Eight participants in Rewilding Europe’s Rewilding Training Tourism programme have successfully completed the final stage of their training. They are now well placed to develop their own rewilding-related business.
Real-life business development
In January, the Rewilding Training Tourism programme conducted its first Stage 3 field experience in the Central Apennines rewilding landscape. Having completed the first and second stages of the programme in 2021, eight participants from six countries attended the course, which focused on nature-based enterprise development. The third stage of the programme challenged participants to apply all of the skills and learning acquired during the first two stages in the development of a real-life, rewilding-related business.
“I’m very proud of this group,” says Simon Collier of Nature Tourism Development, who co-created and delivers all three stages of the Rewilding Training Tourism programme. “Demonstrating great passion and commitment, they acquired a wide range of knowledge and skills, on topics such as community engagement, nature-based enterprise, and tourism. All of this learning was undertaken with the rewilding philosophy at heart.”
Learning from the experts
Boasting high mountain peaks, diverse wildlife, and a rich tradition and culture, the Central Apennines region of Italy is a unique rewilding landscape. Together with professional and dedicated local partners, Rewilding Europe has been working to develop nature-based tourism here for several years.
As the group arrived, a Central Apennine winter wonderland was on its finest display as snow fell on the quaint town of Pescasseroli. The first day of the programme allowed participants to interact and learn from Rewilding Apennines team leader Mario Cipollone, Rewilding Enterprise Office Valerio Reale, and entrepreneur and owner of Wildlife Adventures Umberto Esposito.
“Interacting with and learning from local partners and the rewilding team provided great insight into the nature-based tourism opportunities offered by the region, as well as some of the challenges involved in taking advantage of them,” says Aukje van Gerven, Rewilding Europe’s Training & Tourism Manager and co-creator of the programme.
A traditional meat processing experience designed by Valerio helped participants understand the importance of local gastronomy and the connection people here have had with nature for generations. Immersed in the culture of local nature-based small businesses, they better understood how to run a sustainable business related to tourism.
Participants opted to focus on either their own business ideas or to further develop their current business. Some chose to collaborate in creating a new business concept for Rewilding Apennines.
“I learned a lot about the local perspective in Italy from passionate professionals such as Mario, Valerio and Umberto.”says David Opdam, a travel and event organiser from the Netherlands.
An immersive experience
Participants in the training were guided through a variety of classes and experiences during the week, many of which were in the outdoors and set against the stunning backdrop of the Abruzzo mountains.
“We have found that getting the group off-grid and disconnected is fundamental to their bonding as a group,” says Simon Collier. “It allows an immersive nature experience, bringing clarity to thinking and learning without any external distractions.”
Supporting business development
The Stage 3 training culminated in the delivery of a business pitch to a panel of five judges at the end of the week. Consisting of a fifteen-minute presentation, followed by a fifteen-minute Q&A session, the pitch was an important learning step, testing the knowledge and understanding of the participants and giving them the confidence to take their ideas and plans forwards.
“The training really helped my business development,” says Hanna Rasper, an aspiring glamping business owner from Germany. “It fast-forwarded processes that would have otherwise taken far longer, and helped me to avoid mistakes or problems that I would probably have run into otherwise.”
“I found that the course provided an excellent framework for my creative process,” says Pim van den Heuvel, a native of the Netherlands looking to start a tourism business in a rewilding landscape. “It deepened my understanding and widened my vision by allowing me to explore different options and perspectives in a very practical way. At the end of the week, I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to do.”
Realise your ambition!
In total, the Rewilding Training Tourism programme trained over 150 participants in its first year, with 32 putting theory into practice in the ambitious field training stages.
For those participants who have finished Stage 1, three Rewilding Training Tourism field training sessions (Stage 2) are scheduled for June, September and October 2022, taking place in Portugal, Italy and Romania. Another Stage 3 training session is planned for January 2023, while in June and November 2022, Stage 1 training will begin again with webinar sessions.
“It has been so rewarding to see how the eight participants who have just completed their Stage 3 training have grown during their time with us,” says Aukje van Gerven. “Both Simon and I are really looking forward to seeing how their businesses evolve, based on what they have learned. In the long run, these businesses will support the growth of rewilding, so it’s a win-win all round.”