A meeting on ecotourism has kicked off at Vorontsov Land of the Leopard in Vladivostok. The event is organised by the Far Eastern Leopards autonomous non-profit organisation and Land of the Leopard. At their invitation, the meeting has brought together representatives of environmental organisations, government agencies and travel companies. The participants aim to create a draft programme for developing ecotourism in protected areas of southwestern Primorye up to 2023.
On the first day of the meeting, the participants got acquainted with the existing experience of developing tourism in Land of the Leopard. Thanks to the creation of a network of eco-trails and routes, the number of national park visitors grew to 5,000 in 2018. In the next four years, the park authorities plan to increase this figure to 20,000 visitors.
“The stage of forming the Joint Administration of the Kedrovaya Pad State Biosphere Reserve and Land of the Leopard National Park is over, and now we face new challenges,” said Viktor Bardyuk, director of Land of the Leopard. “Ecotourism is one of the priority directions of developing protected areas included in the Ecology national project. It serves several functions at once, such as providing education, promoting socioeconomic development of the area and improving the efficiency of environmental protection work, including through greater extrabudgetary funding.”
According to the leadership of Land of the Leopard, one of the promising areas of tourism is the creation of a network of raised platforms in the national park for filming and monitoring wild animals. In the near future, three more raised platforms will be built in different parts of the national park in addition to the existing ones, using the experience of the famous Finnish naturalist photographer Lassi Rautiainen, one of the first successful photo safari organisers in Europe. Well-known Russian wildlife photographer Sergei Gorshkov will act as an advisor.
Other priority areas include birdwatching (tours for amateur birdwatchers), educational tours about the flora and fauna of the Ussuri taiga led by a naturalist guide, and special tours to historical and cultural heritage sites.
“We also consider ecotourism to be one of the sources of extrabudgetary funding necessary for addressing priority tasks and compensating employees of Land of the Leopard. Today ecotourism is a popular trend. When drafting ecotourism projects, we must, on the one hand, professionally work out its economic component and interact with potential investors, and on the other hand, minimise the possible negative impact on ecosystems, introduce a recreation impact monitoring system, and strengthen the protection of natural landscapes. We hope that the key outcome of our meeting will be a developed plan of priority activities in this area for 2019-2020,” said Yelena Gangalo, general director of Far Eastern Leopards.
The invited experts spoke about their vision of tourism development in Land of the Leopard and also made suggestions on possible aspects of its organisation. The speakers were Vsevolod Stepanitsky, advisor to the general director of the Far Eastern Leopards autonomous non-profit organisation; Nadezhda Udovenko, division head of the Primorye Territory Tourism Department; Maria Koptseva, deputy director of the Primorye Territory Tourist Information Centre; Galina Gomilevskaya, director of the International Institute of Tourism and Hospitality; Alexandra Yakovleva, development head of Kenozersky National Park; Oksana Zyablova, director of the Pyat Zvyozd (Five Stars) travel company; Yevgeny Nikitin, head of the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography of the Peoples of the Far East; and Yulia Gorelova, director of the Ptitsy I Lyudi (Birds and People) non-commercial partnership.
“When discussing ecotourism, it’s important to fully understand what this concept means. We are talking about nature-focused tourism that does not cause significant damage to natural landscapes and features, preserves the local socio-cultural environment, ensures the sustainable development of areas where it is carried out, and, of course, has an educational orientation. In the modern world, ecotourism is closely associated with protected areas, and Russia is no exception. The demand for such tourism is growing every year. But to succeed we have to carry out a wide range of work in Land of the Leopard, guided by the principle:
“Put your shoulder to the wheel,” Vsevolod Stepanitsky stressed.