National Park and Biosphere Reserve Partner Programme – Example: waddensea.travel

Amongst the scene of National Park and Biosphere partner enterprises of the Lower Saxony Wadden Sea National Park, waddensea.travel is considered an outstanding example. The company offers Wadden Sea tours, operates as a tour and educational activity provider, is a network and incoming agency for accommodation and gastronomy, organises concerts, runs a shop and is involved as a creative advisor for sustainable action in the field of tourism. Advocacy for qualitative improvements of the Wadden Sea National Park and Wadden Sea World Heritage Site, as well as the expansion of the biosphere reserve, are primary focus areas. Educational and information offers convey these goals and also convince other national park and biosphere partners to join in.

The company is involved in a wide range of activities that promote sustainability. As an incoming agency for World Heritage tours, waddensea.travel leads tours with a maximum of eight participants. These small groups stay overnight in National Park or Biosphere partner establishments of the Lower Saxony Wadden Sea National Park. Hiking and other excursions into the Frisian landscape and culture are led by trained National Park guides. Regarding the catering, only regional and eco-friendly partners are involved who are committed to living in and with the biosphere. Wherever possible, public transport is used for the long journeys.

As a tour provider, the company offers topic-specific and target group-oriented hikes and events under the name “Wadden Sea Hiking Centre East Frisia” with its National Park Guides and their focus on environmental education (aligned with ESD principles). Health and well-being themed tours are also included in the programme to highlight the connection between nature and health. The company is also involved in the Junior Ranger Network. As a shop, waddensea.travel offers a wide range of books, regional products and outdoor equipment. The entire portfolio is selected on the basis of various sustainability criteria.

As a provider of ideas for sustainable action and accessibility, waddensea.travel advises and assesses tourist service providers and destinations. The company offers seminars and workshops in the areas of nature conservation, construction, interior design, gastronomy, staff qualification, tours, bundling of offers and social media, among others. A broad network of experts and specialists is involved in the process.

© waddensea.travel

As a partner of the regional network of National Park and Biosphere Partners, waddensea.travel is also politically committed to supporting the goals and qualitative further development of the Lower Saxony Wadden Sea National Park. The company communicates the basics of sustainable action in all areas of its business and to its visitors and is thus a role model and motivator for other national park partners as well. Through its multifaceted orientation, waddensea.travel promotes regional economic cycles in the areas of handicrafts and ecological agriculture. Regional cultural and artistic practitioners are supported and promoted by offering them space for exhibitions, performances and courses. As the region is designated as a biosphere reserve in addition to a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site, the company promotes the interest of the regional population in the further development of the “laboratory for SDGs”, as UNESCO refers to its biosphere reserves. waddensea.travel supports the idea of implementing the biosphere reserve in large parts of the hinterland close to the seawall and will participate in the process of the development zone according to the MAB.

The tours and trips of waddensea.travel are constantly being further developed, new scientific findings are incorporated into the content of the events. The focus is always on the compatibility of people and nature. The Gulfhof Friedrichsgroden has just received funding from the Office for Regional Land Development as it dates  from 1850 and is characteristic of the area. The restoration to its original form, as well as the sustainable development of the event location, will be co-funded. This will enable even more educational and sustainable events to be offered in future. With the help of constant quality controls and adjustments, the transformation of the tourism offers on the coast towards the sustainability of tourism in the Wadden Sea World Heritage Site will be ensured. The plan is to promote the expansion of the biosphere reserve over parts of the mainland in cooperation with the local population

© waddensea.travel

The waddensea.travel model is transferable to any region (in Germany) where the National Park and Biosphere Partner Programme is applied. In the different fields of activity, ecological, economic and social sustainability is the basis of all entrepreneurial actions. “Only what man knows, he can also protect” is the guiding principle of the company. The offers are made on the basis of and within the framework of education for the “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs), which the global community has agreed to achieve by 2030. The local goal is to make locals and guests aware of the need to protect nature while at the same time preserving the region’s cultural identity. 

Due to the sustainable focus and the digitalisation process of the company, which was already completed in 2019, no major adjustments had to be made during the COVID19 pandemic. However, the political framework for nature tours and travel needs to change as soon as possible so that waddensea.travel and similar private sector businesses can generate revenue again and be supported. This could be done especially by changing the taxation of SMEs to sustainable tourism services, as well as in the event sector of environmental education and services in cultural and nature mediation. Here, the company sees a clear economic disadvantage compared to other actors in environmental education who operate in the comparable tourism sector and are exempt from VAT and other taxes.

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