How the Ecological Footprint can help to measure and minimize the impact of ecotourism packages in Spain

Ecological footprint methodology applied for the first time in 2 Spanish protected area packages - Delta del Ebro and the Menorca Biosphere Nature Reserve.

Malaga, June 12, 2019 Press Release (IUCN-Med) - The Seminar of the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Spain opens today in Valsaín (Segovia) with the presentation of the results from DestiMED project, which utilizes the methodology of the ecological footprint to monitor and reduce the impact of ecotourism products in protected areas. Delta del Ebro and the Menorca Biosphere Reserve have been the two Spanish protected areas selected to develop the pilot actions of the DestiMED project, coordinated by the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation.

"Ecotourism can be a viable alternative to minimize the impacts of tourism on ecosystems. However, we need to share the same sustainability standards and monitoring tools in order to understand this impact. The Ecological Footprint methodology developed within the DestiMED project is the first attempt to establish a standardized procedure to calculate the amount of resources being used by ecotourism products in protected areas, and it is the first time this methodology has been applied in Spain”, explains Jeremy Sampson, Ecosystem Communications Officer at IUCN Mediterranean Cooperation Center.

The DestiMED project, funded by the Interreg Med programme, which in turn is fostered by the European Regional Development Fund, has been implemented in six Mediterranean countries, with the support of several institutional partners, including Regione Lazio (leading partner), Federparchi association in Italy, MedPAN network in France, the National Agency for Protected Areas (NAPA) in Albania, WWF Adria in Croatia and WWF Mediterranean. "The most innovative aspect of DestiMED is that it has provided a specific methodology for measuring impact by tourist and activity, which is useful both for the local tour operator and for the manager of the protected area," stresses Mercè Mariano, environmental specialist from the Delta del Ebro Biosphere Reserve in Catalonia.

"Bringing the local tourism sector and conservation community closer, while minimizing the Ecological Footprint is a very positive achievement." After completing the monitoring phase, the ecotourism packages developed in DestiMED will be presented to international markets to be commercialized with other protected areas, under a single brand and promotional platform called MEET (The Mediterranean Experience of Ecotourism).

The seminar in Valsaín will gather representatives of protected areas from all over Spain, with the goal of exchanging experiences on the contribution of sustainable tourism to conservation of protected areas. This meeting has been organized by EUROPARC, a transnational network that brings together 106 protected areas throughout Europe, in collaboration with the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the National Center for Environmental Education (CENEAM).