CEETO: Outcomes of the sustainable Tourism Conference in Croatia

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The three-day International Conference on Protected Areas and Sustainable Tourism that took place in Opatija, organised by the CEETO project partners with the special involvement of the partner World Organization for Nature Protection WWF Adria, analysed the influence of tourism sector in decision-making, related to the management of protected areas. The Conference participants concluded that

we are all guests of nature and we should behave accordingly.

however, this is something seldom happening and that we need put in place – if we want to preserve the beautiful nature that surrounds us, in protected areas and Natura 2000 sites, and to ensure local communities benefit from such coexistence with nature.

“The tourism sector should recognise all the values of a particular protected area and, as a partner, participate in tourism management and in monitoring of the impact of tourism activities, especially visitation of the area,” said Andrea Štefan from WWF Adria while presenting the results of group work sessions with almost 80 participants of this conference that came from eight countries.

Improving Tourism in Protected Areas

Conference participants concluded that one way to keep track of whether tourism activities are sustainable is the use of existing European quality labels and methodologies in which natural values need to be integrated. The tourism sector representatives should be partners in new major topics such as climate change, but also participate in creating and ensuring financial resources for protected areas.

Protected areas should work with all stakeholders to achieve sustainability in their area. Stakeholders should also be allowed to participate in decision-making process which is impossible to achieve without support from the top level. This is the only way they can participate in the development of local economies, which is necessary for everyone“, concludes Štefan, adding that the goals of education and interpretation within protected areas can be achieved through the creation of tourist offers.

For that, it is fundamental that each protected area establishes a member of staff dedicated to tourism development, who knows how to establish and maintain a relationship with the local community. Building mutual trust takes time but the results can be very positive.

The CEETO Project

Within the CEETO project, eight protected areas, which are also Natura 2000 sites, will pilot test innovative management and monitoring tools based on the EUROPARC Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas methodology. The objective is to establish an innovative governance system for sustainable tourism based on a participatory approach. With a special focus on the impact of tourism on biodiversity in these areas, the project will improve the capacity of protected area managers for the sustainable management and use of natural values.

The Conference on Protected Areas and Sustainable Tourism was organized within the framework of the project “Ecotourism of Central Europe: Tools for Nature Protection – CEETO” co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund funds within the Interreg Central Europe program.