The importance of balancing sustainability and profitability is the primary underlying theme of the first European Ecotourism Conference, being held from 26 to 30 September, 2010, in Pärnu, Estonia. Established with a mission to serve as a Europe-wide forum through which stakeholders involved in ecotourism can gain insight into its development, opportunities and future challenges.
“The European Ecotourism Conference brings together great experts and speakers on different aspects of ecotourism, including certification, web-marketing, climate change, innovative product development and green travel,” commented Aivar Ruukel, representing the Estonian Ecotourism Association, one of the event organisers, along with The International Ecotourism Society and the Pärnu Convention Bureau, with support from the Estonian Tourist Board, Estonian University of Life Sciences and Estonian Ecotourism Cluster.
“While there will be great presentations to listen to,” continued Ruukel, “the conference will also give EVERY participant a voice to give voice to his/her hottest topic and discuss it with like-minded colleagues through Open Space and World Cafe workshops.”
Following two days of pre-conference ecotourism experiences, discussions over two days will cover multiple themes from the global perspective on ecotourism in Europe and green travel marketing to biodiversity conservation, community-based initiatives, certification programs and new communications innovations that help spread the word. Considerable time has been made available for open-forum discussions during which all participants are free to interact.
WHL Group Represented
The WHL Group will be represented, among others, by Luke H. Ford, CEO of Gunyah, who is also on the event’s advisory committee. Ford will speak on Tuesday 28 September at 2:30pm about the momentum growing behind the notion of local travel, as exemplified by WHL Group companies and the Local Travel Movement.
“We as a group have realised that a traveller’s experience (for the most part) isn’t just about the bed he or she is booking; it’s all about the things around the hotel – the meals, the transport, the conversations with the locals, the chance to experience everyday life as it should be in the destination, the local travel experience,” shared Ford. “We are bringing the responsible and local tourism concept to the mass market.”
A Wide Circle of Participation
Other presentations by WHL Group friends and partners include “How to Market to Green Traveller?” by Richard Hammond, the “Parks Tourism Model as a tool to protect Europe’s Wilderness” by a representative from the PAN Parks Foundation and “How to integrate Web 2.0 tools in promoting Ecotourism” by Ron Mader of Planeta.com, who has issued a call for photos of ecotourism and responsible travel in Europe.
“We would like to see photos of national parks, city parks, recycling, environmental education, good signage, local wildlife and quality guiding in Europe,” said Ron Mader. “Ecotourism Europe is a great ‘show and tell’ that connects visitors and locals.”
For anyone unable to attend, but interested in both the topic and what will be shared at the conference, there are several online platforms for discussions, images and reactions. These include LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube and Facebook.
In addition, in anticipation of the conference, a free Ecotourism in Europe webinar has been planned for Thursday 23 September from 1-2pm GMT with Ruukel as lead speaker and other guests including Zoltan Kun (Executive Director of PAN Parks) and Ben Colclough (Co-founder of Tourdust.com).
“For me the success of conference can be only measured by the satisfaction of participants,” concluded Ruukel. “I hope that the methods that we chose and the way we have organised this event will help to achieve it.”