"Protected areas, such as national parks, natural parks and / or UNESCO World Heritage areas, are a great attraction for tourists interested in exploring the natural areas, culture,and wildlife in the Mediterranean.
Malaga has been the focal point of a meeting for the promotion of ecotourism in Mediterranean protected areas, with the participation of representatives from six countries at a training event organized by IUCN-Med. The training took place under the framework of DestiMED, a new project funded by the European Union under the Interreg Mediterranean Programme.
Ecotourism is experiencing growing global and regional demand. In the Mediterranean area, ecotourism is still organized in a fragmented way, with an absence of standards and a need for improved coordination of management and marketing strategies.
The DestiMED project brings together 13 protected areas to collectively develop, manage, and promote ecotourism across the region, and during this training session, the protected areas will be trained to develop new products that inspire transformative nature experiences and cultural exchange. DestiMED is the result of the MEET initiative "Mediterranean Experience of Ecotourism", a cooperation project that ended in 2015 and was the inspiration to launch cooperation in the field of ecotourism in the Mediterranean basin.
"Through DestiMED, IUCN promotes a new vision for tourism that reduces the negative environmental and social impacts of visitors while transforming ecotourism into a concrete alternative for local development and biodiversity conservation" says Carla Danelutti, coordinator of DestiMED project at the IUCN Mediterranean Cooperation Center.
The DestiMED project is promoting the creation of standards, as well as monitoring tools to measure and improve on the sustainability and quality of ecotourism in protected areas in the Mediterranean region. Ecotourism packages are developed locally in cooperation with key community stakeholders, including protected area managers, tour operators, homestay owners and community policy-makers. The project is led by the Lazio region (Italy) and the partners are: the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation, Federparchi - Europarc (Italy), the network of managers of marine protected areas in the Mediterranean (MedPAN) located in France, WWF Adria (Balkans) and the WWF Mediterranean Program.
During the event, IUCN-Med launched a new association called MEET, or the Mediterranean Experience of Ecotourism. MEET is a destination management organization, responsible for promoting ecotourism in the region, while providing communities in and around protected areas with the the capacity and tools needed to manage ecotourism efforts, and encouraging collaborative marketing strategies under a single recognized brand. DestiMED's protected areas will eventually transition to participate in the MEET Network after concluding their pilot actions."