SENSA - Sustainable, Environmental and Safe tourism in protected areas

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The SENSA project aims at a collaborative platform supporting "sustainable & responsible tourism" in protected remote areas, such as natural parks, natural reserves and historical sites. SENSA targets two main field actors, namely "Protected Areas" actors (natural parks / protected areas managing authorities) and "Ecotourism" actors (responsible travel operators and local tourism services providers).

It addresses the needs of end-users (responsible travellers / tourists) seeking authentic and natural travels in well preserved wilderness areas. Several types of satellites (navigation, communication and earth observation) are relied upon to support environmental mapping, site accessibility, travellers itineraries in protected areas, geo-localised emergency services and geo-localised field best practice, as well as on-site field observations from the travellers (geo-localised pictures / measurements / observations).

Objectives of the service

Ecotourism can be defined as: 'Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people'. It is this essential challenge that SENSA aims at fostering through the use of advanced satellite based applications, thus providing new opportunities for protected areas and ecotourism actors.

Parks are able, through better environmental management means, to increase the number of visitors and to allow a more comprehensive access to their sites. Satellite based applications, enabling optimised temporal & spatial distribution of travellers in natural parks, in adequacy with mapped environmental and safety considerations are fostered.

Ecotourism operators are able, through the use of dedicated services to plan fully personalised itineraries, opening new discovery frontiers and authentic immersion for travellers in protected areas, as well as enabling them to become active preservation agents by reporting from the field, the state of conservation of the visited areas.

SENSA promotes an increase of opportunities for travellers while enhancing environmental preservation, and consequently increasing revenues for both Natural Parks Authorities and Ecotourism Travel Operators.

Users and their needs

Eco-tourists (i.e. responsible travellers), administrative authorities of protected natural parks, travel operators.

User needs of Eco-tourists:

  • Discovering new frontiers, living immersive experiences in protected natural and historical sites, whose access is by default not allowed or allowed under very restrictive conditions,
  • Accessing fully personalised itineraries and activities,
  • Actively contributing to the environment conservation,
  • Practicing environmental friendly and healthy activities,
  • Becoming knowledgeable about the areas they visit.

User needs of Park authorities:

  • Secure an additional source of funds to protect and manage their parks,
  • Seek for better awareness of the environmental and safety considerations for sustainable preservation of parks.

User needs of Travel operators:

  • Increase revenues thanks to an higher number of ecotourism packages sold,
  • Seek for better awareness of the environmental and safety considerations for offering a wider portfolio of itineraries,
  • Offering unique and personalised environmental trips to tourists,
  • Guiding and informing the travellers while on site.

Service/ system concept

Develop and validate a pre-operational integrated service platform to support administrative authorities of protected parks and travel operators to grant/sell access to tourists to a larger number/size of protected areas, and to provide tourists with fully personalised and immersive itineraries.

Space Added Value

SatCom and GPS are compulsory for trace&tracking services and bi-directional short messages in remote areas lacking terrestrial communication means.

SatEO is compulsory to provide multilayer environmental cartography of remote/protected Park areas.

Product Features

The SENSA Environment features two integrated facilities addressing the specific needs of two complementary actors in the "preservation and sustainability" of protected areas, namely the Natural Parks Management Actors and Tourism Operators / Travellers Actors.

The SENSA system is therefore composed of two collaborating platforms, as illustrated in the figure below:

Figure 1: SENSA Preservation and Ecotourism platforms

The SENSA Preservation Platform enables Parks Managers to map the protected area in terms of landscape, vegetation, fauna, cultural heritage and associate all the environmental and safety constraints. It also enables them to organise in near real-time the optimal temporal and spatial distribution travellers in the parks and their associated activities. Risks and safety management both at a preventive level and at an operational level are also be provided.

The SENSA Ecotourism Platform enables the travellers to express their interest to discover "wilderness and authentic natural areas" as well as to become active field preservation agents, whilst it enables the Travel Operators to offer fully customised trips in protected areas based on the traveller's interests and on the parks environmental constraints.

The two SENSA platforms are interconnected in order to exchange all relevant information for the benefits of all the involved actors.

The SENSA environment is web based and its infrastructure is composed of office workstations linked via the internet and web browsers to the SENSA platform enabling protected areas professionals, ecotourism players and travellers to organize and run their respective activities and businesses. These facilities are extended by "on the field / on the move" applications running on smartphones, tablets and GPS enabled tracking devices and which connect to the internet via a range of satellite and terrestrial means.

Figure 2 shows the SENSA architecture

Key Issues

Environment preservation and tourism in protected areas represents often opposing challenges for the Parks Managers worldwide.

Tourism represents a unique opportunity of revenues for parks which need funding for their preservation activities, especially in the current difficult economic times. At the same time, tourism, if not managed adequately, is certain to degrade natural environments. There is an intrinsic opposition between the need to increase revenues for protected areas via tourism and the need to secure an ever better conservation of these unique and still preserved natural areas.

It is this challenge that the SENSA project addresses by implementing a collaborative platform supporting "sustainable & responsible tourism" in protected areas, such as natural parks. In this context, SENSA uses Satellites - navigation, communication and earth observation - to support environmental mapping, site accessibility, travellers itineraries and geographic distribution in protected areas, geo-localised emergency services, geo-localised field best practice and environmental awareness building, as well as on-site field observations from the travellers.

The SENSA business model addresses the needs of a range of environmental and tourism actors, yet it is the SENSA core stakeholders (Natural Parks, Travel Operators and Travellers) that most benefit from SENSA.

With SENSA Natural Parks are able to increase the number of visiting travellers and the associated revenues generated, whilst at the same time securing higher environmental protection levels of the ecosystems. Also through SENSA the parks are able to offer better safety prevention and management to the travellers during their stay.

With SENSA Travel Operators are able to generate additional income by proposing original services and activities to "Responsible Travellers" seeking true and authentic encounters with well-preserved wilderness areas. They are able to offer fully personalised trips to each traveller, taking into accounts their stated interests and all the environmental constraints specified by the parks.

With SENSA Travellers are able realise their dream of merging with untapped nature, of feeling genuine landscapes and vegetation, of getting close to wildlife, of engaging in unique experiences and of becoming an environmental protection agent collaborating with the parks.

The SENSA platform aims at a specialised market targeting ecotourism in protected areas. Competition is likely to come from traditional online travel services providers who would like to enter this market, yet none of them is able today to offer SENSA like services. It is this main advantage that the SENSA Commercial Partners will foster immediately following the end of the project, thus taking a lead in the "Wilderness Ecotourism Sector".

Current Status

The Final Review  took successfully place on 14th December 2018. A battery of SENSA  pilot activities and field trials have been conducted this summer and  autumn 2018, with excellent results and strong interests from the  participating parties (Park Authorities, Visitors and Travel Operators).  The long and challenging development of the SENSA environment is  now bearing fruit, with an initial rollout being organised.

Status Date

Updated: 05 March 2018 - Created: 15 February 2014