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National Park receives European accolade for second time

16th September 2011

The Cairngorms National Park is once again being recognised at a European level for its work in promoting and achieving sustainable tourism.

Delegates will next week (21st September 2011) sign and collect the prestigious European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas at the annual EUROPARC Conference in Germany.

The Cairngorms National Park was the first National Park in the UK to be awarded the Charter in 2005, just two years after the Park was designated.

On being re-awarded the Charter, Cairngorms National Park Authority Convener, David Green, said: “This year was the real test for us, re-applying for the Charter and being assessed on what we’d actually achieved over the previous five years or so. We passed with flying colours.

“Tourism is vital to the Cairngorms National Park and much of the local economy depends on visitors in one way or another. But we must ensure that 1.5 million visitors a year don’t undermine the very things that attract them in the first place – the landscape, wildlife, culture and tranquillity.”

A EUROPARC assessor spent two days visiting the National Park in March 2011, speaking to a selection of businesses and visitor attractions as well as Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) staff and partners about the work that has been done to implement the sustainable tourism strategy.

Main strengths listed were the CNPA’s enabling approach, energy and commitment; the work with businesses through the Cairngorms Business Partnership (CBP). The creation of the Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust (COAT) as a model for delivering outdoor access work and co-ordination of ranger services using the new brand identity were also highly praised.

The assessor praised the creation of the brand which is widely used throughout the Park by businesses and organisations that have agreed to certain quality and environmental standards. He also praised the range of booklets which promote sustainable tourism including the interpretation guide Sharing the Stories of the Cairngorms National Park, the Producers Directory, the Local Food and Drink Guide and the series of Cairngorms path guides.

“The CNPA and its partners have made great progress in sustainable tourism development assisted by the Charter, its principles and approach. Together they have quietly and efficiently been working to create some excellent practice examples that fit the Cairngorms ethos and place.”

The Cairngorms Sustainable Tourism Forum, which includes representatives of local businesses, communities and conservation interests, has been instrumental in guiding this strategy and the re-award of the Charter is largely down to their hard work and commitment.

Alan Rankin, Chief Executive at the Cairngorms Business Partnership said: “The Charter is a further demonstration of how the Cairngorms National Park has an ongoing dedication to sustainable tourism. It is yet another endorsement of the Park being a very special place that in turn helps differentiate the area from other areas and assists in strengthening the Cairngorms National Park brand in such a competitive market. National Geographic Traveller magazine ranked the Cairngorms National Park as one of the top 20 destinations in the world and the EUROPARC accolade further confirms the area a truly unique destination within Scotland. It helps us show our comprehension that it’s our people, this place and our abundance of nature all working together that provides a unique experience for tourists. We would urge business across the Park to use the Cairngorms National Park brand wherever possible as the Charter has proved that it demonstrates to others a continued dedication to providing a top quality experience whilst adhering to high environmental standards. By using the brand it will associate businesses with a destination that has an absolute respect for the future care of its surroundings as special place that is to be enjoyed and cherished.”

The assessor also encouraged the CNPA to do more to by sharing good practice. He said: “I observe the approach taken by the CNPA as very efficient and competent with many achievements – rather like a quiet, shy “unsung hero” and I would urge them to share their work, experiences and successes with others. To offer leadership and get fully involved with the work of EUROPARC Federation and its members explaining how and why they are using the Charter in a Cairngorms way would really be of benefit to the wider family of protected areas.”

EUROPARC Federation Director, Carol Ritchie, said: “The Federation congratulates the Cairngorms National Park on their successful re-evaluation of the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism. We are delighted that the Cairngorms National Park decided to continue its dedication to sustainable tourism and look forward to supporting and hearing about the most recent developments in the Park over the next five years.”