"Nature for the Senses" is an innovative programme that offers visitors attractive tourist experiences in the natural areas near the Paradores. During these experiences, created between Paradores and local providers, visitors can enjoy the natural space through emotional and exciting experiences in nature following a suggestive theme linked with the protection and enjoyment of the natural environment and its biodiversity.
PARADORES DE TURISMO DE ESPAÑA, S.M.E., S.A. (Paradores) is a public limited company whose sole shareholder is the Spanish State. This hotel chain, which has 97 hotels, responds to a unique concept of tourism in the world. Most of its hotels are located in remarkable settings, are historic buildings and/or are in exceptional natural areas. Since its creation in 1928, Paradores has aimed to offer a comprehensive, accessible and personalised quality service with a difference, committed to the natural, economic and historical environment, intended to promote the image of Spanish tourism combined with sustainable development.
The "Nature for the Senses" nature experience programme is a further step in our commitment to sustainability. More than 50% of the establishments in the Paradores company are close to protected natural environments. We focus on nature, the importance of biodiversity and the value of local producers in their respective communities. The "Nature for the Senses" programme is the result of an alliance between Paradores, local businesses and managers of natural and cultural resources with the aim of promoting sustainable and responsible ecotourism that generates social, environmental and economic benefits in the region, with nature as the true protagonist. This programme is being implemented in several Paradores and we hope to replicate it in 30% of the company.
In short, Paradores seeks, through the development of nature experiences, to generate opportunities for development, employment and support for the inhabitants of the natural areas surrounding the Paradores and, in turn, to enhance the value of their nature, history and culture. The experiences that form part of the programme, carried out in collaboration with the Global Nature Foundation, are managed on the basis of these sustainability criteria.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context
This programme forms part of the Paradores Sustainability Plan 2021-2023, within the initiatives of Paradores' commitment to Natural Capital. Our aim is to position Paradores as a tourism company that promotes the protection of nature and favours rural development. Nature for the Senses is structured around a theme that presents the Paradores as "Hosts by Nature", the common thread running through all the experiences. We have developed a methodology with the Global Nature Foundation to promote innovative and collaborative experiences, based on sustainability criteria, associating the Paradores brand with the values contained in this theme. In a preliminary phase, we decide which Paradores are included in the programme depending on their proximity to protected natural spaces (area of influence 70 km). Then the protected natural areas are identified, and an inventory, characterisation and selection of the natural and cultural resources of each area is carried out as a basis for defining the experiences. For this selection, economic, social and environmental indicators are taken into account. The degree of protection and quality certification of the resources is analysed. The interpretative potential is also evaluated and local suppliers committed to the environment are found to provide quality services and become part of the common theme of the experiences of each Parador. The interpretive potential of each resource is defined according to the "Interpretive Potential Index" (IPI) which considers factors such as the uniqueness of the area, attractiveness for arousing curiosity and attracting public interest, the ability of the site to withstand visitor pressure and use, access to a wide range of audiences, seasonality, current visitor numbers, ease of explanation, relevance of content, safety for visitors and the facilities offered by the site to be made accessible to visitors. The resources with the highest index are finally selected for the creation of the experience
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context
Our objectives in terms of aesthetics and quality are to achieve an enriching, unique and exclusive experience for our guests, to whom a common experience story is conveyed at each Parador. For example, in the Parador de Cangas de Onís, the theme of its experience programme is "Welcome to the Kingdom of Nature". Four themes have been defined for each of the areas into which the natural spaces have been divided: "The Origin of the Kingdom (for the Parador de Cangas de Onís area)", "Shepherds, Kings of the Mountain (for the Picos de Europa area)", "The King of the Forests (for the Ponga area)" and "The Kingdom of Time (for the coastal area)".
In addition, the programme theme of each Parador is always linked to the common theme of the project, "Hosts by Nature" and its message in favour of the conservation of the cultural and natural heritage of the environment and local revitalisation, typical of the identity of Paradores and its commitment to sustainability.
All the experiences stimulate the pleasure of becoming at one with nature and participating in unique activities requiring our full attention, reducing stress and increasing inner wellbeing. Some examples of this are forest bathing experiences that highlight the forest wealth of the areas and the singular and intimate enjoyment of these botanical treasures. In Villafranca del Bierzo, one experience involves a visit to the vineyards of a winery, a walk through the castros (type of fortified settlement) and interpretation of the landscape, highlighting the use of the soil and archaeological heritage, and portraying the way of life. Ancient and modern varieties of vines are trained on trellises, and different activities are used to promote agricultural biodiversity. In Cangas de Onís, one experience is a visit to the Picos de Europa National Park with the Fundación CQ, to see necrophagous birds and to highlight the importance of extensive livestock farming for ecosytems maintenance.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context
One of the objectives of the Nature for the Senses programme is to contribute to the local revitalisation of the environment in which we operate. To this end, we have relied on local suppliers who are knowledgeable about the area and who are the best ambassadors for their region. This also contributes to diversifying and improving the tourism offer, making it less seasonal and, in general, to the development of the local economy, promoting public-private cooperation through agreements and alliances.
For each Parador, approximately eight experiences are defined. Each one, as we have mentioned, with an individual theme within the context provided by the higher-level themes, for the area, the programme and the project, such that the basic messages are integrated from top to bottom.
The various experiences are described in explanatory sheets giving information about the experience and indicating the degree of difficulty and accessibility.
It should be noted that the idea for the programme came about during the onset of the global pandemic. Faced with the crisis in a sector as hard hit as tourism, this programme was created to help our clients reconnect with nature, creating experiences that inspire changes in lifestyle, that bring us closer to our landscapes and their conservation in a humanistic way, connecting with the aspirations of our clients. It also was created to help local economy to recover.
Please highlight how this approach can be exemplary
As a whole, the project represents the new multidisciplinary Bauhaus of tourism in synergy with the territory. We join this movement with the aim of being a reference for the tourist experience that facilitates and develops respectful and responsible tourism. These actions confront us all with reality and the need to move towards patterns of behaviour and lifestyles that are more careful and less aggressive towards natural environments. They aim to raise awareness.
The three dimensions of sustainability, aesthetics and inclusivity are perfectly integrated in this programme and in the philosophy of Paradores. Our commitment to the destinations where we operate is comprehensive, and combines our commitment to environmental preservation with the conservation of our valuable historical and artistic heritage (45 of our Paradores are considered Assets of Cultural Interest and we have an artistic collection of more than 9000 pieces), as well as the responsibility to "coexist" with human diversity to the full.
We share the vision of understanding that tourism in the new European Bauhaus must be one of the ways to achieve a profound transformation in society towards sustainability, accepting and respecting everyone. It is not just an experience, the different phases of creation and implementation of each activity are in line with the three dimensions.
We carry out a prior consultancy phase advised by the Global Nature Foundation. Following a methodology common to all projects, we identify the resources and criteria for the development of each experience, look for the best local agents for its development, agree on the messages to be communicated and provide support in the implementation, communication and monitoring.
We would like to emphasise that Paradores has collaboration agreements with local suppliers but does not obtain economic benefit from them; on the contrary, our objective is to increase local wellbeing.
Nature for the Senses has been implemented in three Paradores that have developed an average of eight experiences each. So far, the programme has been fully implemented in one Parador (Cangas de Onís), where it has been running for a year, while in the other two (Villafranca del Bierzo and Bielsa) the experiences have just started. We are also currently working on defining experiences at the Paradores in Gredos and Mazagón. In the coming years we plan to develop the programme in another 15 Paradores.
It is still too early to draw definitive conclusions from the implementation of the programme, especially in times of pandemic. Overall, in all the projects we have improved relationships with community members by working together and creating mutual value. There is a direct impact on the local suppliers who offer the service, on the inhabitants of the environments themselves, on the employees of the Parador who are motivated to work with their environment, and of course on all the customers who have enjoyed these experiences and given their opinions in satisfaction surveys of their stay. In particular, during this complex situation, this project has served to raise awareness of the importance of nature in our lives.
Please also explain the benefits that derived from their involvement.
This programme connects with Paradores' mission to boost the local environments where we operate. All the experiences are carried out by local suppliers who know the environment, its nature and traditions well.
There is a preliminary training phase aimed, on the one hand, at employees, who need to be familiar with the philosophy of the programme, as "we are hosts by nature" and important prescribers with a fundamental role in the broadcasting of experiences. On the other hand, training for suppliers / local agents. Paradores and the Global Nature Foundation held a training workshop on how to interpret the landscape and how to communicate the experiences in line with nature conservation.
Once the experiences have been finalised, Paradores supports the local suppliers with promotional actions, involving dissemination in national and international media, continuous activity on social media, reports in the Parador Magazine, the production of a promotional video and the organisation of press and familiarisation trips. We seek to highlight not only the natural resources but also local traditions and local cuisine.
In addition, Paradores offers continuous support during the implementation of the experiences and development.
Nature for the Senses, through its local experiences and messages, aims to influence the way of understanding sustainable tourism as an ally in the conservation of nature. The goal of the programme is to teach and raise awareness of our natural heritage, without using technical jargon.
In addition, the project aims to raise awareness to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Every year, approximately 1.3 million customers from all over Spain and abroad visit our establishments. Paradores wants to offer its customers the natural, cultural, architectural and gastronomic heritage within and bring the local environment and its inhabitants to the fore through this innovative programme that helps reconnect with nature and local culture.
In Spain, covid-19 particularly affected local small and medium-sized enterprises. The reduction in business as a result of the restrictive measures has severely affected them, not only damaging their prospects for growth but also for survival. With this programme, Paradores is trying to reverse this situation by promoting, among other things, the generation of business through experiences, creating employment and contributing to rural development, as well as to nature conservation.
This programme is extremely innovative. It is not about experiences designed by the marketing area of the central or corporate services of our hotel chain. The "Nature for the senses" programme is born attached to the mission of the company, and the idea comes from the sustainability area which is in continuous dialogue with our local stakeholders to transfer the values and the essence of the company to the customers.
As a hotel chain, we provide our guests with a memorable, surprising, enriching and exciting tourist experience. With absolute respect and acceptance for the local. We act from a regional perspective to positively influence the global.
We have the opportunity to create a new, more humane, more natural and simpler society that better understands nature and imitates it with a circular economic vision in all its actions.
The novelty of the product lies in the methodology for designing the experiences, but also in its social configuration, which facilitates public access to nature experiences and provides elements to boost tourism and the local economy. The project is innovative for two basic reasons:
- In terms of methodology, first, a categorised inventory is made based on a rigorous investigation of the resources of the nearby natural spaces (70 km from the Parador), an evaluation of the interpretative potential, field visits are made, the stories and their hierarchies are defined and the experiences and messages to be communicated are designed.
- Due to its social configuration, it has a package of tourist services defined to facilitate the visitor's access to these experiences provided by local companies with the support of the brand and the promotion of Paradores.
We are not creating isolated leisure experiences, but experiences with a commitment to global sustainability in the tourist destination. Experiences that create awareness.
Please provide clear documentation, communication of methodology and principles in this context.
Nature for the Senses is a programme that can be exported to other environments where there are unique natural resources that do not have a high influx of visitors. This model is perfectly transferable to different regions and countries because it is based on revitalising elements already present in each place. The project develops a model of eco-tourism based on local collaboration in the field with the aim of combining natural and cultural resources to generate a sustainable product - an experience - which is expressed in a theme that organises and highlights certain unique, living, emblematic, characteristic and emotional elements of a given natural environment. It is important to note that the message to be conveyed in each of the nature experiences must include a defence of the conservation of natural heritage in line with Paradores' commitment to contributing to the United Nations SDGs.
At Paradores, we have so far replicated this programme at five Paradores and their areas of influence. We plan to develop it in around twenty establishments that have natural environments that can be selected based on the index of interpretative potential. We believe that this programme is easily replicable in other areas and does not require costly investments or many operational difficulties.