Resolution – Sustainable Tourism: Global Challenges and Discovering Russia

Resolution

Resolution

3rd International Conference

Sustainable Tourism: Global Challenges and Russian Perspective

(Sochi, Rosa Khutor, October 2020)

 

The Organizers of the 3rd International Conference “Sustainable Tourism: Global Challenges and Russian Perspective” (Rosa Khutor, October 28-30, 2020, thereafter – Conference)

 

  • Drawing conclusions from the Conference’s fruitful discussion between prominent experts from Russia and abroad, leading environmentalists, educators and tourism professionals, researchers, business people, financial industry professionals, government and public officials,
  • Emphasizing the growing relevance of society’s demand to sustainably develop outdoor recreation in Russia, and noting the need for an appropriate discussion within the professional community,
  • Guided by the desire to contribute towards the successful transformation of the government’s goal to develop sustainable tourism in national parks (“Ecology” National Project, approved by the Board of the Presidential Council on Strategic Development and National Projects, protocol 16 of December 24, 2018) into a broader and bigger initiative aimed at sustainable development within the scope of the national project “Tourism and Hospitality Industry”, currently under development, and
  • Relying on the arguments and conclusions of the experts who participated in the Conference,

Present the following considerations and recommendations aimed at a broad audience of stakeholders.

 

  1. Demand for sustainable tourism which allows travelers to immerse themselves in the beauty of wilderness and authentic local culture, and gives them an opportunity to exercise a responsible attitude and to care for the preservation of cultural, historical, and natural legacies, has been rapidly increasing in Russia and throughout the world.

Russia has been making steady progress in sustainably developing this segment of the travel industry. Nonetheless, in order to make the country’s unparalleled potential available to domestic and international tourists, much remains to be done to foster the requisite conditions, including strengthening public consensus and forming a favorable investment climate in the industry.

 

This is equally true for both remote and underdeveloped regions, and for the still too few natural tourist sites in Russia that are known internationally. In both cases, regulatory gaps and the rigidity of state support mechanisms explain the dearth of entrepreneurial activity, or its “guerilla” manifestations. Thus, industry development has stalled, rendering it incapable of supporting the development of sufficient infrastructure and quality services, and therefore not meeting most of the consumer demand for nature travel in Russia.

 

An inevitable result is a laissez-faire attitude towards finding solutions to the challenges of managing the recreational load on traditional and emerging popular destinations. This leads to the destruction of natural sites, negatively impacts the environment, makes the affected sites less attractive to domestic and international tourists, and represents a lost opportunity in terms of sustainable development of local communities and the industry as a whole.

 

  1. Sustainable tourism, active travel and tourism in Specially Protected Nature Areas (SPNA), considered as segments of the same industry, should be seen less as generators of recreational services, and more as an enormous socially impactful movement able to accomplish the following tasks:
  • ensure comprehensive and harmonious development of individuals, develop healthy lifestyles, provide physical, moral, and patriotic education as a counterforce to drug abuse, alcoholism, and crime;
  • provide environmental education, raise environmental awareness of how to care for nature;
  • raise funding for nature preservation projects and programs;
  • ensure the sustainable development of local communities through entrepreneurship, job creation, and support for indigenous ways of life.

A well-organized national industry that relies on  transparent laws and regulations, and enjoys sufficient state support will deliver the appropriate outcomes – recognition and strengthening of the industry’s institutions and their standards, availability of mutually beneficial cooperation between all stakeholders, successful implementation of investment projects, and presence of a stable consumer market.

 

We should then note a dramatic and deepening divide between, on one hand, legacy institutions and regulations, rigid and quickly becoming obsolete but which maintain their influence over the industry and thus impede its progress, and, on the other hand, the tremendous growth in demand for outdoor recreation and active travel, including for children. This pent-up demand results in, at best, amateur tourism lacking organization, and in the worst cases leads to the flourishing of a market of illegal travel offers that do not meet health and safety requirements.

 

  1. Specially Protected Natural Areas and Outdoor Museums are practically the only model entities present in many Russian regions that have clearly defined official roles in developing sustainable tourism and educational travel. Both rely on state-level recognition of tourism as a source of revenue that can and should be used to fund the preservation of natural, historical and cultural heritage for current and future generations.

Management of the Specially Protected Nature Areas and outdoor museums, located in natural and historical sites that are impressive and attractive to tourists, have the means and the resources to exercise control over their territories and, one way or another, support the implementation of tourism initiatives.

At the same time, only private entrepreneurship, working hand in hand with the management of the SPNAs and outdoor museums, may efficiently build travel infrastructure, offer products and services, attract tourists, promote tourism destinations, create resources to entice talented individuals to promote natural and cultural heritage sites, and broaden the number of friends of protected areas and natural splendor.

Nonetheless, management of the SPNAs and outdoor museums, and stakeholders interested in tourism development, generally find conditions for partnering unfavorable because of the absence of rules or their obsolete rigidity, the forbidding character of the existing regulations, and the uncertainty surrounding industry standards.

Such circumstances often exist outside of the areas that are under the SPNAs’ and outdoor museums’ control, where private entrepreneurship in tourism is left to its own devices and risks to travelers safety may be extremely high.

A key condition must be met for the successful development of sustainable tourism in Russia – namely, the introduction of rules that meet common interests and help to bring together the business community, public authorities, state-run institutions and grassroots activists, who, pulling together, will raise the bar for the provision of tourism services, and strengthen accountability for maintaining natural, cultural and historical heritage for future generations.

  1. For the first time, the Conference set the stage for the financial sector to take the floor. Representatives from two out of Russia’s top three banks and of VEB.RF, a state development corporation, made presentations and took part in the discussion.

 

Speakers from the financial industry confirmed that the banking sector stands ready to invest in sustainable development of outdoor recreation and travel in the SPNAs in Russia, including within the framework of ESG investment.

Among the insurmountable hurdles cited by the banking sector in working with the travel industry are: a lack of regulatory transparency leading to extremely high financial risks; the unacceptable investment quality of projects presented for funding as well as of the potential partners behind the projects; and uncertainty surrounding government support measures which stands in the way of legalizing the market for outdoor travel and tourism in the SPNAs, and, in doing so, limits its ability to fulfill its positive social mission..

  1. The tourism development strategy of the Russian Federation through 2035 (approved by the Government circular 2129-p of 09.20.2019 ) implies the creation of a separate concept for the development of nature travel based on a model where the flow of tourists seeking access to nature will serve as a source of revenue to manage the man-made impact on natural sites.

Similarly, the public strategy to create a system of landmarks, historical and cultural reserves and outdoor museums is seen as part of the socio-economic development of the estates managed by outdoor museums, including collections of historical artifacts and spans of natural and man-made landscapes. The government strategy states that the solution to the problem of tourism development for heritage preservation should be found in the realization that the attractiveness of a given cultural or historical site increases the influx of tourists, and therefore money generated through tourism may and should be used to preserve this heritage.

This is a common sense approach that applies to both nature travel and educational travel, and is key to the mutually beneficial collaboration and successful partnership of environmentalists and the museum community on one hand, and the travel industry on the other, moving towards sustainable development at the local and regional levels within the industry and nationwide.

This approach to cultural and natural heritage is universal, it recognizes their utmost value and treats it as an economic resource that calls for special handling, pointing towards the need to improve governance in these areas, including:

  • Ensure a regular dialogue between the leaders among the SPNA directors on one hand, and directors of outdoor museums on the other, in order to share experiences, knowledge and to jointly implement initiatives in pursuit of common and interrelated interests;
  • Create an interdepartmental working group with representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and Federal Agency for Tourism (Rostourism), which will rely on the expert community of directors of outdoor museums and SPNAs to develop and implement innovations in the industry’s institutions, regulations and standards.

 

  1. The sustainable development of outdoor recreation and of active travel for children have always featured prominently on the Conference agenda.

The sector should not be considered simply a segment of the travel industry because it fulfills very important social public goals – namely, personal development (education, forging character), recreation and improving children’s health.

The culture of spending time outside in the natural environment and valuing the necessity of preserving natural heritage needs to be inculcated from an early age. The circumstances allowing for direct and educator-facilitated contact of young explorers with their natural environment, such as camping trips, festivals, expeditions and camps organized in a way that is interesting, accessible, safe and educationally meaningful, are invaluable in that respect.

Thus, the sustainable development of tourism for children, primarily active travel and outdoor recreation, is currently all but blocked by a towering mound of bans and restrictions. There is a need to diligently design enabling policies, improve regulations and strengthen institutions, and to carefully study the best examples from the soviet era, when almost every child experienced camping trips and wellness camps for children.

Certainly, when considering such examples, we should look at today’s circumstances and emulate models that link the efforts of public and private entities, connect state funding and funds from individuals and organizations, and tie together entrepreneurship and the state’s protection of everyone’s interests. An example worthy of careful consideration and dissemination in other regions of the Russian Federation is that of the Department of Science and Education of the city of Moscow, where an affiliated state-funded organization – “The Travel Lab” – works to involve students from Moscow schools in active travel by covering costs and ensuring full compliance with safety requirements while, most importantly, achieving educational goals.

  1. The Conference has continued to cover the positive role tourism can play in the sustainable development of the Arctic.

In view of the region’s strategic role for the nation, sustainable tourism development in the Arctic region requires not only an active involvement of the line ministries (Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and the Arctic, the Federal Agency for Tourism, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment  of the Russian Federation), but also of other federal agencies, such as power agencies (Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, Federal Security Service (FSB), Ministry of Emergency Management), agencies in charge of access to transportation (Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation, Federal Air Transport Agency), those in charge of construction (Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities of the Russian Federation), the provision of quality healthcare (Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation), and others.

Effective cooperation between federal and regional authorities in sustainable tourism development in the Arctic will enable the opening of the amazing Arctic for tourism from Russia and abroad, and contribute towards socio-economic wellbeing in the Far North.

Sustainable development in the Arctic is not feasible without the participation of the business community. For small and medium size companies in the Arctic, the support of the authorities on all levels is key, helping to proactively engage local residents, whose involvement is needed to give tourists access to the unique and authentic cultural and historical heritage of the indigenous nations of the North.

  1. The Conference was closely followed by young people, with coverage provided by 75 young journalists representing 38 Russian regions from the Children’s  tourism press-center of the Federal Center of Children’s and Youth Tourism and Local Ethnography, under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and Youth Public Organization “Young Journalist League”.

Children collected very interesting material for articles and interviews, and took part in discussions, contributing valuable, unbiased and sober perspectives to the grown-ups’ conversation.

The Conference Organizers feel inspired by the attention of the Russian youth to the problems and prospects of sustainable tourism and sustainable development of tourism in the SPNAs, and plan to provide opportunities for children and the youth to loudly voice their demands from the Conference stage alongside experienced adults, who are burdened by their responsibilities.

  1. The Conference was held the year of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, and the Organizers take note that the upcoming decade (2021-2030) was named the UN Decade of Action to attain the Global Sustainable Development Goals, all of which are aligned with sustainable tourism and tourism in the SPNAs as promoted by the Conference.

The Conference Organizers join in with the Russia office of UNEP and appeal to all Conference participants, partners and the audience to take decisive steps to attain mankind’s global goals, and build a healthy and wealthy future for all on our planet.

Read more about the UN Sustainable Development Goals here

https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/ru/sustainable-development-goals/

  1. Stakeholders who develop and lead initiatives in educational, sustainable, active, agricultural, culinary, ethnographic, and cultural tourism have an open invitation from the Conference Organizers to use the Conference as a platform to raise issues in industry development and to jointly look for answers in an environment of trust and constructive dialogue.
  1. This Resolution is presented to the attention of a large audience of stakeholders who define the agenda and lead implementation in Russia and worldwide.