Natural Tourism is the new buzzword

In the last two weeks, Aevis Foundation, Slovakia, has organised a series of five meetings about natural tourism in Slovakia. This was part of the project Šanca pre prírodu, šanca pre región (A Chance for Nature, A Chance for the Region). The aim was to raise interest and highlight the potential and capacity for natural tourism in Slovakia, and ultimately worldwide. 

The project is implemented with the financial support of the Government Office of the Slovak Republic – program Regional Development Support. The meetings were in big cities all over Slovakia (Bratislava, Banská Bystrica, Žilina Košice and Poprad). More than 200 people attended and provided a wide spectrum of comments, proposals and also critical notes. Vlado Vancura, deputy chairman of the European Wilderness Society, spoke in Poprad on 11th December 2018, about natural tourism and Wilderness.

Mapping the potential of natural tourism 

The aim of these meetings was to identify the role of natural tourism, and also answer questions of participants. Particularly interesting was the variety of views and opinions of the public about what natural tourism means for them. Many people had questions about how to get involved, how to support natural tourism, and also had stories to contribute about their experiences in Slovakia and abroad. Others explained why natural tourism is so unique and important to them.

Potential threats and challenges

The discussion confirmed several expected, but serious, threats to successfully implement natural tourism in Slovakia. For example, there is still an existing feeling of a curse on a lot of Slovakian land, due to the land restitution process from the communism era. There were also concerns about conflicting concepts of how nature, particularly forest, should be managed in protected areas. Additionally, there were questions about why nature conservation can equal permanent restriction for locals and land owners, and is this realistic, and compensations paid by the government are not yet adequate.

Wide spectrum of opinions

It was interesting to observe the diversity of participants opinions. For example some were vehement that nature needs to be managed to maintain high biodiversity levels. Others felt a more self-willed, non-intervention approach to nature was necessary (which is Wilderness). Others argued that the development of natural tourism will be difficult if nature conservation has many restricted or no-go areas. However natural tourism should not damage the environment, or leave an ecological footprint. So the development of natural tourism in Slovakia must be treated with care and consideration.

The next meeting will be 26 February 2019 in Bratislava (Berlinka Gallery Café & Bistro, Námestie Ľudovíta Štúra) and all participants are very welcome.

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