Matsalu, Soomaa and Lahemaa national parks are recognized in Europe as sustainable tourism destinations. The five-year certificate (called The European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas) awarded by the EUROPARC Federation is a quality mark that proves that the destination's tourism is of high quality and takes into account the principles of preserving nature. The certificate has three parts - a certificate for a protected area, a certificate for an entrepreneur operating in a certified protected area and a certificate for a tour operator.

Estonian Environmental Board organised training programs for the entrepreurs to help them in applying the certificate. Events took place during December 2021 - March 2022:

  • On December 7, 2021, tourism entrepreneurs visited Matsalu region in Lääne County. During the seminar participants had discussions about the application form.
  • On December 14, 2021, the webinar took place to explain about the Charter for Sustainable Tourism.
  • On January 18, 2022, a training day was held in Soomaa region, where local entrepreneurs were visited and the indicators of the application form were discussed.
  • On February 10, 2022, a webinar was held, where the application form was reviewed again and first-hand experiences in completing it were shared. Application form was finalised.
  • On March 15, 2022, the last training day took place in Lahemaa region. Participants visited local entrepreneurs. Some of the applicants shared their experience in filling the application form.
7. detsembril Matsalu rahvuspargis / Foto Nele Sõber
Matsalu National Park (December 7, 2021). Photo: Nele Sõber

By April 15, 2022, the first 10 entrepreneurs submitted their applications to the Environmental Board, who forwarded them to the international assessment committee (task force) of the EUROPARC Nordic-Baltic section.

At the end of July 2022, the task force decided to recognize all Estonian tourism companies that had applied for the Charter for Sustainable Tourism. The following businesses  were awarded:

  • OÜ Kodade (Kodade puhkemaja/Salevere Salumäe Loovkoda) from Matsalu area; 
  • MTÜ Lahemaa Ökoturism from Lahemaa area; 
  • Metsamõisa Loodus OÜ (Puhta vee teemapark ja Ubari Loodustarkuse Keskus) from Lahemaa area; 
  • MTÜ Alutaguse Matkaklubi from Lahemaa area; 
  • MTÜ Lobimuuseum (Lobi Muuseum) from Lahemaa area; 
  • OÜ Matka-Rebane from Soomaa area; 
  • Kuusikaru OÜ (Piesta Kuusikaru talu) from Soomaa area; 
  • MTÜ Tipu Looduskool from Soomaa area; 
  • OÜ Soomaa Puhkeküla from Soomaa area;
  • Viis aastaaega OÜ ( from Soomaa area.

The Environmental Board will announce the next round of applications through the networks of national parks.