A new model of sustainable tourism for UNESCO sites is to be developed by a UK-French project partnership led by Armorique Regional Nature Park, with funding from Interreg France (Channel) England.
The ‘UNESCO Sites across the Channel’ (USAC) project involves five other partners: Kent Downs AONB, Isle of Wight AONB, Caps et Marais d’Opale Regional Nature Park and Conservatoire d’Espaces Naturels des Hauts-de-France.
They will work closely with local businesses and tourist offices in the UK and France to develop a model for attracting tourists, while carefully managing biodiversity and protecting natural landscapes.
Through developing innovative new tourism activities that boost visibility of these sites whilst promoting sustainability, they expect to draw 2.6 million new visitors to the south of England and north of France, generate a revenue of 780 million euros and create around 80 news job in the tourism sector.
Armorique Regional Nature Park, which leads on the project, is an exceptional natural heritage site in Finistère, Brittany, spanning 425,000 acres of land, encompassing 61,000 habitants and UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.
Noémie Courant, Project Manager at Armorique Regional Nature Park, said: “We are really excited about developing a model of tourism that attracts visitors to these beautiful heritage sites while also protecting the environment and wildlife.
“We hope to bring investment to these areas and create new jobs, while sharing a model of sustainable tourism that other UNESCO sites can benefit from.”
The project will promote sustainable development activities through heritage-based events, development of discovery tours, new communication and marketing tools and promotion of sites for all-season visits. It comes at an opportune time, during Covid-19, when more people are enjoying the benefits of their local environment.
The model will be developed around Biosphere Reserves, which are learning spaces for sustainable development, and Geoparks, which are areas that advance the protection and use of geological heritage in a sustainable way and promote the economic well-being of local people.
As well as developing a sustainable model for tourism, the project will also support the creation of 11 new cross-channel UNESCO sites, within the next five years, with social and economic benefits for local residents.
Carolyn Reid, Programme Manager, Interreg France (Channel) England, said: “Project USAC supports our objective to increase the attractiveness of the Channel region, and realise the potential of our natural heritage.
“The project was recognised for its potential to bring greater awareness and access to regional parks and natural sites, while developing a sustainable tourism model that can be rolled out and used by other tourism providers.”
The project has a total budget of €1.2m of which €835,755 is funded by the European Regional Development Fund via the Interreg France (Channel) England Programme.