Managing visitors in Eryri National Park
By Angela Jones, Partnerships Manager
One of the interesting things about National Parks in Britain is that they aren’t ‘national’ as they are in other countries. What do we mean by that? Well as a National Park Authority in Eryri we own less than 1% of the actual National Park – and this is mainly toilets and car parks! The National Park is actually made up of hundreds of privately owned parcels of land. We have to work in partnership across the entire region in order to implement anything and agree on measures to be taken. So when we are talking about upwards of 4 million visitors every year - managing and influencing behaviour really is a partnership approach.
Our core way of managing visitors and influencing what they do is communication – whether that be through social media, mainstream media, websites, apps, publications, signs and often specific campaigns. One of the fundamental challenges to us is reaching new and different audiences to ensure that our messages are hitting home. This means we have to stay relevant and at times quirky in order to reach different demographics. An example of this is our current Mabinogion campaign (the Mabinogion are a collection of stories from medieval Wales, some of the oldest stories in British literature).
With a mission to combat littering and promote sustainable tourism, this groundbreaking initiative aims to raise awareness, inspire positive behaviour changes, and position Eryri as a leading environmentally conscious destination. The Authority worked in partnership with passionate social media influencers who have taken on Mabinogion characters interacting with litter in popular National Park locations. Through this creative approach, the campaign aims to capture attention, spark conversations, and underscore the importance of taking all litter home and reducing the use of single-use plastics. To maximize the reach of the campaign a multi-channel communications strategy has been established. Social media platforms, including Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, feature captivating content created by the Mabinogion-inspired influencers. Visible throughout the National Park, eye-catching posters will be displayed at strategic locations, urging visitors to take action and join the movement towards a plastic-free future. Moreover, a comprehensive digital toolkit has been developed, providing businesses, organisations, and land managers with the resources needed to embrace sustainable practices within their operations.
One of the other main ways we can manage visitors is through parking and transport. Again this requires committed partnership working as highways, public transport and even car parks are all owned and managed by a variety of different organisations. As Eryri is such a remote and rural area, there are limited parking opportunities, and we are aiming towards a strategy in the long term which drastically reduces the number of cars which enter the core of the National Park. In the meantime, we have worked with our partners in the Local Authorities and Transport for Wales to increase the bus services around honeypot sites, also known as Sherpa’r Wyddfa, with a newly branded and efficient service running around the foothill of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon). As well as this we have introduced measures such as a pre-booking system at Pen y Pass, the busiest car park in the area to ensure the visitor experience is smoother and also to encourage people to opt for more sustainable transport options.
It is important to note that the most effective way of influencing people and behaviours is presence on the ground. Our Warden Service are an exceptional bunch, but in the busy summer months, there just aren’t enough of them so we rely heavily on volunteers to help with all sorts of visitor management issues. We have Volunteer Wardens who give their precious time to patrol and speak to visitors, we also have a mobile Warden Service information van, as well as a wider programme called Caru Eryri where anyone can get involved. The Caru Eryri scheme is a volunteering program that is run in partnership with the Snowdonia Society, Outdoor Partnership and the National Trust. The aim of the scheme is to help manage the impact that an increased number of visitors is having in the National Park. Litter picks are organised across the National Park, focusing on the busiest paths and honeypot sites. Volunteers can sign up to the volunteering shift using an online portal. Over the summer of 2022, volunteers spent 134 days caring for Eryri and collected 1033kg of litter. A huge achievement we are extremely grateful for. The scheme continues in 2023, with the addition of conservation workdays.
As we look to the future, we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with our Local Authorities to produce a Plan for a Sustainable Visitor Economy in Gwynedd and Eryri – which establishes a core Partnership to lead on a new definition of tourism and principles for the region. This plan puts the communities of the area at the heart of future decision making and recognises the need to ensure that the benefits of tourism are measured in ways which aren’t only about finances but also about impacts on the environment, culture and language. For more on this see our website here and look out for future developments: www.authority.snowdonia.gov.wales/the-authority/partnerships/gwynedd-and-eryri-2035
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