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"Ecotourism can be made good for local people"

Natalya Trunova, Vice President of the Center for Strategic Research Foundation, on the development of ecotourism and the PA system

The acceptance of applications for the All-Russian competition for the creation of tourist and recreational clusters and the development of ecotourism in Russia has ended. Now this direction is not developing as actively as it could. Natalia Trunova, Vice President of the Center for Strategic Research Foundation, spoke about the problems of ecotourism and the system of specially protected natural areas (SPNA).

"Ecotourism can be made good for local people"

- How is the problem of the lack of effective state management of the PA system both at the federal and regional levels solved, as well as coordination of activities between these levels?

- In fact, now those PAs are developing in which effective teams work, headed by an active, not indifferent leader. An example is the Ugra National Park in the Kaluga Region. It is these teams that manage to create new projects, despite the complex coordination processes with government agencies. At the same time, federal PAs, due to their direct subordination to the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation, have little interaction with regional authorities. In fact, the level of interaction also depends on the personal attitude of the management.

In some constituent entities, specialized institutions have been created for the management of regional PAs, but in some regions, there are no specialized organizations, for example, in the Moscow region, PAs are actually not managed in any way, and the only function is performed - protection. In such cases, groups of activists appear, improve the territory on their own, organize events, and conduct excursions.

- Many experts believe that the main problem that hinders the effective functioning of the PA network is the lack of funding for measures to protect and develop the PA system. Is this so and what is being done to solve this problem?

- Rather, the main problem is not the lack of funding, but the difficulty of coordinating any initiatives on the territory of protected areas, as well as the principle that the task of protected areas is to protect the territory from anthropogenic impact. So in the Federal Law "On Specially Protected Areas" there is not a single word about tourism.

At the same time, many infrastructure facilities can be created not on the territory of protected areas, but on the adjacent territory (entry points), these are places for tourists, cafes, restaurants, etc. However, investors need guarantees for tourist flows. There are no programs with the participation of regional and local authorities for the development of protected areas; the problem of transport accessibility is often encountered.

- Private business does not want to invest in the development of protected areas. What do you think is the reason and how can you attract private investors?

- There are several main reasons why businesses are not ready to invest in protected areas. These are complex and non-transparent procedures for land lease, design and construction of facilities. This is federal property, for which there is an additional procedure for coordination with the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation.

Also, there are no guarantees to ensure the flow of tourists to the protected areas, the problem of transport accessibility, the lack of informing the population about the existing facilities, the seasonality of some of the entertainment on the territory.

Investment in tourist facilities also affects - it is often long money, their return is possible if there is a qualified team of not only business entering the territory, but also a team of protected areas, which should not only not interfere with business development, but fully help.

- How does ecotourism benefit locals?

- Ecotourism can be useful for local residents if there are facilities on the territory that create jobs, as well as the opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses to work (ice cream stalls, weekend fairs). Then this is a place of work for the locals.

The developed infrastructure on the territory of the protected areas and in the adjacent territory can also be used by local residents. The presence of developed infrastructure increases the value of real estate for local residents.

Also, the development of outdoor tourism is a whole industry of specialized products for outdoor recreation (tents, backpacks, thermoses, etc.), the production and sale of which can be localized in certain territories.  

- How acute is the problem of land management in protected areas?

- There are two main problems. First: residents who ended up with their houses and plots in the territory of protected areas and are limited in their rights. In this case, the principle of reasonable limitation must be applied. Restrictions related to living in these territories (such as registration in residential buildings, construction of residential buildings on their land plots, etc.) on their land plots, in their houses are unacceptable.

The second is the creation of new infrastructure facilities on the territory of the protected areas. Here it is necessary to maintain reasonable restrictions, given that many capital objects can be built outside the boundaries of natural areas. However, there are such facilities as toilets, playgrounds, observation decks, gazebos, tents with food and water, etc., which should be located on the territory of the protected areas themselves. There is a problem of the difficulty of coordinating their placement (through the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation).

- How to strike a balance between conservation and development?

- At the moment, the territories of all protected areas have different regimes of protection and use of land plots and water bodies. The regimes prescribed in the law, subject to their observance, play the role of preserving especially valuable ecological systems and objects for the sake of which protected areas were created. For the development of ecological tourism on the territory of protected areas, it is necessary to create management teams. There is a need for coordination at different levels of the RF Ministry of Natural Resources - PAs - regional executive authorities, the creation of joint programs for the development of the territory. These programs should provide for new facilities outside the protected area, the development of transport infrastructure outside the protected area. Maximum development of territories adjacent to protected areas, creating the necessary comfort for tourists with the opportunity to spend time in natural areas.

The main points of attraction are the territories located near large cities and with transport accessibility.

- How, in your opinion, will the All-Russian Eco-Tourism Competition help solve the existing problems of the industry?

- The competition can help build a dialogue between the heads of federal PAs and the executive authorities of the constituent entity in which they are located. He can also attract the attention of potential investors, support projects that have not been implemented so far.

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