Meet the 2023 ECST awarded Protected Areas!

Oscar Rodbag - Arxiu Parc Natural de l’Alt Pirineu

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During a special award ceremony at the European Parliament on the 30th of November, the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism (ECST) certification was (re-)awarded to Parks and Protected Areas.

Creating a sustainable change in tourism

The European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas is a practical management tool that enables Protected Areas to develop and implement sustainable tourism strategies, thus benefitting nature and people, as well as local economies.

This year EUROPARC re-awarded 11, and welcomed 3 new Parks to the Network. The ECST Part I is now 94 Sustainable Destinations from 15 countries strong, with many more businesses and tour operators committed to Part II and III. They are spread all over Europe, but unite around the shared vision to make sustainable tourism a meaningful quality experience, which safeguards natural and cultural values, supports local livelihoods and quality of life, as well as sustainable, regional development.

To become an ECST certified Park, Protected Areas have to go through a certification process that includes both a written documentation of how they are creating sustainable tourism, and an on-site visit by verifiers. Those Parks that are then accepted into this leading Sustainable Tourism network, are officially awarded during a special award ceremony at the European Parliament. In 2023, we were kindly hosted by MEP Tilly Metz of the Greens/European Free Alliance.

The implementation of the ECST is an opportunity to work side-by-side with local business partners and ensure that tourism can bring social and economic benefits to the local community.

The key principles of the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas are the protection of natural and cultural heritage, participation by all stakeholders, and effective partnership working. It ensures Parks are planning to prepare and implement a sustainable tourism strategy, to realize the environmental, social and economic benefits of everyone working more sustainably.

Europe’s Protected Areas are drivers of sustainable development. For this, a systematic approach to Sustainable Tourism is essential component.

Three new Parks were awarded!

Overall, 14 Parks were awarded in 2023. This includes three new awardees and 11 Parks that have successfully re-applied to the ECST. EUROPARC is incredibly proud to have developed this programme over 20 years ago. It’s a great achievement to see it grow to its current level as the largest network of Protected Area sustainable tourism practitioners.

The continious growth of this network, as well as the large amount of Parks that have recommitted to the ECST, is further proof that Protected Areas are drivers of sustainble tourism and sustainable regional development.

Says EUROPARC Executive Director Carol Ritchie.

Get to know the new awardees here:

Cadí-Moixeró Nature Park

Picture credit: North face of Cadi – Jordi Boixader Catot – Arxive Cadí-Moixeró Natural Park

The Cadí-Moixeró Nature Park in Catalonia takes an all-encompassing approach to Sustainable Tourism: The area focusses on providing public transport, whilst also offering on-demand transportation services for those areas that are not frequented by public transport. Furthermore, the Park collaborates with various pro-inclusion collectives to provide tourism experiences for those with special needs. Through fairs, campaigns and displays, the Park also has numerous actions towards promoting and protecting local producers. These are just a few examples of how the Park is providing a sustainable tourism experience for all!

Sabinares del Arlanza-La Yecla Nature Park

Picture credit: Sabinares del Arlanza-La Yecla_Fundación Patrimonio Natural de Castilla y León

This Spanish Protected Area is home to what can be considered some of the most extensive and best preserved juniper forests in Europe, and potentially worldwide. Despite being a young park (declared in 2020), the Sabinares del Arlanza-La Yecla Nature Park utilized the ECST to develop tourism in the area from its very beginning. The Park in particular focusses on working with businesses wanting to provide sustainable experiences. Furthermore, a positive example of their work is the current development of a volunteer programme which also extends the invitation to towns to participate in tourism volunteer activities.

Alt Pirineu Nature Park

Picture credit: Oscar Rodbag – Arxiu Parc Natural de l’Alt Pirineu

The Catalonian Alt Pirineu Nature Park (PNPA) focusses on nature interpretation, involving visitors in restoration activities, and regulating the flow of visitors in high-frequency areas. The Park is active in a project that encourages visitors to calculate the carbon footprint of their visit and offset it by supporting conservation projects. The Association of Interpreter Guides of the PNPA includes interpreter guides trained and accredited by the Park. It is a good example of the possibilities of joint work between tourist agents and the Protected Area. Furthermore, the Park is also involved in a project to preserve local agricultural varieties. Here, the Park not only involves visitors, but also local residents to plant and monitors the seeds and plants. All this and more convinced the verifiers that the Alt Pirnieu Nature Park was a worthy candidate for the ECST.

11 Parks renewed their dedication to Sustainable Tourism

Picture credit: James Shooter, Cairngorms National Park

It’s not just new Parks that were put in the spotlight: 11 Parks also recommitted to the ECST in 2023. These are:

We congratulate all areas, old and new, that have committed to the work of the ECST. The preservation of Europe’s natural heritage relies on good quality, sustainable, tourism, and these Parks are driving this change forward. As a representative of the Kemeri National Park says:

[The ECST is a] Roadmap to genuinely sustainable development, where all parties work together as one team, finding wise ways of using the amazing potential of our natural values to the full extent, without compromising the quality of their existence in the long term.

Are you interested in joining the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas? Then start the verification process now! All information can be found on the dedicated webpage here:

Join the ECST

EUROPARC thanks MEP Tilly Metz of the Greens/European Free Alliance for kindly hosting us at the European Parliament.