Mediterranean Protected Areas Gather in Croatia to Discuss New Ecotourism Offer

Ecotourism Conference in Split Kicks Off With Launch Of New Protected Area Network, Focused on Ecotourism that Support Conservation While Reducing the Footprint of Travelers.

6 March 2017

Ecotourism can be transformed into a genuine solution to the current tourism challenges facing the Mediterranean while directly supporting conservation of the region´s incredible biodiversity. This is the principle belief bringing together more than 60 representatives from nearly 20 Mediterranean protected areas, who have gathered in Split this week under the framework of DestiMED project, which is funded by the European Union’s Interreg Med Programme.

DestiMED supports Mediterranean protected areas and their private sector partners by providing them with tools to develop, manage, and promote high quality ecotourism packages, both at local scale and together in a regional association. This association, called MEET (Mediterranean Experience of Ecotourism) Network, was formally launched this week as a platform for parks to exchange ideas and share marketing strategies over the long term.

¨These ecotourism packages generate positive outcomes for conservation and communities, by strengthening the local economy while minimizing the impacts of tourism on natural and cultural resources,¨ says Iacopo Sinibaldi, DestiMED Project Manager representing Lead Partner Regione Lazio in Italy.

The training in Split supports protected areas across the entire Mediterranean region, which have gathered local actors from private and public sector to collaboratively design new ecotourism packages. They are testing these packages according to a newly developed quality and sustainability monitoring system, which features an innovative approach to measuring and reducing the environmental impact of tourism on the natural resources that sustain protected area communities.

This new tool is based on the established Ecological Footprint framework, and is being developed in collaboration with globally-recognized research organization Global Footprint Network.

¨We are thrilled that protected areas in the region will not only have the tools and knowledge they need to ensure that tourism has a net positive impact on their territory, but also a place to work with other like-minded parks to promote a new vision of Mediterranean tourism to the market,¨ said Antonio Troya, Director of the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation and President of the MEET Association.

A first round of tests for the new packages took place in Fall 2017, and a second round including ecotourism experts from around the globe will begin in April 2018, with further tests envisaged later this year.

The full list of DestiMED project partners includes: Regione Lazio (Lead Partner), IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation, MedPan, Federparchi, WWF Adria, WWF Mediterranean, and the National Agency of Protected Areas (NAPA) in Albania.