How protected areas & local stakeholders can work together to create sustainable tourism products

The best practices and methodology for developing ecotourism products in Mediterranean protected areas from DestiMED and MEET Projects have just been published in a new, updated manual - “A guide to plan and promote ecotourism activities and measure their impacts in Mediterranean Protected Areas following the MEET approach”.

A comprehensive guide on ecotourism product development 

The process of designing an ecotourism product in the context of a Mediterranean protected area is indeed a very special one. From governance, to promotion and impact monitoring, protected areas need to take into consideration a wide variety of different aspects. In many cases, parks are lacking the time and resources to support this process. To cover this need, DestiMED Project has worked on a comprehensive methodology for ecotourism product development, which is being continuously improved and refined. This approach, based on the outcomes of the MEET project, has now been enhanced and updated thanks to successful cooperation between regional conservation organizations, local authorities, staff from protected areas and local tourism service providers. 

To encourage the parks, but also the public and private sector to engage in the development of ecotourism products, DestiMED has compiled these guidelines in a manual. The manuals recommendations and tools are applicable to any protected area wishing to promote ecotourism activities. Additionally, the manual includes specific guidance and criteria for becoming a member of the MEET Network, a network of Mediterranean Protected Areas gathering forces for management and development of ecotourism in their destinations. 

Read the full manual here:
https://destimed.interreg-med.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/Sites/Sustainable_Tourism/Projects/DestiMED/News_events/DestiMed_guide_2019.pdf

Among other aspects, this manual describes best practices such as: the creation of  a local ecotourism cluster (LEC) following the concept of the European Charter of Sustainable Tourism; the development of a solid ecotourism product which is easily promotable; the monitoring and measuring the ecological footprint of the itinerary. As well as, highlighting activities which are strongly recommended for inclusion in the ecotourism offer. 

This page summarizes some of the key aspects and highlights of this guide:

 

GOVERNANCE

Creating a Local Ecotourism Cluster

One basic requirement of DestiMED approach  is establishing a Local Ecotourism Cluster (LEC). Mature tourism destinations often develop these tourism clusters naturally, but many do not take into account their impact on the environment. However, when operating within protected area destinations, the LEC is different,  it is a unique tourism cluster which places the Protected Area at its core and focuses on ecotourism products and sustainable practices at every step of the supply chain. 


PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

7 Key recommendations for developing an ecotourism product: 

  1. Maintain quality activities and services featured in the product to preserve credibility.

  1. Be honest and critical. Not every aspect or attraction of a destination makes for a successful tourism product. You must choose itinerary elements which best fit the demands of the market and traveller.

  2. Know your target market segments, and their differing travel styles (e.g., the difference between European and American tourism and travel customs).

  3. It is important to manage clients’ expectations. You must deliver what you promise. When in doubt, under-promise and over-deliver.

  4. Make sure you are sustainable throughout the product’s supply chain (accommodation, restaurants, transportation, etc.). Ecotourism consumers and trade partners will be particularly critical of this aspect of the product.

  5. When determining a price for your product, it is important to survey or benchmark similar products in the market. Understand that the price will impact how the product is perceived. In this respect, it’s just as important to avoid under-pricing a product as it is to avoid overpricing it.

  6. Invest in high-quality visuals (e.g., photographs, videos) and high-quality copy when describing and marketing your product.

ACTIVITIES

Soft adventure and culture-focused activities are the central theme of ecotourism products. DestiMED has also identified activities within the selected target markets that should be strongly considered in the ecotourism product design for Mediterranean Protected Areas: