In October 2019, trail professionals from 13 countries gathered on the island of Kythera, Greece, for the training of trail auditors using the South African born Green Flag Trails certification system, led by the World Trails Network.
During the 7-days long course, two of the Kythera island trails were certified as Green Flag Trails – the first-ever trails in Europe to receive this certification formally.
Green Flag Trails is a certification that recognises hiking trails for their accurate data, environmental responsibility and sustainable management. It focuses on sustainability and responsibility towards hiking and walking tourists and aims to stimulate ecotourism on a global level. Green Flag Trails is a scientifically based trail auditing system that has been developed in South Africa and applied and tested in 6 different countries to date, including Nepal, Hungary, St Helena and Peru as well as various countries in southern Africa.
The team of experts who gathered on the island of Kythera were hosted by the World Trails Network, with the support of the Kytherian Foundation for Culture and Development and in cooperation with Paths of Greece.
This has been the first step of the Green Flag Trails certification in Europe. The next step is meeting the demand for the certification of trails in other countries across Europe that joined the course, such as Portugal, Spain, Italy and Hungary. In addition, Russia, Armenia, Georgia, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Kenya are also aspiring to improve the sustainability of their trails, by implementing the system. All the participants, who successfully attended the course, have become certified Green Flag Trails auditors. At the same time, Expert Trail Auditor Groups were formed by region to oversee the further implementation on a global level.
Green Flag Trails in Mpumalanga
Last year, on 29 October 2018, the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency launched the Green Flag accredited BlydeHiking Trails which are approximately 30 kilometres in distance, at Wonder View Graskop, Mpumalanga.
Guests and media were treated to delightful traditional performances by the Leroro Girls followed by a keynote by the Honourable MEC of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism,
Tourism role player Forever Resorts South Africa attended the launch alongside other VIP guests. “These hiking trails will positively affect the communities of the Graskop region and Mpumalanga on both a domestic and international tourism level. We are honoured to be in attendance and look forward to bringing our guests to experience the trails and all they have to offer,” said Heidi Halgryn, Marketing Executive at Forever Resorts South Africa.