PROWAD - Protect and Prosper

Sustainable Tourism in the Wadden Sea

The Wadden Sea is a worldwide unique natural area, situated along the North Sea coast of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. It is the largest coherent system of intertidal flats and barrier islands in the world. It is an essential stopover for migratory birds along the East Atlantic and African-Eurasian Flyway. Biodiversity on a worldwide scale is reliant on the Wadden Sea.

Here natural processes can unfold largely undisturbed, as the area has a protected status in all three countries: in Germany as national parks and in the Netherlands as nature reserves. Since 2009, it has been designated as UNESCO World Heritage site.

Tourists appreciate the unique natural conditions of the landscape for recreation and opportunities for experiencing nature: each year 10 million overnight guests and 30-40 million day visitors come to the Wadden Sea islands and the mainland coast spanning from Texel in the Netherlands to Skallingen in Denmark, being one of the most popular holiday destinations.

Tourism is one of the most important economic factors for the Wadden Sea region and with a yearly turnover of EUR 3 to 5 Billion this industry contributes largely to preserve jobs in the region.

With the touristic use of the area yet also the risk occurs that the protection and conservation of the World Heritage Wadden Sea could be harmed by new touristic developments. The transnational project “PROWAD”, being funded by the EU via the Interreg IV B North Sea Program, constitutes the framework for the development of countervailing strategies: How can sustainable tourism be guided into safe ways to minimize the environmental impact that may come with touristic activities in the World Heritage Wadden Sea area?

The World Heritage designation can be used as a quality brand, and as a tool to develop powerful new identities for places, and powerful programmes of actions to change places fundamentally. To reach this, it is of importance of how the management organisations and stakeholders perceive the World Heritage Site status. This will very much determine the perspectives and the values and gains the status brings to a region. The Wadden Sea property is one and indivisible. Only by joining forces will the true potential of Wadden Sea brand be used.

PROWAD identified the perspectives and opportunities induced by the World Heritage designation as a driver of socio-economic development and sustainable tourism in the Wadden Sea region.

PROWAD also analysed the potential for sustainable tourism and carried out regional workshops with stakeholders from nature and tourism sector developing a joint vision, aims and principles for sustainable tourism in the Wadden Sea.

The transnational sustainable tourism strategy and action plan emphasizes the specific role of the tourism sector for nature conservation as well as for economic and social welfare. As requested by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, the transnational strategy provides a consistent approach for all tourism operations which fully considers the values of the Wadden Sea World Heritage.

Learn more about PROWAD:



Duration: 15/10/2011 – 30/06/2015

Co-financed by the Interreg IVB North Sea Region Programme

Total Eligible Budget: 1,344,100.00 €
ERDF Grant:  672,500 €

4 – Promoting Sustainable and Competitive Communities

Area of Intervention:
4.1 – Tackling the needs of areas in decline

Project Objectives
1. To develop a consistent tourism strategy and an action plan,
2. To establish a transnational network of local and regional stakeholders,
3. To develop sustainable, high quality tourism offers.

PROWAD supports Networking
The activities will be carried out in close cooperation with local and regional stakeholders and marketing organisations in the Wadden Sea to enhance synergies.The trilateral Task Group Sustainable Tourism Strategy (TG-STS) acts as project advisory group.

Development of Sustainable Tourism Offers
On the basis of the tourism strategy,PROWAD will develop marketable sustainable tourism offers for various target audiences on national and international level. A guidance on the inclusion of sustainability elements in tourism offers will also be prepared.The focus will be on climate- and naturefriendly offers underlining the transnational character of the Wadden Sea.

Promotion and Marketing
Various communication and marketing channels will be applied to communicate the tourism offers prepared by PROWAD to national and international tour operators and to potential visitors. Information material and educational resources will be distributed enhancing the awareness of (potential) visitors on nature values and the transnational dimension of the Wadden Sea.



Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (Lead Partner)

Danish Ministry of the Environment – Nature Agency

Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs

LKN National Park Administration Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea

National Park Administration Lower Saxon Waddden Sea   

Regiecollege Waddengebied

World Wide Fund for Nature Germany (WWF)


Work packages

The work within the PROWAD project is split up into five different workpackages (WP):


Work Package 1: Project Management

The main objective of WP 1 is to provide support to organization, coordination and management of the project and the cooperation between beneficiaries. As much as possible, the activities will be carried out as joint projects which are centrally administrated by the CWSS.


Work Package 2: Publicity and Communications

The activities in this work package are carried out in the framework of a project communication plan which outlines the aims and objectives of the communication, the target audiences (general public, local and regional stakeholder), main principles, time frame and key actors (role of project partners), measures and expected outcome.


Work Package 3: Sustainable Tourism Strategy

The main objective of WP 3 is to identify opportunities and challenges of the World Heritage designation and possible developments in the tourism sector. To link tourism and nature conservation in a way that nature values of the Wadden Sea will be maintained, experienced and used in a sustainable way. And to develop common visions, objectives and principles on sustainable tourism in the Wadden Sea region and a long-term consistent transnational strategy including an action plan to implement the strategy.


Work Package 4: Development of sustainable tourism offers

WP 4 aims to develop marketable regional-specific sustainable nature offers and products on the basis of the agreed Action Plan and in line with the principles of the joint strategy which can be further developed after the end of the project.


Work Package 5: Promotion and Marketing of the Wadden Sea

WP 5 contains tasks focused on the identification of new and combination with existing distribution channels, as well as with communication and marketing measures.



WP2 Communication and publicity

  • A PROWAD Communication Plan was written and implemented.
  • Sustainable tourism offers in the GERMAN Wadden Sea are promoted on the official website of the Wadden Sea World Heritage.
  • PROWAD Wadden Sea Poster: An educational poster with characteristic species and habitats (in four languages) was developed in cooperation with the info centers in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. The PROWAD poster (5,000 copies) is actively distributed by over 20 info centers and organizations in the three countries.
  • The PROWAD Tourism Newsletter reports on activities, products and events from all over the Wadden Sea - from Texel to Skallingen. It is the only Newsletter for tourism professionals that focuses on the Wadden Sea World Heritage and sustainable tourism. The Newsletter is issued in the local languages: Dutch, German and Danish.


WP3 Sustainable tourism strategy

  • PROWAD prepared an inventory and analysis (Inventory and Baseline study) of the current status of tourism in the Wadden Sea Region based on the existing information and market research. The results were submitted to the lead partner and the advisory group (TG-STS) in June 2012.

  • A Trilateral Strategy on "Sustainable Tourism in the Wadden Sea World Heritage Destination" was developed and adopted.

  • An Action Plan 2014 - 2017 was written with entails activities and projects to be carried for the next 4-year period and beyond to implement the strategy. In many cases, the action plan builds upon existing or planned activities on regional or national level thus creating synergies and a consistent approach for the entire Wadden Sea World Heritage Destination.


WP4 Tourism offers

  • Cooperation with stakeholders in tourism on a regional level in a study project of the Fachhochschule Westküste (Westcoast University of Applied Sciences, Heide) about activities of other marine World Heritage Sites world-wide and possible implementation for the Wadden Sea World Heritage on the following themes: marketing and communication, quality and qualification, infrastructure (transport, accommodation and restaurants) and environmental education.
  • A first draft of an inventory of sustainable tourism offers (listing of existing sustainable tourism products) was prepared, for the first time covering all regions in the Wadden Sea with the aim to identify and analyze common and different approaches in the various regions.
  • A feasibility study on possibilities to stimulate the development of sustainable tourism offers has been completed in February 2013. The study identifies suitable instruments to sensitize and motivate providers to develop and promote sustainable offers in the short-, mid- and long-term.
  • In July 2013 (update in 2015), a German version of a guidance for sustainable classtrips was published as pilot guide. The guidance gives teachers recommendations on how to travel sustainably on class trips in the Wadden Sea Region and present best-practice examples of existing offers.
  • A feasibility study was conducted by WWF to deliver a reasonable estimate of the tourism-induced CO2 footprint for the entire Wadden Sea Region.
  • A Wadden Sea World Heritage visitor survey was carried out in Germany in 2013 as a pilot project. The results of the German survey 2013 have been compiled by the National Park administrations. For the first time, a survey covers the entire German Wadden Sea and gives comprehensive and consistent information on guest motivations, expectations and satisfaction.
  • A WWF report "Travel and Protect" illustrates with 5 recommendations how such situations of tourism contributing to nature conservation could be created also in the Wadden Sea Region.
  • Within the PROWAD project sample itineraries for each region have been developed to give visitors some ideas how to experience the Wadden Sea World Heritage in the different regions.
  • A study "Offers and marketing of touristic bird watching in the Wadden Sea World Heritage Destination" by the consultant Dr. Pagenkopf in association with the National Park Administration Schleswig-Holsteinisches Wattenmeer analyses available bird watching offers and gives practice examples as well as further recommendations for tour providers, regions and destinations concerning among others marketing, communication, partnerships, accessibility, sustainability and arrangements in order to help to tap the potential of bird watching tours.
  • The guideline for the creation of sustainable and environmentally friendly World Heritage package holidays provides information on what a World Heritage holiday package needs to consist of regarding its content, its activities (conveying the OUV) and its organisation (sustainable and environmentally friendly) to be called a “World Heritage package holiday”. It has been developed as a case study in the National Park Lower Saxony together with marketing organisation Die Nordsee GmbH as part of a bachelor thesis of Mona Rittinghaus.
  • The “World Heritage Teaching Kit – Sustainable Tourism in the Wadden Sea” deals with tourism and nature in 6 learning stations designed for pupils in lower secondary education. The 44 page kit comprises comprehensive background information and numerous master copies for worksheets. The material has been compiled by WWF Germany within the framework of the PROWAD project and was funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Bingo Lottery. It is available for download in Danish, Duch, English and German. Single printed copies can be ordered free of charge at


WP5 PR and marketing

  • A Merchandising Concept Study for the Brand “Wadden Sea World Heritage” (WS/WH) was conducted to evaluate the potential and practicability of a merchandising program to promote the Wadden Sea World Heritage brand. The main aim was to discover the parameters to establish a merchandising program for the “Wadden Sea – World Heritage” (WS/WH) brand and develop a implementation concept for an overall Wadden Sea wide merchandising concept to increase awareness for the values of World Heritage and raise profile and visibility of World Heritage. It findings confirm the synergy potential resulting from World Heritage.
  • A License Agreement was created as step in establishing a solid relationship with potential manufactures of branded WH merchandise. Licensing was seen as appropriate and less risky development for the WS/WH Merchandising at this stage as it helps to improve the visibility, to gain experience in the field of merchandizing, to test the market for branded WH products and to find partners for a later business partner model.
  • The Merchandising Concept Study 2013 was successful completed and a Merchandising Expert Group established in December 2013 to discuss the next steps of the implementation of a WS/WH merchandising.The role of the merchandising expert group is to recommend, pre-select and evaluate the implementation activities of the merchandising concept to prepare for and give input to the ultimate decision made by the TG-WH.
  • A Wadden Sea World Heritage Brand Paper was developed describing the "World Heritage Brand". It translates the "Outstanding Universal Value" defining the essence, values, core characteristics and mission of the brand. It outlines the benefits of using the brand conistently across the Wadden Sea for stakeholders and visitors. Through this brand description, already existing brands in the region will be able share the values of the Wadden Sea World Heritage brand through consistent communication and marketing. The power of the Wadden Sea World Heritage branding is in raising awareness of the Wadden Sea as a single entity.
  • In a joint marketing campaign for celebrating 5 Years Wadden Sea World Heritage in June 2014 within PROWAD a special EVENT section on the website was created as well as complimentary promotional material for use in conjunction with local events was provided.
  • A marketing and communication toolkit was developed for businesses and other visitor-facing stakeholders in the Wadden Sea Region to help present the value of the Wadden Sea World Heritage and enhance collective visibility through the site's brand.


WP6 Extension of target audience

  • Best practice examples and case studies were collected to show how Wadden Sea entrepreneurs offer sustainable nature experience - from restaurants, accommodation, transportation, regional products and awareness raising. Eleven video interviews were conducted in May and June 2015 in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands (produced by 18frames, Hamburg) with Seedykster Tours in Marrum, Waddengoud, Waddenvereniging, Restaurant NAKUK in Horumersiel, Urlauberbus Ostfriesland, Langeoog, Reederei Cassens Eils, Kurzentrum Godetied Büsum, Bio-Hotel Miramar in Tönning, Restaurant Roter Haubarg, and the project "Powered by cycling" in Esbjerg. The practice examples give an impressive overview of what has already be done and how sustainability and the protection of natural values in the Wadden Sea World Heritage is being integrated by tourism stakeholders. All interviews are available on our World Heritage YouTube channel.
  • The animated film “Wadden Sea World Heritage Seite – A unique experience” explains why the Wadden Sea is so special that it is protected as a National Park and recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and how visitors can experience it in a nature friendly way. In just over 4 minutes and using many colourful pictures, the video – produced by WWF Germany within the framework of the PROWAD project, with financial support from the European Regional Development Fund and Bingo Environmental Lottery – shows in a humorous way things to know about the National Park and Wadden Sea World Heritage Site. Available in German, English, Dutch and Danish, the film is intended for visitors and potential visitors of the coast.
  • A consortium consisting of a Dutch and German company prepared a World Heritage Campaign Concept "It's Your Nature" with the support of the PROWAD partners. The concept was presented to the regional stakeholders (marketing organizations in the Netherlands and Germany) and was well received. It was agreed to develop a transnational campaign based on the concept in cooperation with local and regional stakeholders in the period 2016 – 2018.
  • A feasibility study on World Heritage Cooperation with Business Partner provided an overview of existing programs and cooperation initiatives in the entire Wadden Region that are relevant to the Wadden Sea World Heritage site and analysing the benefits of and opportunities for a transnational World Heritage cooperation program with businesses and establishing how this can contribute to protecting the OUV. The study shows the challenges of establishing a transnational consistent approach of business cooperation with the same standards and quality in all Wadden Sea regions, but also shows the need as well as the potential for such a World Heritage Programme. The study recommended a 3-year pilot project to develop a partner programme in a participatory approach.
  • An overall approach and an event design for a road show were developed and inaugurated in June 2015 with 14 roadshow stops in Lower Saxony as a pilot in May-June 2015. The concept was locally very well received and showed the great interest and the demand for easy accessible information about the tools developed by PROWAD. Based on the concept and presentation that has been developed within the PROWAD-project “Protect and Prosper - my benefits of World Heritage: PROWAD regional Roadshows”, roadshows were carried out in Lower Saxony in June 2015. The roadshow targeted the employees of local tourist information centres and other service-orientated facilities. The aim was to communicate the work done in the PROWAD project, inform about existing communication and marketing instruments in the Wadden Sea region, strengthen the co-operation between national park houses and local tourism organisations, and raise awareness of the need for continuous conservation efforts in the Wadden Sea. 14 tourist information centres were reached; each appointment took about 1.5 to 2 hours. All in all, 146 employees participated who were overall very interested and eager to hear about the achievements of the PROWAD-project.