1 Tahrcountry Musings: Sustainable practices create added value for businesses and visitors in protected natural areas

Friday, December 09, 2011

Sustainable practices create added value for businesses and visitors in protected natural areas


The project ‘Sustainable Tourism in Enterprises, Parks and Protected Areas’ (STEPPA) comes to a close this month. The results of the research carried out within STEPPA show that the performance of a business improves when sustainable measures are implemented. In addition, eco-labels could improve the experience of tourists in protected areas if they were more recognisable.

STEPPA, funded through the EU grant scheme Knowledge networks for the competitiveness and sustainability of European Tourism, ran from June 2010 until the end of this month. The project involved ten partners from seven European countries including the EUROPARC Federation, Leeds Metropolitan University and the lead partner the University of Eastern Finland. The project specifically examined the added value of sustainable tourism in protected natural areas for local businesses using EUROPARC’s European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas (ECST) as the basis for the research.

Research done by Leeds Metropolitan University on nearly 900 tourism and hospitality businesses from 59 European protected areas showed that sustainability and business performance have a positive impact on each other. The main reasons for acting sustainably are altruistic ones, with savings, marketing benefits, and customer demand raking lower. Unfortunately businesses that claim to undertake a large number of sustainability actions often find it hard to implement specific examples. In general businesses that carryout more sustainability measures believe they have benefitted from them and are more satisfied with their financial performance. Finally green businesses do not communicate this effectively.

A second survey was carried out by the University of Eastern Finland on 1300 visitors in protected natural areas across Europe. The aim was to find out visitors' views on sustainability and whether sustainable tourism schemes give added value to their trip. The results showed that there is a definite added value for visitors. In addition, tourists in protected areas are willing to participate in sustainable activities whilst travelling and they have positive opinions on eco-labels. Unfortunately green certificates or eco-labels are not very recognisable to these tourists.

Other project results included a literature review of sustainable practices within the ECST and a document proposing a revised and updated methodology for the ECST with regards to the businesses in the parks participating in the ECST. A summary of each of the research reports are available in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish, and the comprehensive reports in English from

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