Responsible Planning and Management of Mountain and Forest Based Activities
The origin of mountain tourism dates back to 1336, when an Italian poet, Francesco Petrach, ascended mount Ventoux in France, and wrote a poem about it. Later on, mountain tourism became a popular activity in the Alpine area. Mountain and forest based tourism has existed for over 200 years, initially starting as a “fashionable” mass tourism phenomenon to what we now have, a form of multi-niche tourism. Such type of tourism entails nature based activities i.e. they are dependent on the unique natural attractions of mountains and montane forest as well as natural resources to create the tourism experience. These include wildlife, the scenery and snow, which support creation of tourism experiences through hiking, trekking, camping, climbing, skiing, research and attractive accommodation like resorts
Mountain and forest tourism add value to existing economic opportunities in such destinations that are predominately agriculture based. Local communities play a significant role in mountain and forest tourism management. This has been case example of Karura forest in Kenya. Nonetheless, achieving community engagement for forest management is ever a challenge.
Value of mountain and forest tourism
Value considers what multiple stakeholders regard in high esteem. Mountain and forest tourism have a wide range of value to tourism, including; aesthetic, ecological, economic, recreational, social, cultural, religious, health and safety value. All these values inform the planning of destinations for mountain and forest tourism.
Global issues affecting mountain and forest tourism
Climate Change. Global warming leads to melting of glaciers and disappearance of snow. Warming also results to wild forest fires. Both impacts erode prime attraction bases for mountain and forest tourism. Destinations like Kenya offering mountain and forest tourism should build adaptive capacity of their mountain and forest ecosystems to climate change impacts.
Habitat and species loss. Human activity may lead to forest destruction and negative tourism impacts.
Emergence of cheap destinations. This diverts tourists away from mountain tourism to affordable alternatives. For example, affordable air transport provided the travel option for other nature-based activities, in destinations where the cost would be cheaper than that of engaging in costly activities in mountain tourism.
Inaccessibility. There are high costs for infrastructure development and maintenance, high costs services, as relates to development of mountain and forest tourism. In destinations with budget constraints, such places do not have easy access routes.
Situation analysis of forest and mountain tourism in Kenya
Popular Destinations; Mt. Kenya, Aberdares Range, Mt. Longonot, Mt. Elgon
Key experiences: adventure and scenery viewing
Annual visitor numbers: Mt. Kenya=20-25,000, Aberdares= 40-45,000, Mt. Longonot=50-65,000.
Experience market readiness status: Adventure=Average; Scenery viewing=Very good
- Failure to responds innovatively to market trends and changing world
- Country over reliance leisure experiences and international tourist leisure source markets. In Kenya, interest in mountain and forest tourism is from non-residents, in fishing, climbing and birding.
- The tourist experience is tightly controlled by small group of tour operators
- Limited things to do en-route to end destinations.
- Weak branding
- Old and unmaintained tourism infrastructure
- Climate change affecting Mount Kenya
- Deforestation, habitat encroachment and tourist induced vegetation loss
Sources: KTB, KNBS, National Tourism Blue Print, FAO
Why plan for sustainable development?
- Mountain and montane forest tourism affects the environment and is affected by the environment
- Mountain and montane forest tourism supports culture and livelihoods and also impacts on culture and livelihoods
- Tourism is required to make tangible contributions to achievement of sustainable development goals
- Tourism is a business that has to be competitive by creating quality and market relevant experiences
Destination planning includes competitiveness planning, policy planning, economic impact planning, poverty reduction and social inclusion, conservation of natural resources and heritage planning.
Destinations can plan to develop products for forest and mountain tourism, in a way that it optimizes benefits for sustainable development. Forest and mountain tourism activities appeal to visitor markets, and have benefits for safeguarding natural resources in destinations, as well as empowering local communities.
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