The Chairperson of the Federation Council Committee on Social Policy answered the questions of the EcoTourism Expert portal.
Ecotourism was one of the topics discussed at the 9th Nevsky International Ecological Congress held on May 27-28. What is your take on the potential of the ecotourism in our country?
In Russia, the national system of specially protected natural areas (SPNAs) that are the basis for the ecotourism totals about 12,000 SPNAs. Some of them are the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites. Taking into account the water areas, they make about 13% of the entire country’s area. There are about 100 nature museums at the SPNAs with the exhibitions about wildlife and the historical and cultural heritage. There are more than 40,000 km of ecological trails and routes.
However, so far, the share of visitors to such unique natural areas is only 10% of the total tourist flow in the country. Meanwhile, the ecotourism is of economic, cultural, educational, and social value. Its goals include the wild and ‘cultivated’ nature monitoring and study, gaining the environmental knowledge, recreation and health improvement using natural resources, as well as sports, education, and other activities.
The social significance of the ecotourism lies primarily in the education and recreation. The ecotourism encourages people to be friendly to nature and use the environment rationally.
The ecotourism can prevent the impact on nature and encourage tourist businesses and travellers to promote the nature conservation and stimulate involving the local population in the social and economic development of the unique natural areas, thereby increasing the employment and living standards of the people living in these areas.
What ecotourism destinations are the most promising?
It is necessary to highlight the medical and primary wellness centres and the resorts specializing in the treatment and health improvement using the natural resources. Today, there are only 192 resorts in Russia, of which 70 are federal, 107 are regional and 15 are local ones. The ecotourism is also in great demand at the resorts.
Therefore, some of the most popular and visited specially protected natural areas in our country are the Kislovodsk National Park (the Stavropol Territory), Sochi National Park (the Krasnodar Territory), Caucasian Reserve (the Krasnodar Territory), and others.
Thus, at the resorts, tourists can both relax and broaden their environmental knowledge.
In your opinion, what needs to be done for the priority development of the ecotourism in our country?
Both medical and recreational areas and the resort areas require a special state regulation, including the control and supervision of their ecological state, as well as the support from the state.
The development of the ecological tourism requires an integrated approach. Therefore, our Committee proposed that the draft final decision should include the ‘round table’ recommendations to the Government of the Russian Federation regarding speeding up the elaboration of a number of strategic documents aimed at the development of the ecological tourism, including the respective draft federal law.
Based on the results of the discussions held in St. Petersburg, the proposals will be made regarding the ecotourism revival and its further development, as well as the environmental education in our country.
Thank you very much for your answering our questions.