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Eco-tourism company “Biebrza Eco-Travel”

In 1993, with naturalists’ and scientists’ effort and the support of the WWF, the Biebrza National Park was created. At that moment Biebrza became an attractive setting for nature-related tourism and that is when the company was established. The enterprise was officially registered in 1997.

Name and address

Eco-tourism company Bienrze Eco-Travel President: Katarzyna Ramotowska MSc

Address: Kościuszki 26/11

19-110 Goniądz

Website: www.biebrza.com

History and structure of the activity

In early 1990s Biebrza was interesting almost only for scientists. Back then, there were no agro-tourism offers, tourism equipment rentals or guides. In 1993, with naturalists’ and scientists’ effort and the support of the WWF, the Biebrza National Park was created. At that moment Biebrza became an attractive setting for nature-related tourism and that is when the company was established. The enterprise was officially registered in 1997.

In 1993, the current President of Biebrza Eco-Travel company, a professional biologist – botanist, with a passion for ornithology, started working as an eco-tourism guide in Biebrza wetlands. The tourism services offered by Ms Katarzyna were becoming more and more popular, and soon there were not enough accommodation options and equipment rentals for tourists. Ms Katarzyna was visiting local farmers and encouraged them to rent rooms for visitors. The development of local accommodation and tourism equipment rentals was very slow, until in 2000 a marketing strategy for Biebrza valley was prepared, showing possible benefits of eco-tourism.

Back then, there were 20 sites of private accommodation, in 2005 their number reached over 100. In order to promote and improve the quality of tourism services Ms Ramotowska organised in 2000-2002 (with the support of WWF) a course for guides in Biebrza valley. It brought to the region a group of local ambassadors of nature conservation. Trained mainly in the ability to combine customers’ interests with the interests of nature conservation, they were the majority in the local eco-tourism staff. Currently, the region is developed enough for Ms Katarzyna to be able to carefully select service-providers in the region. She runs a ranking of local guides and accommodation, inspired by the growing expectations of the clients.

The company consists of a number of contracted administration workers. However, the most important are the accompanying service-providers: 15 guides (selected out of 180 people trained by Ms Katarzyna), 28 accommodation providers (selected out of 300 present in the region); some transport providers, over 20 souvenir makers, 15 tourism equipment rentals and over 20 restaurants and bars.

Natural values

Biebrza valley belongs to the continental biogeographical region. The surface of its basin is over 7000 km2, while the river itself is 165 km long. The river bed is of natural character, with numerous meanders and cut-offs with different stadiums of succession. This is why extensive annual inundations are typical for this river, and wetlands are the dominating kind of habitat: peatbogs and siltations, large bittercress and meadows inundated by the river or underground waters. Those natural conditions also make Biebrza Wetlands one of the most important bird areas. The population of some bird species here is the highest not only in Poland but in the whole European Union.

This is one of the reasons for the creation on the Biebrza National Park, which was later included in the Natura 2000 network. In comprises the Special Area of Conservation Dolina Biebrzy, code: PLH200008 (with later modification, code: PLH20_13) and a Special Protection Area for birds Ostoja Biebrzańska, code: PLB200006. The SPA protects AT east 43 species of birds valuable for the UE, Chile 25 species are included in the Polish red book of endangered species.

Birdlife International recognises the site as a protection area for birds of global importance.

Offer

The company offers guided trips in Biebrza wetlands, equipment rental, accommodation in various kinds of places and untypical attractions such as balloon flights or dog sleds. The company organises both individual programs and ready tourism events (so-called packages) aimed at different target groups. The “economy” package includes for example:

  • Few-hour or few-day-long guided trips for adults, “Adventures with nature and culture of Biebrza”,
  • Something cool for kids during guided trips, “Family stays”,
  • Ecological workshops for children “Live biology lessons”,
  • Integration camps for companies,
  • Wild river canoeing and rafting trips,
  • Agro-tourism holidays in the best sites in the region.

The “advanced” programs include:

  • “Academy of nature” – a fast course for those who do not have time to study fat books of academic literature on nature,
  • “Academy of nature – JUNIOR” – individual courses for children especially talented in the area of nature,
  • “Only for connoisseurs” – specialised programs (diving, balloon flights over Biebrza and Rospuda, photosafari, nature by night, dog sleds, etc).

Each group of offers includes many programs to choose from, for example in the package “Adventure with the nature and culture of Biebrza” one can order a 7 hour trip “Legendary Red Bog – tracking and tracing in the wolves’ area” or a four hours long “Morning moose hunt”.

The company hires and promotes the best guides and accommodation providers in the region, who lead in local rankings. This is how it guarantees high quality services and ethical attitude towards nature. This kind of attitude is the natural motivation for other service providers in the region to continuously improve their standards as well as their professional qualifications.

Promotion

The company has a comprehensive website available in Polish and English, and including the information on all services on offer, with a possibility of direct online booking. It also presents information about the region, which is updated on a regular basis with a focus on the changing natural conditions on Biebrza and related tourist attractions. The promotional value of the website is increased by photo galleries presenting the works of famous nature photographers. An effective way of promoting the region is a newsletter “Aktualności z Biebrzy” sent regularly to long-standing customers. The company is also advertised on numerous web portals on tourism. In addition to that, the President promotes the company and the area of Biebrza Valley on tourism fairs in Poland and abroad. She has participated in over 100 TV shows and radio programmes. The company also hosts study tours for journalists and is a business partner of many NGOs.