Mediterranean Protected Areas Learn New Approaches to Develop Ecotourism

The DestiMED PLUS project pilot actions based in 9 Protected Area destinations across the Mediterranean are taking steps to improve the quality and sustainability of their tourism offer, implementing the MEET approach for ecotourism development after a successful online training programme run by IUCN Mediterranean between June and October 2020.

The Interreg Med funded project DestiMed PLUS, delivered a three-part online training programme for Protected Area destinations across the Mediterranean. The training covered three main topics: governance, product development and indicators. The training was led by IUCN Med and took place between July and November 2020. More than 50 participants took part in one or more of the modules, including Regional Authorities, Protected Areas  and Tourism Operators from the 9 DestiMED PLUS pilot sites, based across 6 Mediterranean countries (Albania, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy and Spain).

The training aimed to equip destinations to develop an ecotourism experience that highlights the important role parks play in the Mediterranean, not only for nature conservation but also for people, as sources of social and economic benefits for the hosting communities. The training has equipped destinations to: 

  1. Establish a Local Ecotourism Cluster (LEC) which brings together public and private organisations from the conservation and tourism sectors to jointly develop and manage ecotourism in the protected area destination; 

  2. Design a multi-day ecotourism product including a range of experiences and services, which place conservation and the hosting communities at the centre; 

  3. Collect data to measure and manage the environmental and social impacts of the ecotourism products, including the ecological footprint, socio-economic, conservation and governance indicators that form the MEET Standard for ecotourism products.

So what's next? 

Protected Areas have now set up their Local Ecotourism Clusters, resulting in more public - private collaboration in destination management, as in Protected Area of North Karpathos and Saria Island in Rhodes, Greece and Cres- Lošinj Marine Protected Area in Croatia. Each cluster has been working to create a multi-day ecotourism product built around storytelling  and the MEET values: of conservation, community, consciousness and connection. This product will now undergo a comprehensive assessment following the MEET standard and its indicators, such as the ecological footprint of the package or the social and economic assessment of the suppliers.

The delivery of the training was a collaborative effort from several DestiMed PLUS project partners coordinated by IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation; including WWF Mediterranean; Fundació Universitària Balmes and the Region of Sardinia Department for the Environment with support from the Global Footprint Network and E.C.O Institute of Ecology who are consultants in the project, along with expert guest speakers from Albanian Trip , Colline Metallifere Tuscan Mining Park and GreenSpot Travel.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the training couldn´t be carried out in person and was done completely online. To make the experience as engaging as possible, the training used online learning tools such as Google Classroom and Zoom, and a mix of webinars quizzes, readings and exercises. The trainees also had the opportunity to experience the MEET Network course on which has been recently launched. 

For more updates on DestiMed PLUS project make sure you follow the #DestiMEDPLUS #Training2Action posts on MEET Network social media (Facebook , Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram), or check out the DestiMed PLUS website