Asociación de Ecoturismo en España

The Asociación de Ecoturismo en España (acronym AEE) is a non-profit, national association formed in 2010 whose objective is to promote innovative and sustainable tourism development in protected areas (PAs) through public-private cooperation. AEE represents individuals, businesses and destinations providing tourism services in protected areas, as well as public and private bodies working in biodiversity conservation and/or tourism development. Among its 83 members, there are 14 tourism business associations, 54 ‘sustainable’ tourism businesses and 4 protected area managers. The association represents more than 800 tourism businesses (accommodation, restaurants, outdoor activity providers, etc.) located in protected areas and displaying a strong commitment to sustainability.

AEE manages the Ecotourism Club in Spain (ECS), a pioneering initiative that offers sustainable ecotourism experiences, ensuring the visitor’s contribution to local development and to the conservation of biodiversity in the protected areas they visit, as well as supporting local tourism businesses. The members comply with specific environmental requirements, offering authentic and
memorable experiences linked to the area’s natural and cultural heritage.

AEE’s strategic activities are:
1. Ensuring the protected areas are valued as ecotourism destinations.
2. Undertaking research to improve understanding of the demand for sustainable tourism.
3. Progressing the development of ecotourism throughout Spain (through the management structure of the ECS initiative).
4. Improving the quality of ecotourism (training, product design and creation).
5. Implementing the ECS initiative across Spain (training, assessment of businesses and destinations, verification of criteria etc.).
6. Promotion and communication of the ECS initiative across Spain.
7. Supporting the commercialization of ecotourism products.
8. Evaluating the ecotourism product in Spain and its impacts.

To develop these strategic lines, AEE has identified professional training with associated qualifications in ecotourism as fundamental tools, as well as the exchange of expertise with other national and international organisations. AEE has developed seven innovation projects co-financed by the Ministry of Tourism, and currently manages the Ecotourism Club in Spain which brings together destinations and businesses that meet both environmental and social criteria established by frameworks such as the “European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas” (EUROPARC Federation) and similar systems in Biosphere Reserves, Geoparks and Natura 2000 sites. Currently, 38 protected areas in Spain (all Natura 2000) meet such criteria and more than 850 tourism businesses (accommodation, restaurants, activity and information providers, environmental educators, craft workers etc.).