Partnerships for ecotourism
Ecotourism is usually described as a form of nature-based tourism with transformative and sustainable values at its core. It represents tourism that is well-suited to the wide, open spaces of northern Europe where our partners are based. Here, for the most part, tourism development is very low key, with much drawing from its wild-land characteristics and contexts.
However, the core elements of ecotourism entail responsible and sustainable economic activity that generates employment, taking account of the real needs of local stakeholders. It seek to do this while conserving the ecosystems, natural and cultural assets and communities which often co-exist (and can struggle to survive) in these remote and beautiful areas.
The aim and scope of the SHAPE
Though the partner areas ostensibly offer differing landscapes, histories and cultures, they are bound by the unique characteristics of the ‘Cool North’: the wide open spaces, low population densities, and colourful, far-reaching cultural histories that are such a draw for many contemporary consumers.
SHAPE aims to enable local stakeholders to develop innovative new ecotourism initiatives which sustainably exploit these characteristics – and that make a virtue out of our sometimes inhospitable landscape – while helping to preserve and manage them and creating sustainable livelihoods for local communities and businesses.
All of the countries involved in the SHAPE project have their own strategies for sustainable tourism activities. But we need tools that transform these strategies into practical outcomes. That strength of ecotourism – the strong, local involvement – can also be a weakness, as stakeholders are often small and lack resources and knowledge. The SHAPE project aims to help these fragile communities to develop, market and sell ecotourism experiences– and to integrate these activities into the community in a sustainable and meaningful way.
The work started in each of the partner regions, mapping assets, solving local challenges, building on existing activities and helping those who are in the process of developing new visitor experiences. The stakeholders, associated partners and representatives from end-users share the result of those efforts with each other through learning journeys, through conferences and meetings and by establishing thematic networks. This is being incorporated into a dynamic database of knowledge, structured as an e-service, set up in such a way that it will continue to develop even after the project period.