The second stage of the Rewilding Training Tourism programme has just taken place in the Central Apennines of Italy. Participants, who enjoyed a range of presentations and experiences, found it both useful and inspiring.
Last year, Rewilding Europe started a new multi-stage Rewilding Training Tourism programme, with the aim of professionalising and scaling up nature-based tourism across Europe. After completing the first webinar-based stage earlier this year, stage two participants finally had the chance to experience and learn from training in the field.
Stage two of the programme took place in the Central Apennines rewilding area in Italy, with those involved enjoying a varied schedule involving scenario training, role plays, managing guest expectations, a visit to a local Bear Smart Community, and the sampling of locally made natural products. On completion, it generated a wide range of positive reviews.
“The Rewilding Apennines team presented their work in the best possible way and were really inspirational,” says Nino Salkić, a nature guide and rewilding officer attached to the Rewilding Velebit team in Croatia. “The Rewilding Training Tourism programme is something that everyone involved in nature-based tourism should experience – to learn new skills, to get to know the work of other participants, and to take hospitality to a new level. And, of course, to advance the rewilding movement.”
A compelling programme
Stage two field training was headed up by Simon Collier, nature-based tourism expert and owner of Nature Tourism Development, in co-production with European Safari Company Operations Manager Aukje van Gerven, who helped to develop the programme, local nature-based tourism partner Wildlife Adventures, and members of the Rewilding Apennines team.
“The overall emphasis was on incorporating rewilding best practices and lifting hospitality skills to a new level,” adds Aukje van Gerven. “There were some great presentations and examples from the rewilding team, and also from Umberto Esposito, the founder Wildlife Adventures. He dived into the ethics of running a wildlife watching tourism business with us, explaining how important it was not to simply focus on spotting specific animals – such as Marsican brown bears – during tours, but to look at the whole ecosystem and the role animals play within it.”
Lucky participants also got to sample a range of locally made natural products, such as wild honey, which helped to emphasise the way rewilding can support nature-based enterprise.
“I loved the atmosphere, the wonderful scenery and nature, and being with like-minded people,” says Slovenian nature guide Petra Draškovič Pelc. “I am very grateful for this opportunity to learn about rewilding in a real-world context and raise my skills to a higher level.”
Also Jasper Folmer, owner of NatureLab, thinks the training programme is well thought-out. “Putting together and rolling out this field training on the ground was really great teamwork from Simon and Aukje,” says Folmer.
“The local team did a phenomenal job with the training and the entire experience was well-balanced, stimulating, exciting and humbling,” adds Georg Messerer, a nature guide working in the Southern Carpathians of Romania. “Much of what I learned is already being applied in Romania: motivated by the training, I have inspired my team to step up our game in hospitality and food.”
Scaling up nature-based tourism
Rewilding is proving increasingly popular with those directly involved in nature-based tourism – apart from anything else, wilder, more extensive nature helps to support business growth. This is evidenced by the development of nature-based tourism in many of Rewilding Europe’s operational areas, with nature recovery creating jobs and income for rural communities and revitalising local economies.
The Rewilding Training Tourism programme, which kicked off in 2020, is designed to equip those entrepreneurs involved in guiding, hospitality and tourism with a wide range of skills and knowledge and enable them to act as rewilding ambassadors. The programme is broken down into three stages – each stage has to be completed in order and each includes an assessment and a “rewilding certificate” for those who pass. The first stage is comprised of a series of webinars, while stage 2 and stage 3 training takes place in the field.
“After spending more than a year developing the training program in collaboration with The European Safari Company and Rewilding Europe, it’s great to see it come to full fruition,” says Simon Collier. “After the completion of the theoretical stage one webinar series, it was really exciting to see participants apply their learnings and test their own skills in the field during the second stage.”
Integrate rewilding into your business
The Rewilding Training Tourism programme will run on a cyclical basis going forwards. A re-run of stage two (fully booked) will take place in June and July 2021. The third stage, which will focus on entrepreneurship in nature-based tourism, will take place in the Central Apennines in September 2021. Stage one webinar training will begin again in November and December 2021, and again in January and February 2022, with field training taking place after that. The webinar series in November and December 2021 costs 195 euros excluding VAT (see PDF for more details), while costs for stage three and for 2022 have yet to be finalised.
“We want to change the location for the field training every year, and are now looking at a different European rewilding area for 2022,” says Aukje van Gerven. “There are a few places left for the next stage one webinar series, so I would encourage all those who are interested to get in touch soon!”
Those interested in applying for the programme should e-mail Irene Fernandez (firstname.lastname@example.org), outlining why this training would be beneficial to themselves and their business. General questions about the programme should be addressed to Aukje van Gerven (email@example.com).
The first cycle of the Rewilding Training Tourism programme (2020/21) was developed and organised with funding from the Dutch Postcode Lottery. The lottery made a special donation to Rewilding Europe Capital in 2020 to support the scaling up of European nature-based businesses.