By rewarding tourist areas which pursue a sustainable development path, the EDEN initiative boosts awareness of Europe's touristic diversity and quality, and helps to spread good practices. The 2011 edition focused on the regeneration of physical sites which were converted into tourism attractions and catalysts for wider local regeneration: join us for a tour of excellence.
Tourism is vitally important to the European economy, providing a diverse range of employment and opportunities. Some 1.8 million companies, many of them SMEs, operate in the sector, providing jobs for an estimated 12 to 14 million Europeans.
To ensure that projected growth in tourism is not accompanied by environmental or societal damage, there has been a positive shift towards the promotion of socially responsible and sustainable tourism.
The EDEN initiative is an example of this commitment to sustainable tourism. Since 2007, EDEN, which stands for European Destinations of Excellence, has been rewarding successful sustainable business models across Europe while, at the same time, providing a platform for the exchange of good practices among tourist destinations. The project stresses the potential of tourism to act as a catalyst for wider local regeneration.
The selection and nomination of the destinations under a specific annual theme is carried out at national level, with one submission per country sent to the European Commission. Selected destinations must be able to demonstrate their commitment to social, cultural and environmental sustainability. Award recipients are often non-traditional, emerging, little-known European destinations, as the goal of the project is to increase awareness of European diversity, to attract tourists to interesting places they may not have heard of and to redress the imbalance in tourism flows.
This year the EDEN Award celebrates its fifth year of showcasing Europe’s excellence in sustainable tourism. The 2011 EDEN Award focused specifically on the regeneration of physical sites, and sought to reward destinations that had successfully rehabilitated some aspect of their local heritage and converted it into a tourist attraction. Candidate destinations ranged from abandoned mines and disused factories to derelict railways and overgrown farmsteads, which once played a key role in European history. The award sought to recognise successful examples of sustainable regeneration, which enable people to rediscover the past and learn about traditional ways of life.
On 27 September this year, 21 winning destinations were officially awarded at the EDEN Awards ceremony in Brussels (see box for winners). The event was closely linked to European Tourism Day, which also took place on 27 September and focused on European Industrial Heritage.
Given that the EDEN Award emphasises sustainability, it is logical that good practices should be learned and passed on to others. In order to achieve this as effectively as possible, the EDEN Network was established on European Tourism Day in 2008. The so-called ‘Declaration on a European Network of Destinations of Excellence for Sustainable Tourism’ is an official commitment by EDEN award winners past and present to collaborate and exchange information and knowledge about tourism development.
In 2011, EDEN Network members adopted a mission statement and strategy, establishing common ground for a long-term action plan. Following the EDEN Awards in September 2011, and the addition of 21 new EDEN destinations, the Network has grown to 98 members and now includes destinations from 26 European countries.
Indeed, with the backing of the European Commission, the EDEN Network has the potential to become an important authority on sustainable tourism for government institutions, tourism bodies, the media, tour operators and citizens. In this light, members will soon establish an Association open to all destinations meeting strict criteria on tourism sustainability. Moreover, as part of a strategy to increase the network’s visibility, a label initiative has been outlined which will give EDEN destinations the chance to promote themselves internationally using what is hoped will become a recognisable label.
The 21 winning European destinations of Excellence in 2011 are:
More information on the EDEN winning destinations can be found at: http://ec.europa.eu/eden
EDEN forms part of the Commission actions, underlined in the last year’s Communication "Europe, the world's No 1 tourist destination – a new political framework for tourism in Europe". The focus of the Communication is on maintaining in a sustainable manner Europe’s position as the world's top tourist destination. The Communication covered 21 actions , divided into four main areas: improving the competitiveness of European tourism; promoting sustainable, responsible and qualitative tourism; enhancing Europe's image as a home to sustainable and high-quality destinations; and maximising the potential of EU policies and financial instruments for the development of European tourism.
Special mention has been made on the diversification of tourism products and services, with a focus on the promotion of Europe's common cultural and natural heritage, achievable through such initiatives as EDEN.