The United Nations has designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development to raise awareness on the importance of sustainable tourism practices and to encourage stakeholder participation. Designation of the International Year has strived to promote tourism’s role in the key areas of Economic growth, Social aspects, Environmental protection, Cultural values and Understanding.
In the local context of the Maltese Islands, the environment links to the International Year’s key areas especially in the designated protected sites of natural importance – the EU’s Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) – which have resulted in more awareness on species distribution and habitat protection. Dingli Cliffs are part of the largest SAC in the Maltese Islands, covering 15km2 out of the total 316km2 of land area. Although our SACs are small when compared to other SACs at the European scale, the SAC of which Dingli Cliffs is part of – called Rdumijiet ta’ Malta: Ir-Ramla ta’ Għajn Tuffieħa sax-Xaqqa (MT0000024) consists of several landscapes, supporting habitats and rare species which require enhanced conservation and awareness.
Indirectly, The Cliffs Interpretation Centre has been relating to the key areas of economy, social aspects, environment protection, cultural values and understanding by its daily gastronomical, educational and innovative practices. For almost six years, The Centre has strived to maintain its aim of reaching all types of visitors, which practically make up almost all that visit Dingli Cliffs. Combining education provision with gastronomy has been an effective way by which The Cliffs Interpretation Centre highlights what is important about Dingli Cliffs, thereby convincing visitors of their value.
- Inclusive and sustainable economic growth – Tourism is one of the largest and fastest growing socio-economic sectors, able to stimulate economic growth, create jobs and improve locals’ livelihoods. The creation of The Cliffs Interpretation Centre by the local company from Dingli has resulted in positive socio-economic returns such as the creation of new environmentally-friendly jobs. The operations of The Centre empower local employment since the majority of staff come from the village. Minor perishable items are bought from local grocery stores, thereby facilitating the vitality and viability of local food producers to benefit the economy.
- Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction – Considering that Dingli Cliffs are quite remote, the presence of The Centre has meant the creation of jobs for locals, indirectly related to social inclusiveness. Encouraging women’s employment has been on the agenda of The Cliffs Interpretation Centre since 57% of the full-timer staff are female, indicating integration and non-discrimination. The free tours aim at providing tourism experiences for all types of visitors, hence suiting all type of budgets.
- Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change – Continuously being deeply invested in the idea to enhance the environmental education of visitors of The Cliffs, The Centre has strived to provide innovative recreational activities, with the most recent updates related to making the tours free of charge. Located in a SAC, The Cliffs Centre strives to promote conservation along with a sense of responsibility for the environment. The eco-tours offer a sustainable form of tourism, throughout the year with no dependency on seasonal tourism, hence helping to distribute tourism demand not just in peak summer but throughout the year.
- Cultural values, diversity and heritage – The concept of The Centre, “A new concept…local produce” attests to the initiative to amalgamate gastronomy with innovative information provision to educate people on wild local produce and past traditional practices. Food served is local with certain traditional aspects that have either been lost or are under threat. Wild edible plants are used as a means of recording and preserving past knowledge systems. The running of The Centre is self-sufficient and self-sustainable, with economic diversification being key in merging production and serving local food with educational activities.
- Mutual understanding, peace and security – Since tourism has the potential to further the sense of global citizenship, there is reaffirmation of global values, such as the greater initiative to be responsible for global issues such as environmental degradation. The Cliffs Interpretation Centre also promotes stakeholder dialogue and several activities attest to this.