Sustainable practices benefit businesses and visitors in protected areas

30th November, 2011

The project ‘Sustainable Tourism in Enterprises, Parks and Protected Areas’ (STEPPA) came to a close today, with its research demonstrating that the performance of a business improves when sustainable measures are implemented. In addition, eco-labels could improve the experience of tourists in protected areas if they were more recognisable.

STEPPA, funded through the EU grant scheme ‘Knowledge networks for the competitiveness and sustainability of European Tourism’ ran from June 2010 until November 2011. It brought together ten partners from seven European countries including the EUROPARC Federation, Leeds Metropolitan University, the COAST project in Cornwall and the lead partner the University of Eastern Finland. The project specifically examined the added value of sustainable tourism in protected natural areas for local businesses using EUROPARC’s European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas as the basis for the research.

Research carried out by Leeds Metropolitan University on nearly 900 tourism and hospitality businesses from 59 European protected areas showed that sustainability and business performance have a positive impact on each other. The main reasons for acting sustainably are altruistic ones, with savings, marketing benefits, and customer demand ranking lower.  In general businesses that carry out more sustainability measures believe they have benefitted from them and are more satisfied with their financial performance. However green businesses do not always communicate this effectively.

A second survey was carried out by the University of Eastern Finland on 1300 visitors in protected natural areas across Europe. The aim was to find out visitors’ views on sustainability and whether sustainable tourism schemes give added value to their trip. The results showed that there is a definite added value for visitors. In addition, tourists in protected areas are willing to participate in sustainable activities whilst travelling and they have positive opinions on eco-labels. Unfortunately green certificates or eco-labels are not very recognisable to these tourists.

The results of all the research undertaken by the project is available in summary and comprehensive format on the STEPPA website.