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Protected Area Authority and Local Businesses toward Sustainability of Rila National Park (April 2006 - November 2007)

Client: PAN Parks Foundation through the Rila National Park Directorate

Project duration and location - The project covered all twelve (12) municipalities surrounding the territory of the Rila National Park – Belitsa, Belovo, Blagoevgrad, Dolna Banya, Dupnitsa, Kostenets, Razlog, Rila, Samokov, Sapareva Banya, Simitli and Yakoruda.

Project objectives
To provide for economic development of the municipalities around Rila National Park, and to create opportunities for employment and increase the income of the local people;
To increase public awareness and local community’s interest in sustainable tourism development;
To develop eco-tourism initiatives around the park as a means to provide for natural resource protection and “wise use” as an alternative of the unsustainable use of nature.

Project main activities:
Study, summarize and analyze the existing natural, cultural, historic and human resources for sustainable tourism development around the Rila National Park as well as the sustainable tourism practices and experience with the help of all local stakeholders (hotel management, guides, specialized tourism services providers, etc.);
Conduct a wide-reaching information and public awareness raising campaign in all municipalities around the park and at a national level;
Develop a Sustainable Tourism Development Strategy (STDS) in consensus with all stakeholders and a five year action plan to implement this strategy;
Form a Local PAN Parks group of business partners of Rila National Park as well as a “modus operandi” for its operation;
Undertake the implementation of the STDS by:
   - Providing basic training and one-on-one consultations to entrepreneurs from municipalities around the park in support of implementation of sustainable tourism practices;
   - Creating models/examples to be followed.
Develop a standard and documentation for assessment and certification of tourist services and providers around Rila NP. It is based on the national requirements and the principals and criteria of the PAN Parks Foundation;
Selection of the first services and business partners (eco-tourism services providers), conduct assessments and coordinate their certification with PAN Parks Foundation.