The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as: 'Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people’. However environmental conservation and tourism in protected areas often represent opposing challenges for the thousands of national parks and protected areas worldwide. Tourism represents a unique source of revenue for national parks, which are finding it more difficult to finance their conservation costs, but at the same time, if tourism is not adequately managed it can lead to the degradation of natural environments. The challenge is to increase revenues for protected areas through tourism while ensuring conservation of these unique and still preserved natural areas.
The SENSA project addressed this challenge by implementing a collaborative platform to support sustainable and responsible tourism in protected and remote areas, such as natural parks, natural reserves and historical sites. Advanced satellite-based applications were developed to enable optimised temporal and spatial distribution of travellers within natural parks, taking into account site-specific environmental and safety considerations. These included tools for satellite navigation and tracking, satellite communication and satellite earth observation for environmental mapping, site accessibility, traveller itineraries and geographic distribution in protected areas, geo-localised emergency services, environmental awareness building, and the collection of on-site field observations from travellers.
SENSA targeted actors active in the management of protected areas and national parks, and in responsible travel operators and local providers of ecotourism services, while addressing the needs of tourists seeking authentic and natural travel in well-preserved wilderness areas. Through better environmental management, protected areas will be able to increase their visitors numbers and allow more comprehensive access to their sites. Through the use of Environmental Location Based Services (ELBS), ecotourism operators will be able, to plan fully personalised itineraries, opening up new areas of discovery and permitting the authentic immersion of travellers in protected areas, as well as enabling them to become active in environmental conservation by reporting on the state of the areas visited.