The international jury announced the winner of the competition "Estonian undiscovered treasures 2009. Tourism and protected areas" organised by the Estonian Tourist Board - Soomaa National Park was declared worth of the title of the best sustainable tourism destination.
The high recognition was also awarded to Matsalu National Park and Vilsandi National Park with Viidumäe Nature Protection Area. The winner of the Estonian competition will be presented at the European tourism forum in October 2009. The winner of the Estonian competition will get also a place in the portal www.visiteurope.com which creates the network of the European top destinations.
According to Marje Braunbrück, the Deputy Director of the Estonian Tourist Board, this year"s competition of sustainable tourism for highlighting the protection areas was a real ordeal for the jury. "All three destinations having applied with the value of protected area would be suitable to bear the title of "Undiscovered treasure 2009". But there could be only one winner and the jury decided to declare Soomaa National Park as worth of the first place," Braunbrück said. She added that Matsalu and Vilsandi National Parks are also strong destinations of sustainable tourism, but Soomaa was able to overcome them in the competition.
The decision of the jury was made for the benefit of Soomaa foremost due to the fact that the there national park is a strong promoter of the sustainable tourism. The local community and the entrepreneurs have been involved in the development of the region in Soomaa. Also the supporting infrastructure exists, including the accommodation possibilities directly at the border of the protected area. The web marketing (soomaa.com), also information materials and others are in strong position. To sum up, the jury found that Soomaa as the protected area is better than the other competitors regarding the tourism development and is currently the most progressive destination of sustainable tourism, being ready to host also international tourism groups.
In case of Matsalu National Park the jury pointed out the reputation of the protected area among the persons interested in bird watching both in Estonia and Europe. The national park has good preconditions for the development of nature tourism, as it has doubtlessly high advantage in the context of the foreign markets in the given sector.
The jury valued highly Vilsandi National Park as the oldest nature protection area of the Baltic countries, by pointing out the administration of the protected area, cooperation local governments and community. The highest potential of Vilsandi is the development of seal observation, organising traditional trips and showing and teaching of old works of the people living near the beach, also the wider implementation of the different sustainable tourism principles in the whole area.
The organisation of the competition is a part of the international project EDEN (European Tourist Destinations of Excellence) which was initiated by the European Commission three years ago. The initiatives based on sustainable tourism both in member and candidate countries of the European Union will be diversified with EDEN project. This year 22 countries participate in the competition. Estonia joined the project in 2008 and the winner of the competition here – Viljandi – could present itself in autumn in introducing the European best destinations in France.