EU Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas

The Sustainable Development of Tourism

Promoting Sustainable Tourism is a key objective of the Causeway Coast & Glens Heritage Trust but what does it actually mean and how can we translate broad principles into practice.

What is Sustainable Tourism?

Sustainable Tourism is tourism that encourages an understanding of the impacts of tourism on the natural, cultural and human environments.  It is concerned with the long-term economic viability and social justice.  Sustainable Tourism stems from the broader concept of Sustainable Development, which is defined as:

“Development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”  (Brundtland Report, 1987)

Increasingly these ideas have become more mainstream in many aspects of life none more so than tourism. As one of the biggest global industries it is clear what happens within tourism will have a significant effect on the environment and the way we live. The long term future of the industry both globally and locally within an area like the Causeway Coast and Glens is dependent on our ability to safeguard the quality of the environment. So many organisations have tried to define what sustainable tourism means. At an international level the World Tourism Organisation defines sustainable tourism as:

“Tourism that meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future”

Following on from recommendations in the 1993 study “Loving them to death? Sustainable tourism in Europe’s Nature and National Parks” the Europarc Federation, an umbrella group for the protected areas of Europe developed a European Charter for Sustainable Tourism. It defines sustainable tourism as follows:

“Any form of tourism development, management or activity which ensures the long term protection and preservation of natural, cultural and social resources and contributes in a positive and equitable manner to the economic development and well being of individuals living, working or staying in protected areas.”

In Northern Ireland sustainable tourism has been defined by the N. Ireland Tourist Board as follows:

“Sustainability involves the wise use of resources in ways which do not deprive future generations of their availability or their benefits.”

Building on this definition the Trust has determined that sustainable tourism should be:

  • Low impact on its surroundings.
  • Economically viable and provide good jobs.
  • Beneficial to the people who live in the area.
  • Ensure that the inconveniences of tourism do not outweigh the benefits.
  • Is a kind of tourism that respects the scale and nature of the area visited.
  • Is a kind of tourism in which retaining the natural, built and cultural heritage of an area is considered to be more important than individual gain.
  • Is a kind of tourism in which the host community plays an important role in the quality and authenticity of the offering.
  • Retains the resource for the benefit of subsequent generations.
  • Promotes harmony between the needs of visitors, the place and the community.

Whatever definition you use for sustainable tourism, it usually involves the following three aspects.

Economic – sustainable tourism projects should be profitable and provide jobs for the local economy in both the short and the long term.

Social – sustainable tourism should be acceptable to the majority of people who live in an area. It should aim to provide benefit and involve all stakeholders including promoters, employers and the local community.

Environment – sustainable tourism aims to safeguard the environment both because of its own intrinsic value and as a resource for tourism. It aims to minimise the impact of tourism on the environment.

EU Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas

The Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust has been awarded the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas, for the region of the Causeway Coast and Glens.  This is a practical management tool for ensuring that tourism contributes to a balanced economic, social and environmental development of protected areas.

10 Principles of the European Charter:

  1. To involve all those implicated by tourism in and around the protected area
  2. To prepare and implement a Sustainable Tourism Strategy and Action Plan for the protected area
  3. To protect and enhance the area’s natural and cultural heritage
  4. To provide visitors with a high quality experience in all aspects of their visit
  5. To communicate effectively to visitors, tourism businesses and residents about the special qualities of the area
  6. To encourage specific tourism products which enable discovery and understanding of the area
  7. To increase knowledge of the protected area and sustainability issues
  8. To ensure that tourism supports and does not reduce the quality of life of local residents
  9. To increase benefits from tourism to the local economy
  10. To monitor and influence visitor flows to reduce negative impacts

Why should we take a sustainable approach to tourism?

We need to work together to ensure that our natural resource is conserved for future generations.  Sustainable tourism supports integrity of place, benefits residents, respects local culture and tradition and does not abuse its product. Let’s work together to protect our environment and contibute to long term economic growth.  After all, without our environment, what would tourism be?

Sustainable Tourism Strategy and Action Plan 2011-2016

CCGHT has developed a Sustainable Tourism Strategy and 5 year Action plan for the Causeway Coast and Glens region.

Sustainable Tourism Management Forum and Business Networks

CCGHT has developed a Sustainable Tourism management forum, involving key stakeholders in tourism management within the Causeway Coast and Glens region, to help shape the Strategy and Action Plan.  For more information on minutes and a list of those involved, click ‘here’. As CCGHT look after and promote 3 AONBs, we are establishing 3 Business Networks.  These networks are groups of local tourism businesses and/or local community members who wish to help shape the future of sustainable tourism within the Causeway Coast and Glens region.  These are:

  • Antrim Coast and Glens AONB Business Network
  • Binevenagh AONB Business Network
  • Causeway Coast AONB Business Network

If you would like to become part of a Business Network, please contact Maxime on 028 2075 2100 or email