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Cairngorms National Park recognised for fourth time with prestigious sustainable tourism award

4th December 2023

The Cairngorms National Park has again been recognised at a European level for promoting and achieving sustainable tourism by the EUROPARC Federation, the representative body for European protected areas. Delegates signed the prestigious European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas in Brussels on Thursday 30 November. The Cairngorms National Park was the first national park in the UK to be awarded the Charter in 2005, just two years after the National Park was designated.

On being re-awarded the Charter, Chair of the Cairngorms Tourism Partnership, Xander McDade, said: “At a time when there is a nature and climate crisis, it is more important than ever that we come together across all sectors of the National Park to support and encourage sustainable tourism. This award is testament to the vision, strong commitment and ongoing collaboration of everyone involved in the Cairngorms, from local businesses and Park Authority staff to the 22 communities across the National Park.”

An independent EUROPARC assessor spent two days visiting the Cairngorms National Park in May, speaking to a selection of businesses, visitor attractions and Park Authority staff and partners about the work done to implement the sustainable tourism strategy.

The main strengths listed were the Park Authority’s track record in working in partnership with local communities and organisations to provide support to the tourism sector, and its ability to respond quickly to situations such as the Covid-19 pandemic through groups such as the Cairngorms Tourism Emergency Response Group and Ranger Service. The development of the Managing for Visitors Plan for key areas in the National Park – which ensures that everyone who lives and visits the National Park this year can do so safely and with ease – was also commended.

The assessor commented on National Park-wide public engagement programmes which provide a diverse range of audiences with the opportunity to reconnect with nature such as Volunteer Cairngorms and projects on education and young people. Initiatives such as Badenoch: The Storylands – a destination development project to promote the rich cultural heritage in a quieter area of the National Park – the extension of the Speyside Way and the Tomintoul and Glenlivet Cairngorms Dark Sky Park were all commended in the assessor’s report.

Recommendations were made in the assessor’s report to improve effective management of high visitor flows, land use – especially woodland expansion to join up existing woodlands, improvement of public transport in the Park to reduce car dependency and controlling deer populations so they kept at a level that does not have a negative impact on biodiversity.

EUROPARC’s Executive Director, Carol Ritchie said: It’s a great pleasure to re-award the Cairngorms National Park into the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism. The continued dedication of the Park is an excellent example of the long-term vision that is needed to create tourism that is good for Parks and good for People. We hope it serves as an inspiration for more UK Parks to follow their lead!”