Resolution – Sustainable Tourism: Global Challenges and Discovering Russia

Resolution

 Resolution of the 4th International conference
“Sustainable Tourism: Global Challenges and Russian Perspective”

(Sochi, Rosa Khutor, October, 2021)

 

Pursuant to the 4th International Conference “Sustainable Tourism: Global Challenges and Russian Perspective” held at the Rosa Khutor Resort from October 6 to October 8, 2021, hereinafter referred to as the Conference, the Conference Organizers,

  • reflecting on the fruitful discussion among prominent experts from Russia and abroad, including leaders in nature conservation, tourism and educational communities, researchers, businesspeople, representatives of financial institutions, public officials, and activists, who were once again brought together by this fourth Conference,
  • emphasizing the growing relevance of public demand for the sustainable development of outdoor recreation in Russia, and acknowledging the need for professional discussion on the topic,
  • striving to contribute towards the successful implementation of the government directive on ecotourism development in national parks (the “Ecology” national project approved by the Russian Federation’s Presidium of the Presidential Council for Strategic Development and National Projects, report #16 of 12/24/2018) in conjunction with a broader and a more significant initiative to foster sustainable development of the travel industry within the framework of the Tourism and Hospitality Industry National Project, and
  • relying on the arguments presented by experts who participated in the Conference,

present the following conclusions and recommendations to a broad audience of stakeholders:

  1. Demand for sustainable tourism that offers the experience of communing with natural beauty and exploring unique local cultures, while also giving travelers a chance to show their concern for the preservation of natural, cultural, and historical legacies, has been growing in Russia and worldwide.

The travel industry and environmentalists both strive for sustainable development of this market segment. Yet to make the unprecedented potential of this market fully accessible, our country still has much to do in order to strengthen public consensus and create a favorable investment climate in the industry.

This is as true for remote and underdeveloped regions as it is for internationally renowned natural tourism destinations.

For both types of destinations gaps in industry policies, regulations, and state support mechanisms tend to result in shady tourism activities, if any, or even lead to unwelcome chaotic development of entrepreneurial initiative, a key driver in tourism development.

A potentially productive industry has been stalling and, with few exceptions, continues to fail to deliver quality infrastructure and services, thus not addressing the lion’s share of consumer demand for nature travel in Russia.

This is the backdrop against which we continue to face unresolved and deepening problems related to the ongoing unregulated development of a significant part of the market. Recreational load management at the traditionally popular and emerging destinations is left to the vagaries of fate, and we are witnessing destruction of natural landscapes, environmental degradation, diminished attractiveness of tourism sites to domestic and international travelers, lost opportunities for the sustainable development of local communities and the industry as a whole, and even practices that put consumers’ health and life at risk.

  1. Outdoor recreation, active travel, and tourism in Specially Protected Nature Areas, when seen together as elements of the same economic sector, should be recognized not only as a market segment for the provision of recreational services, but, first and foremost, as a social movement of great significance able to effectively meet the following needs:

– ensuring well-rounded and harmonious personal development, building healthy lifestyles, and serving as a foundation for physical, moral, and patriotic upbringing

– advocating for the environment and building a culture of environmental consciousness

– providing funding for nature preservation projects and programs

– fostering sustainable development of local communities through entrepreneurship, job creation, and support for traditional indigenous lifestyles.

The market potential of sustainable tourism will be put to best use only within a regulated industry underpinned by transparent legislation and the necessary and sufficient government support, including being recognized as a priority by decision-makers.

These conditions also serve as a prerequisite for the strengthening of industry institutions and recognition of the standards they adopt, mutually beneficial cooperation of interested parties, successful implementation of investment projects, and stable functioning of the consumer market.

Fostering such conditions is a goal worth pursuing by all stakeholders interested in the sustainable development of this industry.

  1. Specially Protected Nature Areas (SPNAs) and Open Air Museums are public institutions that exist in many regions of Russia. They serve as models and are charged with developing sustainable and educational tourism.

The government recognizes tourism as a source of revenue (Tourism Development Strategy through 2035 adopted by the Government of the Russian Federation Directive #2129-p on 09/20/2021) that may and should be used to fund preservation of our natural, cultural, and historical legacy for current and future generations.

Administrators of the SPNAs and Open Air Museums containing impressive natural and historical sites that bring in tourists have the means and the energy to manage their territories and to provide the support needed for the success of tourism projects.

On the other hand, only private entrepreneurial initiatives undertaken in partnership with the administrators of SPNAs and Open Air Museums have the capacity to effectively develop tourism infrastructure, products, and services; welcome tourists; promote appropriate tourism destinations; create resources to attract talented individuals to promote cultural and natural heritage; and foster conditions to broaden the circle of friends of preserved sites and their beauty.

On the other hand, SPNA and Open Air Museum administrators and tourism entrepreneurs often face obstacles when forging partnerships because of rules that are missing, obsolete, or inflexible; the forbidding character of existing regulations; and uncertainty surrounding standards.

Similar conditions also often exist outside of the territories under the purview of SPNA and Open Air Museum administrations.

Successful development of sustainable tourism in Russia hinges on one key condition: a transparent and consistent legislative framework that meets the interests of all, makes the industry attractive to investors, and fosters cooperation between business people, government authorities, and state-run and public forces who will work together to help improve the provision of tourist services and strengthen accountability in the preservation of our natural, cultural, and historical legacy for generations to come.

  1. The 2021 Conference provided a platform for leaders in nature conservation, including SPNA directors, experts, representatives of non-governmental organizations, and public officials, to hold a discussion during the first plenary session.

Key ideas voiced during the discussion are presented as a separate resolution  in the Addendum to this document.

  1. Today’s approaches to assessing and regulating the so-called recreational impact on natural sites and habitats must take into account not just environmental parameters, but also infrastructure development, types of recreation, sociocultural factors (the way of life and traditions of the local people), and the needs and experiences of visitors. Comprehensive recreational monitoring serves to determine acceptable (safe) modes of site use, ensure control over the condition of protected natural habitats, monitor visitor experiences, and analyze the attainment of nature conservation, educational, and socioeconomic goals through tourism.

We need to move away from quantitative limits on the use of natural systems or their individual components, and instead embark on strategic long-term evidence-based planning of environmentally and socially responsible sustainable tourism (tourism in SPNAs) to ensure further control of protected sites through comprehensive monitoring of recreational activities.

We also need to transition from reactive to proactive management of the environmental impact of tourism to enable environmental and sociocultural risk management, increase the educational and socio-economic impact of sustainable tourism, and realize tourism’s potential to foster nature conservation.

  1. Safety is the number one priority whenever people travel into the wilderness away from developed areas.

When travelers start a journey, they make an important decision that weighs living through unforgettable experiences against potential health risk, including the risk of loss of life. If such decisions are taken lightly and without due consideration, they may prove to be fatal.

There is a need to strengthen and develop the regulatory framework for the industry that delineates between traveler liability and the liability of professional travel service providers in situations of undesirable outcomes that may result from the actions of service providers or the consumers of travel services, or be caused by force majeure.

  1. The need to foster a culture of peaceful coexistence and well-being of people and wildlife sharing areas used for recreation and travel deserves special mention.

A systemic approach to identifying, developing, and applying the right solution has to take into account organizational, scientific, technical, and informational aspects and would be most successful if implemented in cooperation with the travel industry and environmental preservation organizations.

Russian and international experience and well-known international best practices all show that the approach that best meets this need is for stakeholders to work together utilizing evidence-based planning and cooperative implementation of steps to develop a systemic approach to ensuring the well-being and peaceful coexistence of people and wildlife in the natural areas used for recreation.

  1. Sustainable development of the sustainable travel hospitality industry will not happen without talented individuals interested in making this profession their career.

There is a need to develop a culture of spending time out in nature starting in early childhood and to inculcate a values-based attitude to preserving our natural legacy. Active travel with educational support for children, such as hikes, camps, expeditions, athletic competitions, camping trips, and outdoor gatherings that are affordable, safe, interesting, and rich in educational content create unparalleled conditions for children to engage with their natural environment.

Colleges and universities must use existing opportunities to arrange internships and research projects for young professionals in close cooperation with entities connected with the outdoor recreation market.

To ensure an influx of talent into outdoor recreation and travel into SPNAs, initiative must be encouraged and valuable efforts to promote positive change welcomed. “Master of Hospitality,” a competition run on the “Russia – a Land of Opportunities” platform, should feature a new category for Ecotravel.

  1. Solving problems in the sustainable development of outdoor recreation and tourism in SPNAs requires the joint efforts of people with expertise in different areas whose interests are often misaligned.

Stakeholder dialogue is an irreplaceable tool for finding and using opportunities to enact positive change.

Creating conditions for such dialogue at the Conference, both on stage and informally around the event, is not an easy task.

Although maintaining ongoing stakeholder engagement outside of the annual trade event will also entail certain costs, such efforts will be justified if they help maintain consistent and coherent communication among individuals who strive to make a positive impact.

Therefore, and in order to maintain the value of the Conference as a key annual trade event, the Conference Organizers will direct their efforts at maintaining a dialogue among key participants.

At the same time, the Conference Organizers propose that stakeholders contribute to the development of the Conference agenda during the upcoming discussion sessions, round tables, and open debates, with the expectation that an exchange of ideas and opinions will help achieve progress in this field.

  1. To all stakeholders who develop and lead initiatives in nature travel and in educational, active, agricultural, culinary, ethnographic, and cultural tourism, the Conference Organizers offer the Conference as a platform to engage constructively in an atmosphere of trust in order to identify industry development issues and search for solutions.
  2. The following Resolution was drafted for a large audience of stakeholders who set the agenda and lead this work in Russia and beyond.

The text of the Resolution is publicly available on the Conference website at www.eco-russia.org

 

RESOLUTION OF THE PLENARY SESSION:

TOURISM IN SPNAs: CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS

 PLENARY SESSION PARTICIPANTS:

  1. Consider it necessary to:
    • Improve the effectiveness of state management of SPNAs, e.g., make a speedy decision to create a Federal agency for Specially Protected Nature Areas.
    • Define “ecotourism” through legislation as a type of tourism that promotes protection of biodiversity and natural habitats, causes no harm to the environment, ensures minimal disturbance of ecosystems, and has educational value.
    • Bring in the expert community to rework draft standards GOST R 56642-20 “Tourism Services. Ecotourism. General Requirements” and GOST R 57287-20 “Tourism Services in Specially Protected Nature Areas.”
    • Follow the guiding principle of placing tourism infrastructure outside of Specially Protected Nature Areas to the extent possible, or confining them to existing populated settlements located in the SPNAs.
    • Provide for greater involvement of appropriate non-governmental organizations and private companies in organizing ecotourism in SPNAs.

 Recommend that the Ministry of Nature of the Russian Federation:

    • Reconstitute the SPNA Expert Council to include highly qualified authoritative nature conservation experts and ensure that the Council works on systemic issues.
    • Pay special attention to providing methodological guidance so that tourism can fulfill its educational potential at the state-run nature reserves (taking into consideration the special characteristics of this category of SPNA), including compiling and disseminating best practices.
    • Introduce amendments to the Federal project “Preserving Biological Diversity and Developing Ecotourism” of the Ecology National Project in regards to developing educational tourism at state nature reserves.
    • Revise methodologies to assess recreational load in SPNAs.
    • Ensure that SPNAs reporting to line ministries:

– implement state-of-the-art approaches to minimize the impact of human activity on natural sites, including comprehensive recreational load monitoring, ensuring that the infrastructure needed for nature conservation is commensurate with the number of visitors, drafting evidence-based rules for visitor conduct, and implementing a system of nimble operational decision-making with respect to nature conservation matters;

– make extensive use of opportunities for visitors to see wildlife in its natural habitat;

– collect, analyze, and duly consider suggestions, opinions, and concerns expressed by tourists and SPNA visitors.

  • Create and run special continuing education courses for employees of government agencies in charge of managing SPNAs and ecotourism development.
  • Give special consideration to the need to create a functioning system to financially incentivize employees of government agencies (FGBU) in charge of managing SPNAs, visitor hospitality services, and overall tourism development.
  • Consider ecotourism development as a factor in determining quarterly bonus payments to the directors of government-funded agencies in charge of SPNA management (FGBUs).
  • Develop a methodology to assess the contribution of tourism and recreational activity in SPNAs to the socioeconomic development of the regions surrounding the SPNAs, taking international experience into consideration.
  • Introduce a new category for Ecotourism in Roszapovedcenter’s Master of Hospitality competition on the “Russia – Land of Opportunities” platform in order to promote human capital development for hospitality services in SPNAs.
  • Ensure that appropriate departments create a system for providing methodological and informational support to the government agencies in charge of managing regional SPNAs.
  • Prepare and run a national-level workshop in 2022 for the government employees involved in regional SPNA management.