Academic journal article Journal of Tourism Challenges and Trends

Development of Ecotourism in the Region of the Aggtelek-Slovak Karst Mountain and the Tokaj-Eperjes Mountain

Academic journal article Journal of Tourism Challenges and Trends

Development of Ecotourism in the Region of the Aggtelek-Slovak Karst Mountain and the Tokaj-Eperjes Mountain

Article excerpt

Ecotourism as a new tourism development strategy

Environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and accompanying cultural features, both past and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples (Cater, Lowman 2005). Most tourism in natural areas today is not ecotourism and is not therefore, sustainable. Ecotourism can be distinguished from nature tourism by its emphasis on conservation, education, traveler responsibility and active community participation. Specifically, ecotourism possesses the following characteristics (Holden 2003):

* Conscientious, low-impact visitor behavior

* Sensitivity towards, and appreciation of local cultures and biodiversity

* Support for local conservation efforts

* Sustainable benefits to local communities

* Local participation in decision-making

* Educational components for both the traveler and local communities

It is becoming evident that increased tourism to sensitive natural areas in the absence of appropriate planning and management can become a threat to the integrity of both ecosystems and local cultures. Increasing numbers of visitors to ecologically sensitive areas can lead to significant environmental degradation. Likewise, local communities and indigenous cultures can be harmed in numerous ways by an influx of foreign visitors and wealth. Additionally, fluctuations in climate, currency exchange rates, and political and social conditions can make over-dependence upon tourism a risky business (David, Bujdoso 2009).

However, this same growth creates significant opportunities for both conservation and local community benefit. Ecotourism can provide much needed revenues for the protection of national parks and other natural areas, revenues that might not be available from other sources. Additionally, ecotourism can provide a viable economic development alternative for local communities with few other income-generating options. Moreover, ecotourism can increase the level of education and activism among travelers, making them more enthusiastic and effective agents of conservation.

According to the Hungarian experts of tourism the promotion of ecotourism is one of the development objectives of the Hungarian tourism which involves great opportunities and mostly unexploited. The weight of this sector increases at a rapid pace--at least according to the estimations because no relevant surveys have been made yet. The opportunities lying in the sector have not been analyzed by anyone so far, neither the number of "ecotourists" coming to Hungary is known nor the incomes deriving from this branch of tourism. Relying on the local experience we may establish that mainly the Austrian, German, Dutch, Scandinavian and British nature-lovers come to Hungary (Holden 2003).

This special branch of tourism grows spectacularly all over the world, thus it may be expected that this tendency shall strengthen in East Central Europe as well (David, Jancsik, Ratz 2007). For the time being, the destination points of ecotourism in Hungary are located on the areas of the national parks. Until quite recently, the parks did not urge tourism everywhere, but from the last year there are full-time employed tourism experts at the directorate of all the then national parks and the survey of the most important sights has been started (David, Bujdoso 2009). The foreign "ecotourists" visit Hungary primarily to see the rare birds, the national parks and the geological formations. Hungary has such natural resources which could be profited by both the formation of the image of the country and the promotion of tourism. Besides the national parks, there is also an opportunity for this on the areas of the landscape protection areas and the larger landscapes including these kinds of areas (Cioaca, Dinu 2008). …

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