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Posted on: 19th February 2010
Every year, EUROPARC Consulting evaluates and verifies numerous applications for the prestigious European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas. In this News Update Paulo Castro, one of the many experienced EUROPARC Consulting verifiers, takes a detached look at the evaluation process for the European Charter.
Since 2001, right from the beginning of European Charter, I have worked for EUROPARC Consulting as a verifier. This has given me a unique opportunity to see the evolution of the Charter process along these years, with many Charter area verifications in Spain, Italy, France, Great Britain and other countries. I have also had the wonderful opportunity to carry out the first set of re-evaluations five years after the initial award.
So what is it like to do a re-evaluation of a Charter area? What can one expect to see after five years of implementing the Action Plan and all the "collective illusion" of trying to shape the Charter area into a better place to live and visit? Have people worked together as they planned and promised? Was the budget large enough and did it bring the expected results? Is everybody conscious of being in a Charter Area? What do they want from the future?
Many answers aren't easy to find, nor are they always as expected. Surprisingly for me, one of the best indicators is people's self-criticism about how things went and how they could have gone better. Again, surprisingly, I have seen budgets much higher than the initial one! Significant, isn't it? Obviously, people don't talk all day talking just about the Charter; they have better things to do. Unsurprisingly, the Charter after the first 5-year term, has brought about any promise of Shangri-la!
But even if I didn't see the "promised land", I found a place where there is enthusiasm about the future, where people are investing in tourism and investing differently, where sustainability means something and where there is a new and different way of doing things: where the idea of "Park" is more a purpose and a reason for working and investing together in a much more coordinated way.
People, institutions and local stakeholders want a future and work for it. More and more it tends to be a common future. Whilst in may still not be Eden, I always find that the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism did give people the proper tool to move things in the right direction.
Why I am so convinced about it? Because I have just returned from another protected area which presented itself for re-evaluation process. And they are sure that they want to stay a Charter area for another 5-year term!