Ecotourism and Greenways

Ecotourism and Greenways

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At a time when more and more local communities across the globe are struggling to maintain the uniqueness of the places they live and at the same time to balance it with the economic development, there is a need to implement and promote practical successful examples on sustainable tourism development. One of the effective practical tools – that were used in Central and Eastern Europe – are Greenways and heritage trails. They serve as innovative instruments for enhancing the quality of life and increasing economic and social benefits for indigenous communities through environmentally responsible tourism.

Kraina_Rowerowa_na_Lubelszczyznie_DSC07889_91_90_fotDominikaZarebaIn Central and Eastern Europe (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Belarus) for last 15 years greenways have been used to foster local economic development through ecotourism and heritage tourism. White Stork Trail linking nature, landscapes and rural communities in north-east edge of Poland, East Carpathian Greenway being created on the cross-roads of Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine, Moravian Wine Trails promoting responsible wine tourism in the rural areas of Czech Republic, Maramures Heritage Trail supporting green business based of the uniqueness of the Romanian wooden architecture, crafts and local food – these are only some examples of the interesting stories to share. Many of these examples have international, cross-border context presenting how the partnership beyond the borders can speed up economic growth of neglected regions rich in natural and cultural assets. They present that sustainable tourism can mobilize local communities – encouraging enterprise, creating jobs and additional revenue streams, restoring and protecting traditional vocations as well as fostering establishment of the green infrastructure in the region.

The focal points of greenways are green corridors – eco-trails linking different regions rich in natural and cultural heritage and building “bridges” between local communities in the region. Greenways are multifunctional trails for non-motorized users leading along linear green corridors, historic trade routes, rivers and railways. They seek to address needs of locals and visitors to provide a positive contribution to local economy. Greenways contribute to the development of local economies and encourage enterprise among local populations though initiating development of accommodation, food and guiding services. Trails promote establishment of of galleries and points of sale for local products, tourism information services, sport and tourism equipment hire services etc. All tourism products promoted along Greenways share the common principle of supporting local communities and using local potential and resources: tourist services, cultural opportunities, local products (food, crafts) and point of sale, as well as other community initiatives.

Greenways concept addresses directly the principles of ecotourism expressed in the “Quebec Declaration on Ecotourism” through increasing economic and social benefits for indigenous communities, contributing to the conservation of natural resources and the cultural integrity of local communities.

In principle, Greenways – natural and cultural heritage trails have four basic functions:

  • sustainable transport and safety
  • promoting healthy lifestyles
  • development of ecotourism and natural and cultural heritage conservation
  • supporting economic and social development of communities, including enterprise development.

MORAWY_Satov_uliczka_piwniczek_fotDominikaZarebaThe aim of Greenways is to contribute to strengthening a grassroots for bottom-up movement for sustainable development through establishing, nurturing and networking local partnerships involving civic, business and governmental organizations working together on community-based initiatives.

The experience in creating Greenways shows that they stimulate better relationships between local citizens and the environment, increase interest in heritage protection, and supports development of sustainable tourism – especially services based on wise use of local resources and community grassroots initiatives.

The Greenways concept in its essence rests on generally known approaches such as environmental community action planning, landscape stewardship and grassroots initiatives, sustainable tourism development etc. Its special contribution lies in its ability to translate these theoretical principles into practical and easily understandable guidelines for application anywhere where people walk, cycle, ride or boat or where people care for cultural heritage and the quality of environment. Greenways projects also present a good opportunity for demonstrating direct relationships between natural and cultural qualities, landscape preservation, sustainable use of local resources, community development and a healthy lifestyle.

text: Dominika Zaręba

see more:

Greenways in Czech Republic – www.greenways.cz

Greenways in Poland – www.greenways.org.pl

Greenways in Slovakia – www.greenways.sk

Greenways in Hungary – www.greenways.hu

Maramures Greenway – Romania – www.maramuresgreenways.ro

Greenways in Ukraine – www.greenways.com.ua

epa_logoGreenways in Central and Eastern Europe were initiated by the Environmental Partnership Association

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Women and ecotourism

Women and ecotourism

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on the picture: Agnieszka Zach / Biebrza Witch / http://www.biebrzanskawiedzma.com.pl

The role of women leaders in supporting development of ecotourism in rural areas

text: Dominika Zareba, Poland

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see: presentation at the 4th European Ecotourism Conference in Safranbolu, Turkey, EuroEco_2017_DominikaZareba

Ecotourism is a brilliant opportunity for women to grow both professionally and personally, while remaining to be a part of the local community where they live and work. Ecotourism can empower women in many ways. Its multidisciplinary concept can engage women with different skills, interests and passions. Working for ecotourism can be an important added value to everyday life.

Ecotourism is based on local resources, heritage, uniqueness of a place. That is why it allows women to find the sustainable livelihood that brings not only the economic benefits but also the joie de vivre and satisfaction. Ecotourism also links women with the place they live, which benefits the whole community and all its generations.

Women in rural communities are very often key leaders in addressing environment and development issues. Over 20 years of transition to democracy and civil society in Central and Eastern Europe, resulted in many women’s leadership activities, that had a power to make a change at the grassroots level. Many of these initiatives were focussed on ecotourism and sustainable tourism as a tool to promote sustainable rural development and preserving natural and cultural heritage.

Challenges that women encounter in the tourism industry

The everyday challenges that women encounter working at the local level are very similar elsewhere, such as isolation, lack of experience, access to know how and finances for investment, as well as the possibilities to travel and be inspired by initiatives in other regions and countries. In Central and Eastern Europe, especially in rural areas, women working in tourism face many challenges due to lack of experience in marketing: how to market the tourism product, select the target group and find the best way to reach the target. There may be many great ideas for tourism products and services, but they cannot become marketable without proper access to marketing knowledge, networking opportunities and business support.

Ecotourism creates the bottom-up approaches to women’s involvement in the industry

Women are very often the natural leaders in their local society, they are very sensitive to the issues related to the environment, society, heritage, and sense of place. Ecotourism in a broad context, connected with other activities (such as sustainable farming, handicraft, art, education, etc.), can provide opportunities for women to find a sustainable way of living. Participation of women in the development of sustainable tourism industry at the local level is very diverse – from running accommodation services, cafes, restaurants, and shops, to working with handicraft, art and food processing. Apart from running small businesses, many are involved in tourism development while working for cultural centers, municipalities, NGOs, and schools. Ecotourism can be a perfect tool to initiate women’s active participation in sustainable community development. Building international networks and projects is one of the best ways to overcome the challenges that women encounter, as it allows them to have access to more information, as well as the opportunity to show their work to broader audiences outside their local community.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Stories from Central and Eastern Europe

There are numerous practical examples from different regions of the Central and Eastern Europe where women were spiritus movens of development of ecotourism and heritage tourism. Women working as mayors, NGO activists, local government officials, teachers and entrepreneurs were able to initiate sustainable tourism, especially ecotourism and heritage tourism development. Creating the Amber Trail that links unique heritage of Poland, Slovakia and Slovakia. Transforming a wooden Carpathian village into a capital of angels and women’s leadership in Poland. Gathering over 150 mayors of villages together to promote South Moravia in Czech Republic as a wine tourism destination. Developing the network of ecotourism farms in Belarus in order to protect its unique traditions, cuisine, landscape and rural architecture. These are only some examples of the women creativity for sustainable tourism.

The stories from Central and Eastern Europe are universal, meaning that they can apply to and be inspiration for many rural regions all over the world. They show in practice how bottom up women’s initiatives are able to inspire, make a change and benefit local communities. How ideas and dreams can be changed into practical solutions. And how ecotourism, heritage tourism and the broader concept of sustainable tourism can empower local identity, educate and stimulate local development while protecting the unique character of the place, its community and environment.

More women stories from Cental and Eastern Europe – soon!

text: Dominika Zareba

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drawing: Kazimierz Wiśniak

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