MEET Network: Ecotourism Development in Mediterranean Protected Areas

Samaria National Park and MEET Network
Published: 15 December 2020
Last edited: 15 December 2020
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Summary

The Mediterranean Experience of Ecotourism (MEET) Network is an association of Protected Areas based in the Mediterranean Basin that is dedicated to strengthening conditions for the region to become an internationally recognised ecotourism destination. Formally established in 2018, MEET is born out of two EU-projects which ran from 2013. Through these projects the association has established a unique approach to ecotourism development that embraces local, cultural and natural values in Mediterranean Protected Areas. The MEET approach encourages public and private stakeholders from the conservation and tourism sectors to work together and build ecotourism products that put the Protected Area at the heart of the ecotourism experience and benefit local communities.
 

Over the last 5 years, more than 40 Mediterranean Protected Areas have tried and tested this approach with MEET´s hands-on support, providing essential capacity building, advocacy and development tools to ensure successful results.

Classifications

Region
East Europe
North Africa
West and South Europe
Scale of implementation
Multi-national
Ecosystem
Beach
Coastal forest
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Theme
Access and benefit sharing
Ecosystem services
Islands
Local actors
Protected and conserved areas governance
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Standards/ certification
Sustainable financing
Sustainable livelihoods
Tourism
Urban and Disaster Risk Management
Territorial and spatial development
Challenges
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Ecosystem loss
Inefficient management of financial resources
Infrastructure development
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Lack of infrastructure
Poor governance and participation
Sustainable development goals
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Sendai Framework
Target 6: Enhance international cooperation to developing countries through adequate and sustainable support to complement their national actions for implementation of this Framework by 2030
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with a company
Direct engagement with associations

Location

Mediterranean Basin | All countries bordering the Mediterranean plus Portugal, Jordan and Serbia

Challenges

Barriers to Ecotourism Development in Mediterranean Protected Areas:
 

  1. A lack of cross-sector collaboration and community integration between conservation and tourism sectors. 
     

  2. Despite the existence of several standard, certifications and indicators for sustainable tourism, the ecotourism sector lacks tools which provide evidence based solutions and would allow operators and protected areas to improve the quality and sustainability of their products. 
     

  3. Increased market orientation is needed as currently small-scale tourism products and itineraries in PAs are generally supply-led or born out of unplanned initiatives, rather than responding to market demands and planned processes.
     

  4. In cases where ecotourism products are developed they then often struggle to reach the market due to lack of resources and capacity at a local level and the deterring competition from silos and other competitors who dominate the market.

Beneficiaries

Protected Area Communities (these figures are estimates):

46 Protected Areas

92 Protected Area Staff

368 Local Service Providers (hotels, tour guides etc.)

46 Inbound tourism operators

92 Local and regional authorities

How do the building blocks interact?

The four building blocks of the MEET approach to ecotourism development are implemented by the protected area and other key stakeholders with the support and guidance of MEET Network every step of the way. MEET has also developed a series of tools to support the implementation of it´s approach including: 

 

MEET Manual: This is a step-by-step guide for the MEET ecotourism development approach.

 

MEET Online Trainings: MEET recently launched two online training modules on the ecotourism product development process and how to measure the ecological footprint of the product, to train interested stakeholders and potential members. This new online tool is free to use and can be found on www.conservationtraining.org . 

 

Ecological Footprint Calculator: The calculator is a key part of the measuring and monitoring element of the approach. It is freely available on-line for all protected areas to use. As mentioned above MEET has also developed an online training to support the use of this tool. 


MEET catalogue: The MEET catalogue was finalized for the season 2020/2021 and being promoted B2B in international fora (ATTA, ITB, WTM) and individually by MEET and the commercial partners.

Impacts

  1. Strengthened relationships in protected area destinations through the development of Local Ecotourism Clusters which brings together a group of tourism and conservation stakeholders to develop and manage ecotourism in the Protected Area.
     
  2. Over forty quality ecotourism experiences have been developed so far under the MEET Approach for ecotourism development based on good governance, quality experiences and evidenced sustainability.
     
  3. Developed methodology for evidencing sustainability of ecotourism, through impact monitoring tools such as the MEET DestiMED Ecological Footprint Calculator MEET is paving the way to provide Protected Areas with the tools to measure and monitor the environmental and social impact of ecotourism on the park and its surrounding communities. This monitoring gives more credibility to the tourism offer through evidenced sustainability and allows the Protected Area to continuously improve the quality and sustainability of their ecotourism experiences. 

Story

Colline Metallifere Tuscan Mining Geopark & MEET Network

Stories from MEET Protected Areas  

 

Colline Metallifere Tuscan Mining Geopark 

 

Thanks to MEET standards and DestiMED participatory trainings and the professional experts of the network, we are becoming more and more aware of the eco-tourism markets and customers’ expectations, and able to develop ecotourism products in a professional way.  Reducing our tourism impact.

 

Through MEET Network our Protected Area has developed a strong partnership with a local tour operator called, "Travel Today T.O."  (www.travetoday.it ), that is growing up with us, and is now our reliable and green commercial partner. 

 

The Ecological Footprint Calculator that MEET developed is a powerful and innovative tool, and carbon footprint data it provides is giving us the opportunity, as well as, our service providers, tourists and visitors to be aware of their impact and gives them the possibility to reduce it and compensate it with tangible actions.

 

All this is now leading us to have more than 20 ecotourism experiences, spanning from half day to many weeks, that are completely based around supporting local businesses and our local community (www.visitmaremma.net). – Alessandra Casini, Park Director at Colline Metallifere Tuscan Mining Geopark

 

Vlora, Shkodra & Divjake-Karavasta Parks, Albania 

 

We were presented with the concept of LEC by MEET Network while setting up our tour package proposals. The idea stands in the fact that we want to bring visitors in Protected Areas around Albania (Vlora, Shkodra and later on Divjake-Karavasta). We would have hardly had the very positive results we had and the great enthusiastic feedback by sustainable tourism specialists, without us implementing the sort of communication and decision making that was made possible by the collaboration of all sorts of different actors in the preparation.

 

We have learnt absolutely great lessons through MEET and we definitely see the value in applying the MEET approach to our work on conceiving more travel experiences for our clients in Protected Areas and National Parks. As a result of MEET, we are now careful to consider and put together a Local Economical Cluster which really makes it possible for everyone to get involved and to have as many people as possible profiting from the ecotourism experiences. Many thanks MEET! - Elton Caushi, Inbound Tour Operator, Albanian -Trip

Contributed by

Natalie Beckett International Union for the Conservation of Nature Mediterranean Centre for Cooperation

Other contributors

MEET Network