On these pages you will find a plethora of articles about our current or past projects. You will also find some examples of our work on the page Track Record and a list of our services under Fields of Expertise. If you would like any more information about any of the projects mentioned just get in touch.
Posted on: 3rd May 2012
Verification = evidence that establishes or confirms the accuracy or truth of something
The verification season 2012 for the EUROPARC Federation’s European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas is now well and truly underway. This year will be the busiest years yet: between them our verifiers will be inspecting all of the 35 protected areas in 14 European countries that applied for Charter status or Charter re-evaluation in 2011. With the preparation involved, the busy days on site and the final report for submission to the Charter Evaluation Committee the verifiers certainly have their work cut out for them.
The Charter helps protected areas to develop and manage sustainable tourism by facilitating development and growth in partnership. The verification process is pivotal for protected areas in the journey towards Charter status. After what might be years of hard work developing sustainable tourism in a region using the Charter principles, the verification visit and report form the basis of the decision as to whether the applicant protected area gains Charter status or not. The verification is an opportunity for the region to showcase not just its best assets and ideas but also the areas that still need improving. Advice from experienced verifiers is often invaluable and something they enjoy being able to give the area. Feedback and recommendations lead to even more innovation and improvements in the development of sustainable tourism in the area, and thus contribute to the successful implementation of the Charter.
The verifiers are the eyes and ears of the Charter Evaluation Committee. As such a verification visit needs thorough preparation (research and application reading) and verifiers need to be open-minded, remain objective, able to listen, to ask the right questions and have the ability to make a judgment on a large area based on a few days experience in the area. As long-term Charter verifier Josep Maria-Prats says, “A verification visit is to meet lots of people, to listen carefully, not to speak very much, to see everything, to understand all… and to be aware that you probably never will reach the core of the matter!“ According to Josep the biggest mistake a verifier can make is to be opinionated and to think you know better than your hosts.
The visits themselves are a whirlwind of activities, people and experiences. This often makes for great stories and priceless memories. Josep’s last visit, for example, was a full week (something very unusual) in the Salento system of small protected areas in Puglia, Italy. “I met hundreds of people speaking incessantly in the wonderful Italian language that I love so much, from 8 o’clock in the morning, sometimes till midnight, every day”, observed Josep. “I sampled very tasty local food, and I had an unforgettable experience dancing ‘la pizzica’, a folk dance from Southern Italy. ‘Pizzica’ means ‘bite’ and the origin of the dance is thought to be caused by the bite of a spider, that provokes a state of frenzy pushing you to dance very hard. All I can add is that somehow I survived the experience!”
Richard Partington, who has also been verifying Charter applicants for a long time, said that he had his strangest and most challenging verifier meeting at his last verification in Mercantour National Park, France. “About five national park partners and I were sitting around a table in a Japanese restaurant. In front of us was a hot plate spitting oil and a cook theatrically spinning knives in the air and chopping food, making several members of the group a little nervous. The situation became even more peculiar when the cook started flicking small portions of meat into each of our mouths across a distance of two meters. This was all going on whilst we were eating with chop-sticks, trying to make each other understood in a mixture of French and English and with me trying to take sensible notes as well!”
After these intensive verification visits the difficult task of writing the verification report for EUROPARC Consulting begins. The report should inform objectively about the visit to the protected area and the progress they are making with regards to fulfilling the criteria for the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas. In the report the verifier may make a recommendation to the Evaluation Committee regarding whether or not they feel the candidate area they visit is ready to become a Charter area. The official decision is, however, made by the committee in June and if a protected area is successful the award of the Charter takes place at the annual EUROPARC Conference in the autumn.
Ask a Charter verifier what he or she likes best about the job and they will almost unanimously say, “the people we meet in the field”. It is a great pleasure to work with individuals who are so highly motivated, co-operative, friendly and committed to their area of work and to sustainable tourism. A further motivation, however, is their dedication to and passion for the European Charter. Verifiers realise the necessity of the implementation of sustainable tourism in Europe’s beautiful natural places if they are still to be enjoyed as tourism destinations and places to live in the future. The Charter, of course, brings all the stakeholders in and around the protected area together to ensure just that.
For further information please contact Wilf Fenten or Anne Webster.
You can also find out more by visiting EUROPARC Consulting's Facebook page
Posted on: 2nd April 2012
This is the busiest time for EUROPARC Consulting as far as the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism is concerned. This year we are expecting to inspect the 100th European protected area which has applied for the European Charter.
One of the candidates is the Shropshire Hills AONB in the United Kingdom. They submitted their application documentation last December and now is the time for the evaluation visit to verify that everything in the application is implemented on the ground.
The visit to the Shropshire Hills AONB took place on 26th and 27th March 2012. Verifier Lucy Barron visited the area to see how the Sustainable Tourism Strategy is being put into practice and how stakeholders and businesses are involved in the Charter process.
“I was met at Shrewsbury station and had a good introduction to the AONB from Manager Phil Holden. A visit to the National Trust’s Cardingmill Valley, the most popular visitor attraction in the AONB, was followed by a gentle walk to The Longmynd Hotel, Green Tourism Business Scheme Gold Award holder, accompanied by Bob Welch, of Church Stretton Town Council and Tourism Group, and Lee Chapman, Chair or Shropshire Hills Tourism.
Over lunch, Cllr Mike Owen, Shropshire Council portfolio holder for Economic Development explained the Council's approach to tourism development across the county, and the relationship with the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership.
I was shown round Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre by Shropshire Council’s Tourism Officer, Tim King, and centre manager Angela Stanger. In Ludlow, one of the area’s well?known and characteristic market towns, a renowned centre for local food, I met Tish Dockerty, secretary of the Ludlow Tourism group, who explained the development of the area’s Farmers’ Markets and the Shropshire Buy Local scheme and also visited the popular Visitor Information Centre.
After a very busy day I slept well at Old Time B&B in Bishop’s Castle, owned and run by Jane Carroll, DDP member, Sustainable Business Scheme member and chair of Bishop’s Castle Tourism.
The next day I was accompanied by Keith Pybus, local historian and walks leader and Clare Fildes, AONB Development Officer to learn about Walking with Offa, a co-operation project to develop the walking offer across the Welsh, English border.
I was then joined for lunch by consultant Alison Caffyn, Vice Chair of the AONB Partnership, who explained how the sustainable tourism strategy and action plan had been developed.
In the afternoon, I joined up with local sustainable business scheme members to test out the new Wenlock Wanderer shuttle-bus service, which will run this summer between Church Stretton, Acton Scott historic working farm, Wenlock Edge and Much Wenlock, making a valuable contribution to public transport provision across the area.
To finish off a very busy few days I cycled to the top of the Longmynd to test out the popular and growing mountain biking offer in the Shropshire Hills. The views from the summit were truly stunning!”