Eco Tourism

NATURA 2000 and Eco Tourism

Europe’s Natura 2000 sites are the crown jewels of its natural heritage. Croatia already attracts many tourists each year to its coast and there is much potential for nature tourism inland as well in Croatia’s existing National and Nature Parks as well as other NATURA 2000 candidate sites.

There is an increasing appetite for more specialised form of tourism and eco tourism is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in Europe. However, if this potential is to be realized, it is important it does not damage the natural values of the areas concerned, but does fulfil the needs of the visitor. There is little merit in developing a visitor centre or a nature trail in a NATURA 2000 site, if there is no easy access to the site and nowhere for people to eat or stay overnight. Integrated Quality Management Plans need to be developed which offer the visitor opportunities to watch nature, hike, explore, cycle, canoe etc without damaging habitats or species and that make the local community aware of the possibilities for developing the local economy and stimulate inward investment to local enterprises.

Croatia’s National and Nature Parks - more details:

Ecotourism - Cooperation

Management Plans for NATURA 200 sites can include Interpretive Plans supported by Annual Implementation Plans. These identify and analyze interpretation, education and visitor goals and issues. They recommend the most effective, efficient and practical ways to address these goals and issues. Interpretive plans address personal and non personal services and the planning process is sensitive to which site resource experiences should be made accessible to visitors, negative impacts on resources are minimised and active stewardship is encouraged.

Gorski Kotar

The NATURA 2000 Candidate Site of Gorski Kotar is the most important site for the conservation of large carnivores - bears wolf and lynx in Croatia.
The PHARE Project is assisting the State Institute for Nature Protection (SINP) to introduce a Management plan and Interpretive Plan to protect this unique habitat and find intelligent ways to give ecotourism a clearly marked out pathway. The educational facilities at the Gorski Kotar Large Carnivore Centre’s visitor centre will be enhanced as part of the plan.

Staff, stakeholders and the local communities will all be involved in the planning process, and it is intended that participating in the process should give them:

* An increased sense of ownership
* Greater support for the protection of the area
* Greater public involvement in decision making
* Linking plans for conservation with plans for development
* Provision of mechanisms for communication with public and media

Ecotourism - Have a look

The Canary Islands - a paradise for nature tourists
Over 30% of the islands have been designated as NATURA 2000 sites. Over 11 million tourists visit the islands each year and although most come for the sunshine and the beach, more and more are including nature tourism in their holiday. There are lots to see the islands a wild biodiversity hotspot, the seas team with dolphins and turtles and the dramatic volcanic interiors have many rare and unusual species.
Some interesting partnerships have been created where tourism revenues are helping to further the work of conserving rare species such as the Hierro giant lizard - Europe’s largest reptile, which is now the island’s mascot.

Natura 2000 Tourism in Lapland

Lapland covers vast expanses of forests and mires of outstanding natural beauty. When an area of 300 square kilometres was designated as a NATURA 2000 site, local communities were initially opposed, fearing it would halt the budding tourism market.
The park authority assured them that, on the contrary, it would help bring new jobs and new business opportunities. It developed a series of carefully planned nature trails that channelled visitors away from the sensitive areas but still provided them with an enjoyable experience.
The trails proved to be so popular that they made headline news. Local businesses have since experienced a steady increase in visitors and many now view NATURA 2000 as an ally not a hindrance.
For more information: EC - Guide on Developing Natural Heritage Tourism -
Many more examples of NATURA 2000 sites can be found at