Interview with Bernd Bayerköhler of Tree Top Walks from Erlebnis Akademie AG

Baumwipfelpfad Bavarian Forest, Baum. Credits: Erlebnis Akademie

The Tree Top Walks of the Erlebnis Akademie AG are not only fabulous LT&C-Examples, where national parks are supported by education centres, they are also a case of an LT&C-Example, which gets replicated. The business model is based on a joint venture between Tree Top Walks and a partner-company within the host country, which has important insights in the local environment, market, laws and regulations. In return, Tree Top Walks offers a platform for environmental education and job creation and hires rangers for guided tours provided by the partner organisation or directly from the national park. As LT&C is profiling examples, where tourism is supporting protected areas, so that others learn from those and ideally replicate them, we are in particular interested to identify and develop incentives for replication of LT&C-Examples. We, therefore, like to interview Bernd Bayerköhler, Speaker of the Board of the Erlebnis Akademie AG about their experience and secrets to get their Tree Top Walks continuously “exported” to other countries and national parks:

Bernd Bayerköhler, can you describe in short, how the Tree Top Walks were invented and how they support national parks and other protected areas?

The idea of the Tree Top Walks is based on cooperation with the Bavarian Forest National Park, which sought an attraction that would be interesting to a wider range of visitors. The goal was to attract tourists to the national park and the information centre in order to educate them on the natural environment. The second aspect was to regulate and concentrate visitors in one place, therefore being able to control visitor flows and protect core zones in the national park.

What are the secrets that your LT&C-Example became already replicated several times?

There are many reasons that make a visit to a Tree Top walk interesting, e.g.

  • Spectacular views – new and unique perspectives
  • Exceptional nature experience in harmony with economy and ecology
  • The distinctive nature-friendly design concept
  • Suitable for visitors of all ages
  • Accessible – suitable for wheelchairs and prams
  • Guided tours (group and theme tours) developed in cooperation with protected areas 
  • Learning & activity stations
  • Partnership with NPs and organisations according to interest and local circumstances
  • Involvement of local populations is key to make sure that they are at the centre of the product, identify with it and can benefit positively from it

If we can find a place where all these factors are met, it is a great basis for an attraction like this.

How could your model also be used for other types of LT&C-Examples? What are the principal incentives for getting good cases replicated?

  • A bottom-up approach of a well-connected and organised stakeholder network within a National Park or a Nature Park can push the destination for more visibility and certification within relevant networks
  • For lesser known destinations, a joint venture with an already established tourism organisation or company can help to give visibility to the destination on a broader market
  • Managing or concentrating visitor flows helps to protect core zones and benefits conservation efforts
  • When establishing new ecotourism products in a NP, the success of these products often rise and fall with the level of support of the National Park and the local community
  • Keeping track of the latest trends and research helps to keep your products relevant and spreads awareness of the appropriate way it can be implemented in the NP and in the market

What are your future plans to further improve and multiply Tree Top Walks and what means your membership in LT&C for you?

We do have a clear growth strategy with an attractive international project pipeline and additionally, we try to generate growth through networking and extension of our product or service offers across all existing locations.

As an LT&C Member, we can hopefully generate new contacts to develop further projects within the network, but we also want to show that ecology and economy can work hand in hand.

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