Sustainable Tourism

Dealing with tourism in Wilderness

Last summer, European Wilderness Society auditors carried out a successful Quick-Audit in Thayatal National Park for the European Wilderness Network. The National Park shares its Austrian borders with Podyjí National Park in the Czech Republic. Because of the relative small size of the Thayatal National Park and their Wilderness, tourism pressure is also high. It is thus very important to manage visitors in a proper way, because it can also benefit nature. In this posting, Christoph Milek, from Thayatal’s visitor – and natural resource management, shares how they deal with tourism in Wilderness.

Introducing Christoph Milek

Christoph’s main tasks within the administration of National Park Thayatal are visitor and natural resources management. This includes for example the creation of the yearly visitor program. This program describes excursions and events of different sizes and topics, which Christoph plans and organises. Together with Podyjí National Park, he is also responsible for the Ranger service in the field. Part of the Ranger service is to assess the compliance of hiking paths with National Park regulations. In addition, it supervises any flights over the park. Besides this, Christoph also works on public relations and management of fishery, meadows, dry grassland and neophytes.

Important element of management

As a Protected Area of the IUCN status II, Thayatal should not only protect natural resources and processes, while supporting research in this field. The National Park also needs to be a place of recreation, education and other visitor opportunities. Hereby it can contribute to the local economy, through tourism and cooperation with small businesses. Therefore, Thayatal offers a wide range of excursions and events to educate visitors on the idea, understanding and acknowledgement of the value of natural resources. At the same time, the National Park aims to limit the access to the fragile areas, by keeping visitors on marked tracks. The National Park cooperates with local businesses for the excursions, events and shop products. In addition, Thayatal National Park expands the cooperation also with other protected areas, not only cross-border partner NP Podyjí. This includes other Austrian and European National Parks and other protected areas, such as Natura 2000, Biosphere Parks, and Wilderness areas.

Dealing with tourism Thayatal WILDForest and WILDRiver Thaya

In these areas there will be no individual tourism at all, as there are no marked trails leading there. The Rangers control this on their regular service in the field. Only some special excursions will bring small groups of visitors there, as well as our rangers in the course of their training. The dam in Vranov and dam near Znojmo impact the river Thaya significantly further upstream. This changed the river characteristics of water temperature, sediment transport, fish stock, and natural floods. The part within the National Park, people cannot access WILDRiver Thaya. Therefore, tourism is not a big problem here. But to enable tourists to experience similar wild areas, information signs are constructed along existing trails. They inform the visitors about the Wilderness and WILDRiver concepts and promote the idea behind it.

Opportunities to experience the WILDForest and WILDRiver

As mentioned, there are only some occasional excursions for visitors into these Wilderness areas. Thayatal National Park always emphasises the importance of wild areas, unspoilt places and the protection of natural resources and processes. Those visitors should realise that it is a privilege to be in these places. The National Park management does not allow water activities like canoeing, swimming, fishing and other, maybe attractive, tourist activities along the river in the National Park. However, tourists are able to experience other parts of the Thaya river at several trails and viewpoints in the Park.

A cross-border Wilderness in the heart of Europe

The audited areas in Thayatal National Park proved to be unique places of Wilderness. The characteristic Thayatal WILDForest and Thaya WILDRiver form together with Podyjí Wilderness and Dyje WILDRiver a special place. A stunning variety of wildlife and plants is home to this relative small part in the heart of Europe. Together, they form a great example of international cooperation to protect Europe’s wildest places for the next generations.

This post was guest written by Christoph Milek, Thayatal National Park, Austria.

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