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Mountain eco-tourism - myth and reality
Chair of the section/Suggestions, Abstracts, Papers to:
Email: Ivan Vashakmadze (Sustainable Tourism Center, Georgia)
The language of the section: English
Why mountain and tourism?
Mountains of different altitude and geographic location, with great variety of shapes, climate, biodiversity, rich and unique human heritage are found on every continents from Polar cycles to the Equator. It's contains most of the fresh water and mineral resources of the Globe and represents treasure of Earth human culture, spirit and sacred believes.
This is why it's become a top destination for modern civilization. This interest is clearly expressed by west number of visitors and travelers all around the world.
It's in the current world economy, that mountains, because of isolation and difficult accesses, became marginal areas, where few investments are made, people are economically disadvantaged and scare live resources are being depredated through many types of overuse.
Exceptions of mountain massifs, which handle to develop, prosper tourism and recreation industries are only approve this statement.
Mountain sustainable development in economic terms - is this illusion or real approach?
Tourism and mountain tourism as it's part, is the world's largest industry, with annual global turnover 444 billion USD. This exceeds the combined GDP of the worlds 55% poorest states. In terms of growth, tourism has remained at the forefront of global economic growth - with annual 4.1% growth forecast up to 2020.
At the same time, many tourism destinations are located in the mountain regions and accordingly about 70 billion USD (15% of the total turnover) is accounted by mountain areas. In contrast to the small contribution of mountain regions to national economy, the value of mountains for tourism is very significant.
It's no wonder that governments of mountainous countries have envisioned eco-tourism (sustainable form of mountain tourism) as a panacea for the problems of underdevelopment, marginality and fragility.
How Mountains can benefits economically, with minimum negative impact on its nature and human heritage - Is this dilemma?
No clear answer can be presented so far as long as it is the process, but number of key indicators can be develop to measure dimensions of sustainability:
Is the eco-tourism new solution or just a modern "trademark"?
In the present context, mountain eco-tourism is defined as follow:
Tourism, that does not degrade the nature and cultural environment of mountain areas, provides economic, environmental and social benefits to local communities and offers a high-quality experience for visitors.
Under this definition diversity of outdoor adventures, cultural discoveries and forms of nature-based activities could be considered. Those are not strictly labeled as eco-tourism, but have a "positive sense" of impact on nature, cultural, social and economic environment of mountain regions.
We do hope, that mountain eco-tourism, will be developed toward the new approach, where priority of cultural discovery and nature protection is a way of visitor's appreciation and sustainable development of mountain regions.
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