Recognised by UNESCO as heritage of the Man & Biosphere relationship, the Biosphere Reserves of Brighton, Iles et Mer d’Iroise, Saint-Omer Marsh and North Devon welcome more than 20 million visitors. Measuring the impact of the tourism flow on these fragile environments is difficult… Nevertheless, local population awareness of natural resources management is raising. Natural site managers and tourism professionals face therefore a major challenge to reconcile the viability of an economically viable industry and the need for preservation of wildlife and biodiversity.
The BIO-CULTURAL HERITAGE TOURISM (BCHT) project aims at keeping natural sites undamaged while increasing tourism-related income and valorizing the heritage and know-how from cultural practices, evidences of the interaction between Man and Nature. This project is being carried out within the cooperation European INTERREG V FRANCE-CHANNEL-ENGLAND programme and mobilises more than €4M from ERDF from mid-2018 to end 2021 to enhance local and European visibility of the UNESCO « Man & Biosphere » recognition and its values.
As knowledge partners, the University of Exeter and Pas-de-Calais Tourisme support the 4 Biosphere Reserves in the implementation of this European project : they provide their expertise on the economic impact of tourism and the development of new products, qualitatively developed to meet the values and the need for a sustainable offer.
The objective is thus to develop a collective methodology and joint tools transferable to other similar sites. Through a participatory governance between site managers, inhabitants, tourism professionals and local decision-makers, this project explores three main areas of action :
1. A MASTER PLANNING TOOL FOR TOURIST DEVELOPMENT AND INTERPRETATION
The master plan seeks to regulate and disseminate the visitors flow over the area and over the seasons to contribute to the resilience of natural sites. Il organizes the implementation of activities, experiences, equipements and services offered to visitors in a more sustainable way to lower their impact on biodiversity and increase their quality.
2. A SHARED PROGRAMME TO RAISE AWARENESS AND INVOLVE LOCAL TOURISM
The Biosphere reserves support a network of « eco-actor » partner companies wishing to develop new tourism offers. Its members benefit from cross-border exchanges of experience, training and tools to make the BCHT concept their own and induce participatory behaviours. The 4 Biosphere Reserves are experimenting with professionals a financial mechanism for voluntary contributions from visitors to restore altered natural areas.
3. A DIVERSIFIED OFFER OF TOOLS AND FACILITIES FOR BIOCULTURAL TOURISM DESTINATIONS
The 4 Biosphere Reserves use the local data collected for the master plan (1) and work with tourism providers (2) to identify products and activities that local authorities carry out or support, as land managers. These pilot sites support a new offer developed by both the public and private sectors, and that is transferable and shared by all these actors.
Eventually, this new Biocultural tourism offer promote the destination and increase the attractivity of the UNESCO designation, while boosting the quality of the tourism industry and preserving the local natural assets. A more sustainable offer is as good for wildlife as for the local population and the visitors.
Therefore CAPSO and Parc naturel regional des Caps et Marais d’Opale, co-manager of the Biosphere Reserve of the Audomarois Marshes since 2013, develop together examples of the implementation of the masterplanning scheme : the conservation garden attached to the Maison du Marais, the Biosphere trophees and the support to the eco-actors network. The members of the network will as well develop a new activities and products offering to our visitors both the UNESCO values and a more qualitative and sustainable encounter of our beautiful marsh.