Happy testers! © Parc naturel Régional de Camargue
Happy testers! © Parc naturel Régional de Camargue

The Camargue Regional Nature Park has been working for several years, with local economic players and tourism offices to develop quality tourism that respects nature and traditions. Thanks to the European DestiMED project, an ecotourism package was developed in 2017-2018 and tested at the beginning of June.

This DestiMED project brings together 13 marine and coastal protected areas to develop, manage and promote ecotourism collectively throughout the Mediterranean region. In France, the Camargue Regional Nature Park was selected to integrate the DestiMED parks network in 2017 and to locally develop an ecotourism holiday package.

Five testers from Spain, Italy, Lebanon and France took part in the first test of this holiday package which, according to participants’ feedback, was a great success.

The Camargue is the largest wetland in France where 5,700 plant or animal species live and where 150,000 migratory birds take a break each year. Because of its level of importance, the park has received several important distinctions. The exceptional quality of this area has earned UNESCO recognition as a Biosphere Reserve. The park is composed of three cities (Arles, Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhone and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer), covers 100,000 hectares and 75 kilometers of coastline, and has about 10,000 inhabitants.

“Camargue, a hidden gem of Provence”

The ecotourism package was developed in collaboration with the tourism offices of the park territory. DestiMED has enabled us to develop a strong partnership with the three tourism offices and to build with them an attractive ecotourism offer with a low impact on the Park“, explains Capucine Ser, in charge of tourism at the Camargue Regional Nature Park.

For 6 days, the testers were able to discover the traditional Camargue, through a package that emphasizes meeting with the locals and discovering the culture that is the link between its great natural spaces, its festive traditions, its know-how, its biodiversity. Almost all the tourism providers in the package are labeled European Sustainable Tourism Charter or Regional Natural Park Values.

What is in this package? Unique moments of exchange with professionals who have their territory and their heritage at heart: rice farmers, manadiers, winemakers or shellfish farmers … Discovery of the cultural heritage of Arles, Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer … Observation of wildlife in the park and different reserves.

The week is rich in discoveries. As we learn in the Camargue Museum: “Everything that is natural in Camargue is linked to human activities. Crops, livestock, salt extraction, hunting, nature conservation and water controls both shape the richness of its wet ecosystems and its cultural originality.

Meetings with locals and professionals are rewarding and reflect their respect for the nature around them. As Franck and Nieves explains in their shellfish farm “Respect for the environment is important. Going organic is a personal choice, to work in respect with the environment and our products”. We also understand their attachment to their territory and their identity through our exchanges with Hélène, winegrower, “people must realize where they are. The wine is made here and not elsewhere. It’s our identity “or Monique, who runs the Provencal farmhouse where the tester group is hosted all week “Tourism is a business. The hard part is that you have to stay true, authentic.

The testers finish the week on a very positive note about the work of the Camargue Park with local tourism providers and the quality of the package.

See also the package flyer of the Camargue Park.

Capucine Ser, in charge of tourism at the Park and Anne Benezech, tourism office of Arles which represents the local tour operator, will now work on the improvement of the package on the basis of this first test and the recommendations of the participants in order to prepare for the next test to be held in the fall of 2018.

DestiMED is a project of the Interreg Med programme co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.