Nature tourism seems to be an effective tool to support nature conservation, particularly in densely populated Europe. Generally speaking, nature tourism allows a region to benefit economically while maintaining its natural values and providing a chance for nature. Simultaneously it creates conditions for the development of local communities and preserves their traditions and culture.
Nature tourism and Wilderness
Nevertheless, this is not so obvious if we want to protect Wilderness. A growing number of visitors is a threat to maintain an appropriate status of Wilderness. Growing visitor numbers can lead to irreversible damage in a Wilderness. Numerous examples can be found among the Word Heritage areas list.
There is obviously a difference between mass and nature tourism if we speak about impact. The major benefits of nature tourism are the experience and educational aspects. However, we have to be aware of the pressure of the tourism industry. This concerns the field of tourism, nature tourism, green tourism and mass tourism. Many protected areas that hosted great Wilderness areas are already victims of this process.
Nature tourism Principles
Nature tourism is based on the vision of long-term sustainability of an area. The development within this area builds on the following principles:
- minimise the negative impacts of tourism on the ecosystem and local people,
- provide jobs and financial benefits for the local population,
- empower local people,
- generate funds for the conservation of natural and cultural heritage of an area,
- build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
Aevis foundation in Slovakia recently came up with a programme for Nature Tourism building on these principles. It aims to promote activities and initiatives to advance these principles in areas where natural tourism creates opportunities for Wilderness protection. Since this protection entails certain restrictions on land use, one of the objectives of Aevis Foundation is to directly compensate for these limitations, thus contributing to the maintenance and expansion of Wilderness areas. Aevis foundation recently organised a workshop with a focus on nature tourism in Slovakia. The meeting generated great ideas and creates a good basis to further develop the concept of nature tourism in Slovakia.
Nature Tourism and the European Wilderness Society
Experience shows that tourism, particularly mass tourism, is a big threat to Wilderness conservation. However, tourism, if correctly implemented, is an important tool to raise public awareness for Wilderness. Awareness for Wilderness is an important tool to protected Wilderness. This can happen only if people respect Wilderness. Respect in this term means that people are willing to respect the principles of nature tourism and nature in general. An essential tool to educate visitors and build respect for Wilderness is to inform and implement the Leave No Trace principles. These principles allow visitors to experience Wilderness without impacting it.
“People have to experience Wilderness, otherwise Wilderness does not have value for them”,
said the Deputy Director of the European Wilderness Society.
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