As part of a project on building up ecotourism supporting National Parks in Slovakia, on September 17th and 18th 2020 LT&C co-organised a virtual conference on ‘Opportunities for Ecotourism in Slovakia’, together with our project partner Aevis n.o. to discuss international good practice, lessons learnt and address challenges and approaches for developing ecotourism in protected areas in Slovakia.
The conference was held in Banska Bystrica in Slovakia and was attended by LT&C members Nina Breck and Diana Körner, who have developed a handbook on ‘Best practices for developing ecotourism in support of national parks Slovakia’ in the framework of this project. Other contributing LT&C members joined virtually. The conference was held both in English and Slovak language with simultaneous translation.
The event counted 125 attendees from 11 countries. The schedule included both national and international speakers and all recordings and presentations, as well as the LT&C handbook, are made available on the website of our project partner Aevis. Several LT&C members presented their work and shared valuable ecotourism experience with the audience.
Aivar Ruukel from Soomaa National Park in Estonia opened the conference by talking about the approach of his ecotourism business in creating unique products that support conservation. Tim O’Donoghue from the Jackson Hole & Yellowstone Sustainable Destination Program shared his experience in creating a joint multi-stakeholder sustainability vision for his destination and how to overcome challenges along the way. Jan Brockmann from Regio-Rangers talked about his work with nature guides in terms of developing the official job profile and training plan for rangers in Germany and generating diverse income streams for nature guides. Dr. Christina Cavaliere, Assistant Professor from Colorado State University shared insights into her latest research on neo-localism and also talked about Costa Rica as one of the many destinations she lived and worked in and the National Forestry Financing Fund the country has put in place. Nina Breck and Diana Körner introduced the LT&C handbook they developed and also addressed the implications of COVID-19 on ecotourism globally and discussed some of the challenges and opportunities that can be observed.
Overall, the conference highlighted the fruitful cooperation between LT&C as an international NGO and Aevis as a local partner, marked by rich exchange and discussions and great interest brought forward by the largely Slovak and Czech audience in the examples LT&C members had to share. Many approaches and ideas were shared and networking made possible, which will hopefully help Slovak stakeholders further build on the ecotourism potential in various Slovak destinations.
After the conference LT&C members and friends were guided by one of Aevis’ members Tomas Vida to Vel’ká Fatra National Park and Slovak Paradise National Park, where they experienced firsthand the diverse outdoor, wildlife observation, star gazing, culinary offer and hiking opportunities in these parks. Under the expert guidance of Tomas, the group discussed and learnt about the advantages of eco-forestry, and possible approaches to dealing with bark beetles and the importance of protecting indicator species and old growth forests. The group was joined by a representative of Footour, an organization equally committed to nature conservation and cultural tourism in Slovakia.
The conference is realized within the project Fewer barriers for more benefits in utilising nature and is supported by a program ACF – Slovakia, which is financed from the EEA Financial Mechanism 2014-2021. An administrator of the program is Ekopolis Foundation in partnership with Open Society Foundation Bratislava and Carpathian Foundation.