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Romania Announces Framework for Voluntary Certification for Ecotourism Destinations
National Ecotourism Conference, Bucharest, Romania, November 2, 2012 (Photo by Raluca Munteanu)
The Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism of Romania, in partnerships with the National Institute for Research and Development in Tourism (INCDT) and the Association of Ecotourism in Romania (AER), has developed a new framework for identifying and certifying ecotourism destinations in Romania.
By adopting this framework, the destinations that meet certain criteria may obtain the status of "ecotourism destinations" which will be included in the national tourism promotion campaigns by the Ministry, and thus lead to increased visibility in the domestic and foreign markets. At the same time, building and promoting a network of quality ecotourism destinations will help increasing Romania's image as an attractive destination.
"Only a few weeks after publication by the ministry of the indicators [...] , three destinations have already applied for obtaining this status: the Baile Tusnad, the Tarnava Mare area and the Crisul Repede Gorge – Padurea Craiului area. The adoption at national level of an identification system for Romanian ecotourism destinations represents an extremely important contribution to the development of this segment of tourism", noted Minister Eduard Hellvig.
The certification process is made up of a set of criteria, and a set of indicators to assess each of the criteria. The first condition for obtaining such a status is for the destination to include natural resources under a recognized protection scheme (national or nature park, Natura 2000 site, nature reserves or any other category of protected areas), in which socio-cultural resources may be included. Other criteria refer to the attractiveness of the destination, accessibility, cultural heritage protection and respect for cultural traditions, preservation of biodiversity and a waste management plan, the full list being much more detailed.
"Romania is among the first countries to apply the European Ecotourism Labelling Standard. The most important thing is that Romania already has destinations that can be certified as ecotourism, we do not have to wait for years to create them. And for those which, at present, do not meet the minimum score for certification, the system of criteria and indicators represents an excellent guide, helping them to meet this goal," said Andrei Blumer, President of the Association of Ecotourism in Romania (AER).
Being a voluntary certification system, the initiative to participate in the project belongs to the local or regional partnerships established with the aim of managing tourism, for example, through tourism development and promotion associations. The first step of the certification program is for applying destinations to conduct a self-assessment based on the criteria and indicators provided by the Ministry. Following this, a team of evaluators coordinated by the Ministry will conduct a field evaluation. Depending on the results of these evaluations, the status of Ecotourism Destination is granted for a period of 3 years.
The criteria were established, on the recommendation of the World Tourism Organisation, starting from the European Ecotourism Labelling Standard, drawn up by the European Ecotourism Network. The indicators were published by the MRDT this year, and were later brought to the knowledge of the potential participants in the project. The following partners have also contributed to the development of this program: Ministry of Environment and Forests of Romania, WWF Danube Carpathians Programme Romania, the United Nations Development Programme, Association for Rural Ecological and Cultural Tourism in Romania, the National Forest Administration - ROMSILVA.
The evaluation criteria and indicators for certification of ecotourism destinations, as well as the steps to follow, were presented by the Ministry representatives at the National Ecotourism Conference, held in Bucharest on 2 November. The conference has been organized by AER, INCDT, and project partners of the Ministry, and also attended by experts from the International Ecotourism Society (TIES) and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), along with ecotourism stakeholders from across Romania.
As defined in the national legislation, ecotourism is a form of tourism in which the main objective is to observe and raise awareness of the value of nature and local traditions, which must meet the following requirements: to contribute to the conservation and protection of nature; to use local human resources; to have educational characteristics, respect for nature – raising awareness of tourists and local communities; to have an insignificant negative impact on the natural and socio-cultural environment.