The Protected Areas along the Danube River all host outstanding natural treasures, which make them fascinating attractions for nature lovers. Also, having this important natural heritage at hand, Protected Areas fulfil their task of educating both visitors and local population about the value and functions of their habitats and species. Tourism in Protected Areas will therefore always have an educational element. Additionally, when tourism follows a sustainable development principle, it can help improve the economic situation – especially in rural areas – by diversifying income opportunities, and protect high-value leisure time areas for local inhabitants.

At the same time, when pressure by leisure time visitors is high due to close urban areas, the challenging task is to let visitors experience the attraction of the area, but at the same time protect it and provide enough quiet zones. This is done through visitor management, such as providing information, regulations, maps, marked trails, etc.

The task of the DANUBEPARKS Network in this respect is twofold: On the one hand, the Network provides its members with the opportunity to share experiences on these subjects and also organises workshops and trainings. On the other hand, product development and marketing can be done jointly, especially for international tourists and tour-operators.

Activities STEP 2.0

The assessment tour reached the mouth of the Danube! (© Donau-Auen National Park)
The DANUBEPARKS STEP 2.0 intensified the experience exchange and started implementation of many activities outlined in the Strategy on Tourism, Environmental Education and Regional Development, which was developed within the first project (see below).

The concept for the DANUBEPARKS visitor centre in Hungary, close to Budapest, was the first joint development of a tourism offer and will set new standards in shared communication towards the public by the network, once the exhibition is realized. To strengthen links between the existing visitor centres, digital info corners were established to provide information on the Danube’s natural treasures and to promote each other's areas and offers.

An assessment journey along the Danube, focusing on visitor centres and museums, let the partners gain new ideas, establish tourism cooperation outside the Protected Area network and identify gaps in communicating the Danube’s natural diversity. Additionally, joint quality guidelines based on these experiences now set the goals to be reached by the environmental education offers of the Protected Areas.

Last but not least, pilot projects – focusing on offers for disabled people and visitor management by assessment of carrying capacities – gave concrete examples of how to implement these quality standards as well as the positions laid down in the Tourism Strategy.

Activities 2009-2012

Ranger Training (© Wagner)
Among many events for experience-exchange and capacity-building, it is important to highlight the Joint Ranger Training that took place in 2010. The aim was to provide training for rangers, guides and informationstaff to better deal with international visitors and to be able to explain and demonstrate the value of transnational cooperation in nature protection. The training consisted of two eight-day courses; the first was an English course, with many chances to also train didactic and rhetoric skills. The second was on International Nature Protection, consisting of an interactive classroom unit about different organisations, the political level, didactic tools and a tour along several Danube Protected Areas in different countries. Both courses were held twice, once in Austria along the Upper and Middle Danubeand once in Romania along the Lower Danube.

Boat excursion (© Wagner)
Three main marketing activities were implemented. The Network’s website now contains a database of tourism opportunities in the protected areas, with additional information on accommodations and transport in the areas. You can search for the tourism opportunities here. Additionally, maps were created that can be downloaded for more information on the region and the protected areas, containing all the information necessary for tourists. The link is www.danubemap.eu. These two different tools serve as information portals for individual travellers.

The tourism brochure describes briefly the results of the Tourism Strategy and offers descriptions of the tourism opportunities in all Protected Areas of the network. The brochure should provide information about nature tourism along the Danube for individual travellers as well as for the tourism industry, and was first distributed at the tourism conference in November 2011.

Regarding product development, several Protected Areas developed offers for boat and/or bike tourism. The new tours provided by Duna-Ipoly National Park and Persina Nature Park were also tested by all the other partners, thus providing valuable feedback to the organisers.

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