A hypothesis says that the forest will regenerate
naturally after the bark beetle disaster. Foresters
and politicians often disagree, but the interest of
tourists in the dead forest may serve as yet another
argument for the preservation of this unique ecosystem.
Photo courtesy of Šumava National Park.
Three biosphere reserves take part in the Tourism
for Nature project funded by GEF and UNESCO. When sustainable
tourism plans come to life, the local people will benefit
and biodiversity will be better preserved.
We were walking through a dead forest. The trees were without
leaves, the bark was on the ground, and only bare gray trunks
were still standing. I bet some people in our group of 15
didn’t feel comfortable entering this area where the sign
was saying that the visitor bears responsibility for any accidents.
But the place was not dead – new life was breaking through
the fallen bark of the trees killed by the bark beetles (mainly
Ips typographus) in Šumava National Park in the Czech Republic.
Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) is more often seen nesting
in the areas attacked by the beetle, sais Vladimir Silovsky,
Deputy Director for Public Relations of the national park,
and the reasons are related to the abundance of food. We checked
ourselves – it is true that blueberries grow much better in
The path we took was set up by the national park in summer
2005 and is one of the attractions in the park that counts
almost 2 million visits annually. The main ecological value
of the park is 3,000 bogs hosting unique ecosystems. Preservation
of these fragile areas given the high amount of visitors requires
careful planning. The park is assisted in the development
of sustainable tourism by Tourism for Nature project. Other
two national parks participating in the project are Babia
Góra in Poland and Aggtelek in Hungary. All three National
Parks are designated biosphere reserves.
The project aims at implementing CBD Guidelines for Biodiversity
and Tourism Development as well as UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere
concept. Awareness raising about sustainable tourism among
local people is another area of focus for the project team.
Sustainable tourism services are often are provided by local
people. Tourism for Nature project supports the development
of sustainable tourism products to empower the people in the
Babia Góra area.
“If you look down from the top of the Babia Góra Mountain,
you will see a patchwork of tiny agricultural plots – and
these will look different on the different sides of the mountain”
– sais Tomasz Lamorski from Babia Góra Biosphere Reserve.
Sustainable tourism can facilitate the revival
and preservation of local cultures if local people
are involved in the development of sustainable tourism
Photo courtesy of Babia Góra National Park.
The Babia Góra Mountain ridge was a state border until 1918
and the communities living on the different sides of the massif
have developed independently, giving rise to different architecture,
folklore, clothing and dialects. This makes it an ideal location
for the development of tourism products based on regional
A tourism product is a combination of services, commodities
and other material or immaterial items that enable the visitors
to have a “complex experience”. The experience consists of
what the tourist does and learns during the stay and the individual
impressions acquired when visiting the destination.
Sustainable tourism should integrate all three sustainability
aspects – socio-cultural, environmental and economic. Obviously,
the Tourism for Nature project is looking for ways to create
economic benefits to local communities and people. For example,
in Babia Góra as well as in Šumava the project will train
local people to become nature guides. In all the biosphere
reserves local people will be tought about the principles
and development of sustainable tourism. In Aggtelek and Šumava
national parks specific courses, such as organic farming,
bee-keeping, catering and handicrafts will be held.
Sustainable tourism should guarantee satisfaction
with the least impact. Visit to protected areas is
an opportunity for education about the importance
of nature conservation.
Photo courtesy of Šumava National Park.
The project will develop the Trail Planning Guide. SŠumava
Biosphere Reserve will have the possibility to apply the principles
outlined in the guide when improving its network of 500 km
hiking and 400 km bicycle trails.
“Unsustainable tourism is one of the primary reasons and
future threats for biodiversity losses in the three biosphere
reserves” – states Michael Meyer, the coordinator of the project.
Therefore each biosphere reserve will prepare an integrated
management plan for sustainable tourism development that takes
biodiversity into account.
It is not a simple task to do. The tourism management plan
should be developed together with the stakeholders, otherwise
they may not be willing to implement it.
Of the three biosphere reserves, only Aggtelek has a tourism
management plan, which also will have to be updated and prepared
in line with participatory UNESCO’s Programme on Man and Biosphere
An old church in Aggtelek National Park hosts a concert
that attracts local people and visitors.
Photo by Zsuzsa Tolnay.
There are only two small villages within the Aggtelek biosphere
reserve with a population of about 1,500 people. The main
attractions for the tourists are karst caves. Most of the
visitors come for a one-day visit to the caves and therefore
do not spend much on the services and products, which these
two villages could offer.
Preparation of the tourism management plans will typically
take two to three years. The planing process starts with the
assessment and recording of the state of the biosphere reserve
and its tourism activities, continues with the evaluation
of current and projected needs and threats, and concludes
with designing of strategies and planning of specific activities
to address those threats. All stakeholders should participate
in the development and implementation of it.
Time will show that the dead trees are not the end of life
for the forest. Similarly, tourism will not necessarily devastate
these unique natural areas. If developed properly, it can
bring lots of benefits for both communities and nature.
By Kristina Vilimaite
The article originally appeared in the December 2005 issue
Diversity, the newsletter of CEEWEB.