tourism, and the collaboration between regional and national parks in biodiversity projects.

Next mission’s day: how is it possible to protect and manage the incredible archeological and natural heritage near the city of Rome? A huge representative of the Direction of Environment and Natural System of Lazio Region and of two Regional Parks, Appia Antica and Veio, illustrated their projects, initiatives, results, challenges. The ancient roman Appia Antica road, “tourist destination” since the “Gran Tour” time, is now a vital protected periurban area at disposal for citizens, tourists, shepherds (yes, sheep in the city…), birds, foxes, that the German delegation appreciated with a nice biking tour.

Appia Antica Regional Park, europarc, vdn

Appia Antica Regional Park landscape © Stefania Petrosillo

The mission continued, and the delegation moved from the warm spring in Rome to the white winter in the Alps. Ossola Regional Parks, at the border with Switzerland, welcomed the group with a fairytale snow-white mountains landscape. The management body of this parks network in Piedmont region is engaged in protection of wildlife, such as the beautiful Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix), in dialogue and collaboration with tourism business and farmers (since 2013 the area is awarded with the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas), in international cooperation (several common activities are implemented with the Swiss Landschaftpark Binntal). An exciting entire day of snow-shoes hiking with the park President and Director let the group discuss on these topics and, at the same time, really enjoy the place.

Finally, the last day: the delegation came back home, after this short but intensive study tour, full of reciprocal inputs, ideas and will of future collaboration.

A synthesis of the Italian regional parks? Lack of budget and spending review versus invincible passion and commitment of parks managers and staff, and incredible beauty, richness and diversity of nature, culture and history.

The VDN “impossible” mission will continue. 10 countries will be visited to gather detailed information and examples of best practice and good management of the Nature, Regional and Landscape Parks of Europe.

The results of the visits, together with the data collected in a specific survey with the collaboration of the national associations of parks (about over one thousand Nature-, Regional-, and Landscape Parks in Europe, which cover a surface of more than 350,000 square kilometers), will be published and presented to the European Institutions in Brussels. The aim is not to have a perfect detailed knowledge of the “parks-diversity” in Europe, but to communicate towards political decision makers the value and the role they play in the network of protected areas in Europe, and, in the other hand, to highlight the importance of EU-funds for their work.

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From the left: Stefania Petrosillo, Katharina Denkinger, Ossola Parks president Paolo Crosa Lenz, Ossola Parks director Ivano De Negri, Ulrich Köster © Stefania Petrosillo

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The delegation with the representative of Lazio Region, Appia Antica and Veio regional Parks © Stefania Petrosillo

The “Europe’s Nature-, Regional-, and Landscape Parks Project” is implemented by the Association of German Nature Parks (Verband Deutscher Naturparke e.V., VDN) in collaboration with EUROPARC Federation. The project sponsor is the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (Bundesamt für Naturschutz) in cooperation with the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz, Bau und Reaktorsicherheit). The project runs from October 2014 to July 2017. For more info about the project please visit

Call for Protected Areas: Study trip in Germany

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EUROPARC Germany is inviting protected areas to a one-week study trip from 12 – 18 June, 2016, to German national parks on the topic “Regional development and tourism in protected areas”.

The study trip offers participants from foreign protected areas an intensive exchange of experience and know-how with protagonists in German parks. The hosting parks are keen to show their successful partnerships, projects and working practices in regional development and sustainable tourism.

Field trips, lectures and workshops with experts and practitioners on-site will give the participants insights into best-practice solutions of the visited parks, support peer learning and joint processing of new strategies for the home park.

Find the programme below and the registration form. For any question please contact EUROPARC Germany, Mrs. Anne Schierenberg at

The deadline for application is 15th April 2016.

“JUNIOR RANGERS ENGAGED FOR NATURE, a European Picture” – Call for partners

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EUROPARC is keen to better value and promote the work of its members with Junior Rangers. We therefore invite around 15 members running a Junior Ranger programme to implement nature conservation activities addressing a particular issue of an endangered habitat and/or threatened species in their protected area. All along the year, these activities should be filmed and the video should be sent to EUROPARC before May 2017. We’ll then put them in common and promote the Junior Ranger network by making a nice documentary.

Deadline to apply is 15th of April, but the activities should be done between May 2016 and May 2017.
All information in the call here.

Contact and interest: Damien at