The ECST in Spain: its application and the different stages of development

Posted: 05th February 2016

By Javier García Gómez-Limón. Expert of EUROPARC-Spain and Responsible for the ECST in Spain. (ALSO AVAILABLE IN SPANISH - Choose the language on the top of the page)


Phase I, Awarding protected areas (Sustainable Destinations).

Spain is the European country with the highest number of protected areas awarded as sustainable destinations, with a total of 42. The Spanish environmental authorities have opted for the ECST that effectively links conservation, sustainable tourism and local development. The re-evaluation of the ECST, for some areas, is proving being a complicated process. However, the new strategy of the EUROPARC Federation, with a new procedure for the re-evaluation and an amnesty until December 2017, surely will help clarifying the situation.

Phase II, the awarding of Charter local tourism businesses (Sustainable partners in Charter areas)
The awarding of the Charter local tourism businesses in Spain has proved being very successful. There are now more than 400 awarded companies in 27 protected areas.


In a study, recently developed by EUROPARC-Spain about the opinion of these companies on the Charter, it is highlighted how the project has achieved its objectives, as the companies recognized a "significant improvement in the relationships and in the connection with managers of protected areas" and how this "has favoured a higher quality of the offer and information provided to visitors". Also, a significant contribution of the Charter on improving the environmental performance of companies is observed, such as:

- Reduced costs associated with the use of resources (energy, water, etc.).

- A considerable improvement in waste management.

It has also increased and diversified the training offered to businesses, which is another objective of the project.

On the negative side, companies highlighted missing direct improvements in access to grants and subsidies for seasonal tourism and the promotion of the Charter. They had not noticed a significant increase in economic activity through tourism. No doubt all these aspects should improve in the future.

Phase III, the awarding of tour operators (Sustainable tour operators in Charter areas)
EUROPARC-Spain launched in 2014 a working group to develop the Spanish awarding system for sustainable tour operators in Charter areas.

The group had been working on the text of the new awarding system for over a year. This group consisted of representatives of EUROPARC-Spain, regional and national tourism administrations, technicians - staff of Charter protected areas, tourism operators associations, travel agencies and tour operators.

In October 2015, the EUROPARC Federation Council approved the awarding system. The objectives of this system are:

  • Encouraging the marketing of tourism in protected areas fulfilling the ECST principles, and therefore contributing to the conservation and local development.
  • Contributing to the recognition of the benefits of this specific offer for conservation and local development.
  • Improving the visibility and recognition of the sustainable destinations and the sustainable partners that have made a continuous commitment to work for sustainable tourism.
  • Recognizing and differentiate the travel agencies for their volunteer commitment on sustainable tourism development in protected areas in which they operate, giving them the opportunity to collaborate with environmental authorities, territories and benefit from the joint work on the preparation of unique and attractive offers for tourists.


The system will start being applied during the first months of 2016, when the first travel agencies will adhere.

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