Recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent reduction in opportunities to travel to foreign resorts, an increasing number of Russians have started choosing ecotourism. However, there are still many issues related to this type of recreation. Chances are their solution will help make ecotourism even more popular.
Sustainable development of nature tourism, including in Special Protected Natural Areas (PAs,) requires well-managed regulation and transparent conditions for the organization of interaction between the state, business and environmental community. This was discussed at the International Conference “Sustainable Tourism: Global Challenges and Prospects for Russia” that brought together the best experts in industry at the Rosa Khutor Resort in Sochi.
The conference, held for the third time, has earned the status of a key professional platform. This year, due to the pandemic of the novel coronavirus, it had a “hybrid” format. The speakers delivered their speeches offline directly in the conference hall. There were almost 80 of them. Counterparts from different regions of Russia and abroad joined these discussions online. During the online broadcast, it was possible to leave comments, ask questions and make real-time calls. In this way it was possible to discuss a number of acute social and environmental issues over the course of two days. Participants in the conference noted significant progress in the joint search for solutions to positive changes in the industry.
It is not a coincidence that Rosa Khutor Resort was chosen to host the conference on nature tourism. Together with the UN Goodwill Ambassador Vyacheslav Fetisov's Slava [Glory] Foundation and the Interros Group, a Russian conglomerate controlled by the Russian billionaire businessman Vladimir Potanin with large stakes in mining, metals, energy, finance, retail, real estate and other sectors, the resort was not only the platform for holding the event. As the industry leader it became the first Russian tourism organization to launch a comprehensive sustainable development program.
“Rosa Khutor is located in the Sochi National Park in the immediate vicinity of the Caucasian Nature Reserve,” Dmitry Kolosov, the head for sustainable development and environment at the Rosa Khutor resort, said. “The unique nature of our mountains is the main asset that we must preserve. The resort is a kind of portal that opens up the world of mountain tourism in Western Caucasus to guests from different parts of our country. For this purpose, we are working with the Sochi National Park Directorate to create conditions for the development of mountain tourism in the Mzymta Valley and its environs, including new tourist trails and camping places.
“Environmental monitoring has been organized at the resort. We collect and analyse data on living and migrating animals. The part of the funds raised from the sales of ropeway tickets is transferred to the National Park's budget to finance environmental activities. Together with the management of PAs, we are ready to implement comprehensive programs for studying and preserving the natural heritage and for sustainable development of tourism in this popular destination.”
The implementation of the sustainable development program has enabled the Rosa Khutor team to organize recycling throughout the resort. It has reduced the total amount of waste generated at the resort and consigned to landfill by 20%.
“In mid-2018, we launched our own recycling collection service,” said Kolosov. “Since then, we have only sent about 20 tonnes of cardboard per month for recycling during the high season. Recently, using the extended producer responsibility mechanism, we have launched glass recycling and in two months we sent 10 tonnes of empty bottles for recycling.”
Similar initiatives by Russia's largest year-round mountain resort confirm that the tourism industry can and must integrate sustainable development objectives into strategic priorities.
This year, the whole world came to grips with an unprecedented crisis.
However, the Russians’ explosive interest in traveling around their own country and in active recreation came as an unexpected and positive effect of lockdown. There was a surge in the long-delayed demand for safe and educational travel in their home country. If so, then supply must keep pace with demand and the industry. It is demonstrating intensive growth and has also attracted interest from the scientific community.
For example, at the conference, Akaki Melikidze, the CEO of the Ideya [Idea] Research Centre for Interdisciplinary Advanced Studies, pitched the idea of using non-profit organizations as qualified customers of scientific research aimed at solving the problems of sustainable development of natural recreation and tourism in PAs. This means that they might become operators in collecting current requests from the tourism industry for applied research. It will allow them to develop and fund programs that are in demand. For example, in a particular nature reserve. The results will be aimed at solving the industry's pressing problems.
“We are going to launch a pilot project to finance such research with funds from the Ideya Autonomous Non-profit Organization,” said Akaki Melikidze. “Leading Russian and foreign researchers will work on it.”
The final resolution of the conference includes proposals formulated during the discussion aimed at supporting sustainable development of the industry within the framework of the emerging Tourism national project.
“Today, the enormous potential of nature tourism is important for Russia's economy,” said Vyacheslav Fetisov, a State Duma deputy and UN Goodwill Ambassador. “It means not only creation of new jobs but also the promotion of culture and traditions. In addition, it will attract attention to local gastronomy and farms, as well as become an effective tool in the conservation of natural heritage.”