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”.