Monitoring and reporting on activities and progress of projects within your Geopark are essential management tools. Many different aspects of the Geopark should be considered for monitoring from assessing the success of individual projects to ensuring your Geopark’s governance structures remain effective as your Geopark develops over time.
- Monitoring and Reporting in UNESCO Global Geoparks
- Active and Passive Monitoring Systems
- Long-term Legacies
- Monitoring UNESCO Global Geoparks as Sustainable Destinations
- Monitoring Geotourism
- Monitoring Visitors using Nature Trails and Geotrails
- Case Studies
Monitoring and reporting are essential to show how successful your Geopark is operating and is crucial for competent management. As a consequence, you should look to establish robust monitoring systems to assess how your Geopark is working.
Monitoring of Geopark activities is also an essential part of the Revalidation process for UNESCO Global Geoparks to ensure that the quality of UNESCO Geoparks is maintained over many years.
2. Monitoring in UNESCO Global Geoparks
Successful monitoring means there is a need to make regular observations and record activities which occur within your Geopark.
Remember – not all activities may be untaken by the core Geopark management / governance structures, as they may be led by Geopark partners or associate businesses which support the Geopark brand. Your monitoring systems should therefore be flexible to account for a wide range of activities within your Geopark territory, for example:
- Demonstrating the competency and effectiveness of your Geopark’s governance systems in meeting any Action Plan you have developed
- Showing the success of an individual project and how it has created benefits for the community it which it was delivered.
- Showing how the Geopark is having an impact over the short-, medium- and long-term.
- Capturing volunteer involvement in a range of activities, from guided walks to lectures
- Managing visitors at sensitive geo-sites, especially if they are popular.
- Accounting for funds raised and making sure projects do not overspend.
- Learning indicators.
- Preparing for Geopark Revalidation
The presentation of monitoring information can take many forms, but it must be accessible and displayed in an organised manner using as appropriate charts, tables, graphs, etc. to illustrate the progress being made.
Some individual projects, such as those funded by external organisations for example, local / regional government Interreg or lottery-based funders, may require monitoring during the delivery of that project, particularly if it lasts a number of years. Monitoring of such projects can be used to show that important milestones are being met and the funds are being drawn down as expected and so meet any funding criteria.
Depending on the activity, monitoring can also be:
Technical – for example, showing how Geopark activities are meeting safety criteria in preparing for geohazards, and as such may be intended for government representatives or engineers.
Operational – for example – providing an overview of how the Geopark as a whole territory is functioning, highlighting success or conversely areas of pressure on Geo-sites or tensions within a community, which can then be addressed through a revised Action Plan.
Operational monitoring is therefore a very useful tool to make managerial decisions.
3. Active and Passive Monitoring Systems
Monitoring in Geoparks can be carried out in a number of ways, but most systems are either:
- Active (direct)
- Passive (indirect)
3.a Active (or direct) Systems
These involve going out to collect monitoring information. Examples include visitor surveys, questionnaires, contacting businesses for sector information, targeted mailing for particular information, assessment of scientific impacts, monitoring of Geo-sites to ensure they are not degrading.
This can be extremely useful as, for example, visitor surveys through questionnaires or interviews can provide up-to-date information about an area’s visitors and their opinions, expectations, and behaviour.
Active monitoring can require resources both in staff and in time. Frequency can be important in gaining relevant information. For example, Businesses may only need to be contacted once a year to find out how their Geopark related activities developed over the previous 12 months, whilst a sensitive Geo-site may have to be monitored by being visited and assessed on a weekly or monthly basis.
3.b Passive (or indirect) Systems
These are often technology-based, and do not require the presence of staff to record information. Examples include footfall indicators installed in Geopark centres, or along Geotrails, to provide information on the number of people using the facility or route. Remote sensing or cameras can also be important passive monitoring tools.
Feedback forms on websites or social media platforms can also be useful for monitoring. These provide opportunities for unsolicited feedback and can be submitted at any time after a visit so can give an indication of longer-term experiential or learning impacts.
Passive monitoring can generate large amounts of data, which can usually then be downloaded into a computer and analysed as appropriate. In some instances, passive systems may be expensive to purchase, however as they are technology based, they can be moved around the Geopark territory and re-installed in different places to address particular issues which require monitoring.
4. Long-term Legacies
Another advantage of monitoring is that it can show long-term legacies arising from decisions taken at the operational level within the Geopark, or demonstrate that a discrete project had an impact far beyond its period of funding.
For example, a decision may be made to restrict car access in your Geopark. Monitoring can be used to demonstrate whether or not this had an impact on visitor numbers across the territory, or whether it encouraged an increased use of more sustainable forms of travel, such as cycling or use of public transport.
At a more local level within a Geopark, projects such as environmental restoration, which can be particularly important in more urban Geoparks, can also benefit from long term monitoring. For example, in the short-term a community project may only be funded for 2-3 years to plant new trees or create a new pond, whilst long-term monitoring can show how biodiversity has been enhanced by the creation of this habitat.
5. Monitoring UNESCO Global Geoparks as Sustainable Destinations
Monitoring and reporting processes need to recognise that Geoparks are unified geographical areas with:
- a “bottom-up” development strategy,
- a holistic approach to activities which are designed with and for the people,
- protect and promote all of their natural and cultural (tangible and intangible) heritage,
- are used for education and science.
As a consequence, they are an important sustainable economic asset associated with the implementation of responsible tourism.
To help tourist destinations to measure their performance in relation to sustainability, Geoparks should be using some form of Tourism Indicator System to show how the territory as a whole is performing as a tourism destination against core indicators.
For example, the European Commission has developed the “European Tourism Indicators System – ETIS” (European Commission, 2016). ETIS is a system of indicators appropriate for all tourist destinations, and can be used as:
- a management tool (supporting destinations to take a sustainable approach to destination management),
- a monitoring system (affordable to use for collecting data and detailed information to monitor destinations performance from one period to another).
Similarly, the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas (ECST) helps to reveal the performance of managing authorities, stakeholders and tourism business in a variety of natural areas, to support and promote tourism according to the principles of sustainable development (EUROPARC, 2010).
6. Monitoring Geotourism
For Geotourism, monitoring the effectiveness of the management systems, involving a wide set of stakeholders and taking advantage of indicator systems such as ETIS to measure and monitor their sustainable management performance, all provide important information and added value for all Geoparks.
Therefore, any Geotourism Monitoring System (GMS) must be a useful flexible assessment tool able to evolve and allow the Geopark to demonstrate improvements in their performance based on the internal and external perception of the different stakeholders and communities and to provide information to enable year-on-year comparison of the results.
For example, nature trails have become very popular with a wide variety of users for various purposes (e.g. professionals, recreational, health and/or education), and as such they are a crucial part of the infrastructure to achieve UNESCO Global Geopark goals. Consequently, any Geotourism Monitoring System (GMS) should have a special focus on the nature trail or Geotrail based services network.
One approach is for the GMS to have two different and inter-related levels of approach:
- A general one considering or dealing with overall characteristics of the nature trail-based services, where three types of nature trails (family, science and adventure) can be considered with information focus for the general public.
- A specific one having a special application for the Geopark’s technical and scientific staff.
This two-level approach is currently being developed and trialled by Atlantic Geoparks partner UTAD in Portugal and the results will be provided to the EGN/GGN as a potential model to be used to monitoring Geotourism activities in Geoparks in the future.
6.a UTAD GMS Model for Monitoring Geotourism
It proposed in the UTAD model that the GMS will have two components:
- Concerning ETIS Core indicators and
- with an indicative list of supplementary indicators for Geotourism.
In the first part the GMS model aims to help Geoparks to monitor and measure their sustainable tourism performance through this voluntary management tool based on self-assessment. The second part aims to help the Geopark to collect additional information that is better tailored to their destination type and Geotourism. For this part, the model utilises and develops information about Geotourism built into the “Revalidation template for UNESCO Global Geoparks Reports”. For the indicative list of supplementary indicators for Geotourism four sections are proposed. In sections I to III the UTAD GMS model considers questions/information that appear in the “Revalidation template for UNESCO Global Geoparks Reports”. However, for section IV, beside that source of information, the UTAD GMS additionally includes the parameters specifically concerned for nature trails (NTs) assessment.
7. Monitoring Visitors using Nature Trails and Geotrails
Visitor monitoring along nature trails and Geotrails must have clearly defined goals, for instance, to check the adherence to limitations of use, to minimise conflicts between user groups or to collect comprehensible data for planning decisions.
In the context of visitor monitoring along trails, a range of options are available to Geoparks. For example, the “National Visitor Use Monitoring” (NVUM) programme is a monitoring system based on surveys that collect data about visitors, aiming to estimate the amount of recreational visits, and therefore produce descriptive information about the nature of the visit (e.g. activity participation, demographics, visit duration, etc.).
Onsite monitoring of visitors (active surveying and counting of visitors to a specific area) and general population surveys (e.g. the census of individuals or households at their home) are two of the main approaches that can be used to support visitor monitoring. Comparisons between the two provide useful contrasts. For example, the general population surveys can be considered complementary to the on-site monitoring. They could be useful to obtain information on why local people may be non-visitors but who could become potential visitors if the appropriate targeted inventions and promotions to locals are offered.
Monitoring provides important data about indicators which can be reported on, both to your Geopark’s own management team, to regional Geoparks networks and to UNESCO as part of the four-year Geopark Revalidation process.
8.a Annual Reporting
This usually takes place within the governance management team of your own Geopark, possibly as part of an Annual General Meeting or an annual review of the Action Plan. Such meetings or workshops can demonstrate to Geopark partners progress on projects and highlight potential new opportunities for the future.
Although not required by UNESCO, some Geoparks may prepare and publish an Annual Report based on data obtained from monitoring. These are often for the benefit of governmental and funding bodies to demonstrate how sustainable development goals and educational opportunities are being achieved, but as appropriate can have wider audiences.
8.b Regional Reporting
Some regional networks, such as the European Geoparks Network (EGN) publish magazines and books to highlight activities within Geoparks in their region. The EGN magazine is published once a year and has a particular focus on Geotourism activities and provides an opportunity to report on and promote projects.
Regional Geopark conferences also provide opportunities to report on a range of Geopark activities, including new research outcomes, Geotourism activities and new technologies and models used for monitoring.
8.c Reporting to UNESCO – Geopark Revalidation
Reporting to UNESCO is undertaken through the formal UNESCO Global Geoparks revalidation process. Preparing for Revalidation is an ongoing process, so as a Geopark management body, you should be considering what monitoring data to collect, the methods of collection such as some of those highlighted above, and to ensure it is collected in a consistent fashion. This will ensure that year-on-year analyses are comparable and reports for submission can be more easily generated.
Further details on the Revalidation process are available in the Geoparks Networks section and on the UNESCO Global Geoparks website. Support for Geoparks preparing for revalidation can also be found from regional networks and from your national UNESCO Geoparks committee.
9. Case Studies
The case studies highlight two separate Geopark-based monitoring programmes within the Atlantic Geoparks Partnership Area. You can use aspects of these examples in your own Geopark setting by adapting the monitoring processes to your own Geopark territory’s practical and cultural norms.
- Case Study 1 – Paiva Walkways located on the left bank of the Paiva River, in Arouca UNESCO Global Geopark, Portugal.
- Case Study 2 Customer experience in Lanzarote UNESCO Global Geopark.