The 12th of August has proved “glorious” for the Cairngorms National Park with the awarding of the prestigious European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas. The Cairngorms National Park, which is only two years old, is the first UK national park to gain the accolade.
The announcement was made earlier today (Friday 12 August) at the Park Authority’s monthly board meeting, which was held in Braemar.
The European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas is only awarded to European areas which meet the highest of standards for the sustainable development and management of tourism.
The new status will be presented to representatives of the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) by the Europarc Federation, an umbrella organisation of over 500 protected areas across 37 countries. The official signing of the Charter certificate will take place at the Europarc conference in Holland in September 2005.
In May, an inspector from Europarc visited the Cairngorms to meet with a variety of organisations and individuals involved in tourism ranging from accommodation providers to visitor attractions.
Convenor of the CNPA Andrew Thin said: “The assessor from Europarc met with many stakeholders that we work closely with, to ensure that those working in tourism in the National Park share the same vision and goals. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to meet the assessor and explain their roles and objectives in relation to tourism in the Park. He has clearly formed an excellent impression of how everyone, from small businesses to large organisations, are fully committed to sustainable tourism. Staff at the Park Authority have been working to make this happen for some time now and both the quality of their submissions to Europarc and the co-ordination, facilitation and enabling role they adopted when the assessor was here are to be applauded.”
The CNPA’s Tourism and Economic Development Manager, Debbie Strang added: “With tourism being a key economic driver in the Cairngorms, it is important that future development and growth is managed responsibly to ensue that the special qualities of the park are preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. Our submission to Europarc was made on the basis of a strategy that outlines a range of priorities for action including environment management and conservation; information and interpretation; visitor management; partnership working and community involvement.
“In a survey of tourism businesses last year, 71 per cent of businesses said that their top priorities for managing and promoting tourism in the Cairngorms are to conserve the area’s landscape and wildlife, to encourage visitors to conserve the area’s landscape and wildlife and to promote good customer service. What the Charter means for tourism businesses in the Park is that, with the commitment from all those involved in tourism, we can protect and enhance what attracts people here and thereby increase tourism value to the area.”
In addition to the final recommendation, the Europarc assessor provided the CNPA with constructive feedback and advice including the continued involvement of local community and conservation interests in the delivery of sustainable tourism. It was also noted that it is still early days for the Park Authority and that a review in five years time will assess exactly what achievements have been made.
Ian Dunlop, Area Director for VisitScotland commented: “We are delighted to learn of this award for the Cairngorms National Park. It relates so closely to our shared objective to provide great experiences for visitors in a way which protects and enhances our wonderful natural environment. I would like to congratulate the Cairngorms National Park Authority for their vision in making this long term commitment and also a special “well done” to the authority staff who managed to bring together all the tourism businesses and other stakeholders who contributed to the award of the Charter.
“It is great to see the Cairngorms National Park playing such a central role in making Scotland such a special place to visit.”
Over the next two weeks, tourism businesses and other interested groups will receive a copy of ‘Tourism in the National Park’. The booklet outlines the Park Authority’s work to date relating to sustainable tourism and the actions for the future that are required from enterprises in the Park and all partners to ensure that the Charter is retained. Anyone who does not receive a copy but would like one should contact the CNPA offices in Grantown-on-Spey on tel: 01479 873535 or email: [email protected]