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Learning from international colleagues – rewarding study trips to protected areas in Germany, Austria and the UK

Study trip „regional development and tourism in protected areas“ in Germany

On the topic “regional development and tourism in protected areas” an intensive study trip to protected areas in Germany took place from the 14th to 18th of May 2017. Park staff and volunteers from protected areas across Europe were invited to German protected areas, as part of the project “International exchange of competences of players in protected areas” (ANNIKA), organized by EUROPARC Germany.

Participants from seven European countries, including the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Slovenia, Hungary and Sweden had the opportunity to get to know best practices regarding regional development and tourism in the Mueritz National Park and Wadden Sea National Park. Just as the previous study trips of German participants visiting protected areas in other European countries, the main aim of this study trip was on discussing and exchanging experiences and know-how with each other and the representatives of the hosting protected areas.

The nationwide park’s partner business program of EUROPARC Germany has been regarded as especially interesting by the foreign participants, as similar attempts in other European countries are still in their infancy or even inexistent at all. Hence, the participants were especially excited to meet best practice partnerships between the national parks visited and various local businesses in the national parks and enjoyed inspiring discussions with the canoe rental and a fisherman at Mueritz National Park or with the manager of the information centre of the nature conservation station from the “Schutzstation Wattenmeer” at the Hallig Hooge.

The intensive collaboration between the Wadden Sea National Park and nature conservation organizations such as NABU or Schutzstation Wattenmeer and the involvement of volunteers in the protected area has been regarded as particularly impressive by the participants. Both organizations deliver monitoring and visitor management activities and thus, support the daily work of the Wadden Sea National Park.

Another eager discussed topic was the co-existence of tourism and nature conservation. As expressed by participants from the Balaton region, it is difficult to get the local population enthusiastic about the preservation of nature, as they rely heavily on tourism. But, as the example of the Wadden Sea National Park shows, this can be changed by working together closely with local communities. Nowadays, with the full support of the local population, the Wadden Sea National Park demonstrates that pristine nature and biodiversity contribute to the added value and attractiveness of whole regions and, therefore, make a large contribution to regional development and tourism.

During the five-day study trip, the participants from European protected areas were able to experience best practices of the two national parks, which differed not only in their landscape diversity, but also in their approaches to tourism and regional development. This wide-ranging experience was a rewarding opportunity and inspiration for guests and hosts alike, who return to their daily work with new ideas and fresh concepts.

The project is financed by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) with funds of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).

Photo: © Stephanie Schubert

 

Study trip „regional development and tourism in protected areas“ in the UK

Gruppenfoto der Studiengruppe Großbritannien in der Wye Valley AONB

The second study trip in the course of the project “International exchange of competences of players in protected areas” (ANNIKA), organized by EUROPARC Germany, took place in the UK from the 16th to 22nd of October 2016.

The focus of the study trip was on regional development, tourism and the involvement of volunteers in protected areas. The nine participants – staff from protected areas and EUROPARC Germany – had the opportunity to experience best practice examples referring to the topic in the Brecon Beacons National Park, Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB), and the Cotswolds AONB. Highlights of the study trip were e.g. visits to large-scale tourism projects such as the “Cotswold Way National trail”, a long distance route that has been awarded the Walkers are Welcome” status. Discussions with the British park staff clarified the associated challenges of this project such as legal issues concerning property rights. Other interesting inspirations were drawn e.g. from the “Brecon Beacons Ambassador Project”. This project consists of workshops offered to local tourism businesses and instructs the participants on how to inspire visitors and locals about their region. The “Brecon Beacons Ambassador Project” or the “Wye Valley River Festival” were perceived to be best practice examples for regional development, as they focus on a positive interplay between people and nature. In the German participant’s view this approach would give German protected areas the chance to better involve local people in the development of protected areas. More exchange of expertise between the study trip hosts and participants was stimulated by the presented “Cotswolds Choice” initiative, which is an environmental quality brand promoting landscape-friendly local products. The participants were also able to learn from innovative and pioneering approaches to volunteer management in protected areas such as the use of new media or an interactive volunteer calendar to manage volunteer working hours.

The study trip was a rewarding opportunity for active exchange between representatives of the host parks and German park staff, who had the possibility to share their know-how and experiences and discuss new ideas and concepts.

The project is financed by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) with funds of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).

Photo: © Stephanie Schubert

 

Study trip „accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities in protected areas“ in Austria

Gruppenfoto der österreichischen Studiengruppe am Kaunertaler Gletscher

Seven participants of the first study trip to Austria on the topic of “accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities in protected areas” organised by EUROPARC Germany just arrived happily back home. The study trip was part of the project “international exchange of competences of players in protected areas” (ANNIKA). This project gives payed and volunteer park staff the possibility to exchange know-how, experiences and strategies in specific aspects of park management with colleagues in protected areas of other European countries.

The German park staff were invited by the Donau-Auen and Gesaeuse National Park as well as by the Purkersdorf and Kaunergrat Nature Park from the 4th to the 10th of September 2016. Besides the insights gained by visiting best practice examples of the mentioned parks, the participant’s and host’s main benefit of the trip was the possibility to discuss successful concepts and measures in the field of accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities with other professionals and colleagues. Several new ideas and suggestions were given to the German participants, e.g. relating to an off-road tour especially for blind and partially sighted people, to the “Swiss-Tracs” – an off-road towing device for wheelchairs – and to a Rolli Road Book with tour instructions for wheelchair user. In return, the German participants could give detailed advice based on their own expertise.

For 2017 EUROPARC Germany is planning four study trips for European park staff to visit best practice protected areas in Germany in the area of “regional development and sustainable tourism”, “accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities”, “education for sustainable development”, and “park management”. Selected German parks will give insight into their work and serve as forum for a professional exchange with the participants. If you work for a protected area as payed or volunteer park staff and are interested in transboundary exchange, EUROPARC Germany invites you to seize this special opportunity and to apply for participation.

The project is financed by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) with funds of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).

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Photo: © Tobias Wiesen