A Summary of the Europarc Report on
The European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas
A Prospectus for Action for Scotland’s National Parks
This report was commissioned from Europarc Consulting by Loch Lomond and the
Trossachs National Park, the Cairngorms Partnership and Scottish Natural Heritage. The aim
is to look at how the European Charter for Tourism in Protected Areas might provide a
framework for taking forward sustainable tourism in Scotland’s National Parks.
The report provides an outline of the process required in the development of a sustainable
tourism strategy and action plan relating to the 12 Charter principles. It goes on to identify
the current sustainable tourism structures and activities in each Park area and how these might
be strengthened in order to meet the requirements of the Charter.
The Charter is about recognising parks which follow the right approach in developing and
managing sustainable tourism, it does not seek to measure the absolute qualities of the park in
terms of landscape and facilities. The Charter falls into three separate parts:
• For the parks themselves;
• For tourism businesses in the parks; and,
• For tour operators bringing visitors into the parks.
To date only the first part has been developed by Europarc, and 13 Parks have been awarded
Charter status on this basis.
The Relevance of the Charter to Scotland’s Parks
Whilst tourism is an extremely important activity in both Parks and critical to the local
economies neither National Park has a strategy for sustainable tourism. The Charter provides
an opportunity for the Parks to align developing tourism policy and action to current
international thinking and practice, and as new parks developing sustainable tourism policies
for the first time, the ‘checklist aspect’ of the Charter should be particularly helpful. The
report also acknowledges that well-managed tourism can significantly contribute to the
development of the forthcoming National Park Plans, and to the aims as laid out in the
National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000.
Benefits of adopting the Charter process
• Basis for Strengthening Relationships
Charter Principle 3 ‘To involve all those directly implicated by tourism, in its development
and management, in and around the protected area,’ provides the justification for bringing
together tourism organisations; private sector interests; NPA’s; development agencies; and
community and conservation interests; in a permanent forum (or equivalent arrangement).
That is particularly relevant, due to the complexity of the administrative boundaries in both
parks. It will also provide an on-going mechanism for these stakeholder interests to be
involved in how the park is developed, managed and promoted for tourism.
• Raising the Profile of the Parks and Sustainable Tourism
The Charter will raise the profile of the Parks within tourism planning for the area, and of
tourism within the overall planning and management of the Park.
• PR Benefits
Publicity attached to the award of the Charter can be beneficial locally and the Charter can be
used to promote the Park, particularly to European markets, where environmental issues are
• Influencing Tourism Development
The strategy that is produced as part of the process will provide future guidance on tourism
• Internal and External Assessment
The Charter process and verification procedures will provide an objective assessment of
strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing the Parks.
• Influence on Funding Bodies
Adherence to the Charter will support funding applications, and specific funding needs will
be identified during the development of the strategy.
• Networking with Other Parks
There are considerable opportunities for parks to share experiences with the other Charter
Parks and the report provides case studies to illustrate specific issues.
Issues for the Scottish Parks to consider for Stakeholder Engagement
• The role of the NPA and level of commitment by partners
When the NPA is fully established, its role with regard to sustainable tourism needs to be
clearly agreed and defined. The Charter expects the NPA to have ultimate responsibility for
the strategy although this could be effected through a partnership organisation of which the
NPA was a member. It is important that a sufficient level of commitment to sustainable
tourism is shown by the NPA and key partners and staff resources and budgets must be
adequate to meet the requirements of developing and implementing a sustainable tourism
strategy. This also means sufficient time to consult with stakeholders, and the Europarc
report provides feedback from the initial Charter parks on the time and resource input to
achieve Charter status.
• Core Working Group
Although not a specific requirement, a core working group may be appropriate at executive
level to work on implementing the strategy through the action plan.
• Involving Individual Tourism Stakeholders
The report identifies a number of approaches that could be considered such as working
through the ATB’s and their membership; a Park-wide Association and links with sector
groupings eg existing networks of tourism providers but acknowledges that further work on
this is required. This is particularly important with regard to the number of tour operators
and associated hotels that are present in each area. In due course this element will be the third
section of the Charter, but funding or resources for developing it are not currently available.
• Involving Wider Stakeholder Interests
The verification for the Charter specifically points to the involvement of community and local
conservation interests, and although there is considerable evidence of awareness by local
community groups in both Parks, more thought needs to be given to the parallel involvement
of local conservation interests.
• Relationships with National Bodies
It is a requirement of the Charter that it is used to raise the profile of the Parks at national
level and the report recommends that the involvement of VisitScotland and SNH should be
• Developing Networks of Sustainable Tourism Businesses
This is about the second element of the Charter which has not been developed at European
level, but involves encouraging tourism enterprises to abide by a set of sustainable tourism
principles. Europarc is encouraging parks to consider how they can utilise existing national
environmental accreditation schemes, and the parks should encourage participation in such
schemes (eg the Green Tourism Business Scheme) and possibly the development of networks
of accredited enterprises over time.
• Developing Communication Processes
Communication with all stakeholders is extremely important and mechanisms should be
developed to keep tourism enterprises and other interests aware of the ongoing work and
opportunities open to them.
A local undergraduate has offered to do some research as part of her final year thesis of a BA
in Tourism and it is felt that additional investigation into the involvement of the wider
stakeholder interests and communication processes would be particularly valuable at this
Development of Strategy
The sustainable tourism strategy and five-year action plan provides the main basis on which
the Charter application is judged. Normally this would be a stand alone document but it
could form part of a National Park Plan provided it was a substantial separate section. The
strategy should address:
• Protection and enhancement of environment and heritage
• Economic and social development
• Maintenance of quality of life
• Providing visitor satisfaction
The process of preparing the strategy is as important as its contents and should involve
consultation with all stakeholders.
The Europarc report identifies the key tourism strategies that exist in each area and how these
might be drawn into a Park strategy.
Addressing Key Issues
There are a number of areas of action that the Charter expects to be addressed by the parks
within the strategy and these are contained in the following Principles:-
• Protecting and enhancing the natural and cultural heritage
• Understanding and meeting visitor needs and ensuring quality
• Communicating the Special Qualities of the Area
• Encouraging tourism products relating to the protected area
• Training relating to the protected area and sustainable tourism
• Maintaining the local quality of life
• Increasing benefits to the local economy
• Monitoring and influencing visitor flows
The Europarc report expands each of the principles and gives brief examples of relevant
current activity and projects in the two parks.
The Europarc report highlights the considerable interest that was shown during the
consultation for the research and suggests that consideration of the Charter process as a
possible way forward for sustainable tourism in both Park areas by key partners will now
need to take place.
For the Cairngorms there is specific reference to the need to sustain momentum during the
interim period of the National Park Authority and the importance of continuing the
involvement of the Area Tourist Boards, VisitScotland and SNH during this transitional