Sustainable tourism in mountains is a major topic of discussion in the travel and tourism industry. Here is a comprehensive study of the topic.
With their broad diversity of species, ecosystems, and a multiplicity of communities and cultures, mountain regions have long held a fascination for visitors, especially those drawn by natural landscapes, adventure, outdoor activities, cooler summer temperatures and the unique features of the mountain cultural heritage, with a sense of spirituality reinforced by mountains’ isolation and soaring heights. Mountain settings were the backdrop for some of the earliest forms of tourism, as in the case of the European Alps.
Today there are few regions of the world where the special qualities of mountain landscapes are not recognized, helping to drive a wide range of mountain tourism activities – based on snow and winter sports; the diversity of local populations and traditional cultural practices; an abundance of natural and thermal springs; the sacred dimension attributed to many mountain sites and peaks; and biological and geological diversity, reflected in unique geological formations and plant communities, as well as emblematic animal species, such as moose, lamas, blue sheep, chamois, ibex, snow leopards and pandas. All these are attractions for tourists who increasingly appreciate open-air destinations and seek refuge and well-being away from their busy urban lifestyles.
Tourism is an important resource for many mountain economies, for example in regions where natural resource extraction is prohibitively expensive due to poor accessibility, as well as highly damaging to mountain ecosystems. In some of the most scenic mountain ranges, such as the North Cascades National Park in the northwest United States of America and Makalu Barun National Park in Nepal, this fine balance is well understood and the values offered by biodiversity, watersheds and recreation are clearly defined and protected.
The Covid-19 pandemic has offered an opportunity to underscore the importance of developing sustainable mountain tourism, tapping into tourists’ growing desire to spend time immersed in nature. Increasingly, mountain and rural areas have been seen as a safe haven against the pandemic, in a new quest for settings that offer a healthy environment and high quality of life. This surge in demand creates new opportunities but also reinforces existing challenges both for traditional and emerging mountain destinations.
Tourism has been recognized for its potential to contribute to the achievement of many of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly in the areas of job creation, sustainable consumption and production, and the conservation of natural resources. The tourism sector is specifically mentioned in, and called upon to deliver on three of the SDGs
According to UNWTO, mountain tourism is a type of “tourism activity which takes place in a defined and limited geographical space such as hills or mountains with distinctive characteristics and attributes that are inherent to a specific landscape, topography, climate, biodiversity (flora and fauna) and the local community. It encompasses a broad range of activities related to the need to be in open air spaces and connect to nature in leisure time”.
Mountain ranges worldwide offer possibilities for a wide variety of tourism activities, of which some are more developed than others:
- Winter and sports tourism: Generally limited to more elevated mountain areas and concentrated in the snow seasons, activities include cross-country, alpine and glacier skiing, heli-skiing, snowboarding, sledging, snowshoeing and tobogganing.
- Walking tourism: This allows visitors to experience mountain landscapes, flora and fauna, as well as local cultural heritage. If properly planned and developed, it can bring a variety of economic and social benefits to residents and communities, particularly as a source of summer income in areas that are generally dependent on snow-based activities.3 Given increasing consumer demand for ‘experiencing’ a location in an authentic way, coupled with the growing popularity of active tourism, walking tourism has the potential to showcase a destination as a whole, including its local culture and nature, as indicated by UNWTO (2019).
- Adventure tourism: and sports activities can be carried out in mountain areas during and outside the snow season. They depend on weather conditions and site access. Such activities include mountain biking, zip-lining, quad biking, horse-riding, rock climbing, ice climbing, paragliding, zorbing and caving. They also include freshwater-based adventure and sports activities, such as river and lake tours, canoeing, sailing, windsurfing, paddle surfing, kite surfing, kayaking, rafting and freshwater fishing.
The following are among the most popular products for diversifying demand beyond the winter/snow season:
- Rural tourism: According to UNWTO, rural tourism is a “type of tourism activity in which the visitor’s experience is related to a wide range of products generally linked to nature-based activities, agriculture, rural lifestyle/culture, angling and sightseeing” (UNWTO, 2019b). Mountains are a perfect setting for rural tourism, as activities take place in areas with a low population density; they have scenic landscapes and land use dominated by agriculture and forestry and are dominated by traditional social structures and lifestyles. Depending on the host communities, time of year, and the interests of the visitor, shared activities may include agriculture, handicrafts, culinary activities/sampling typical foods, learning about medicinal and native plants, planting, harvesting, making cheese, handling animals and other activities related to daily life in rural communities, including traditional ceremonies, dancing and festivals.
- Cultural tourism: Natural and cultural heritage represents the backbone of the mountain tourism experience. Initiatives that promote this important sector include mountain film and literary festivals, exhibitions, rituals, events dedicated to food and agricultural products, as well as guided tours and forest bathing. This latter activity, known as shinrin-yoku in Japan, where it originated, is becoming increasingly popular worldwide and involves immersing oneself in the forest and soaking in the atmosphere through the senses (Qing Li, 2018).
- Spiritual tourism: It is a growing segment of cultural tourism. According to UNWTO, “spiritual tourism is based on a variety of motivations, ranging from traditional religious tourism to alternative medicine to forms of deep immersion in nature” (UNWTO, 2019b). Activities include religious pilgrimages, visiting sacred sites, travel for worship and religious missions, and visits to natural environments such as forests, lakes, gardens, bird and animal parks, botanical gardens, caves and rocks for spiritual reasons. Mountains are often pilgrimage destinations or places for alternative medicine, especially in developing countries.
- Wellness tourism: As defined by UNWTO is “a type of tourism activity which aims to improve and balance all of the main domains of human life including physical, mental, emotional, occupational, intellectual and spiritual” (UNWTO, 2019b). The primary motivation for wellness tourism is to engage in preventive, proactive, lifestyle-enhancing activities such as fitness, healthy eating, relaxation, pampering and healing treatments. Mountains and their connection with nature and spirituality set the scene for the development of experiences connected with wellness programmes.
In mountain regions, changes in temperature, humidity, heat and daylight hours are linked to changes in latitude and altitude, all of which influence ecosystems, human societies, and in turn, tourism attractiveness.
Altitude is an important factor in relation to certain tourist activities such as trekking, climbing, adventure, sports and expeditions. Colder climates strongly influence mountain ecosystems, and different altitudes are associated with different mountain ecosystems. Due to the less hospitable terrain and climate, high mountains are generally less suitable for agriculture and more suitable for forest utilization and recreational activities, such as skiing and mountaineering. During the past 60 years, mountain climbers have embarked on a race to climb the world’s highest peaks. One of the most popular events is the Seven Summits challenge, which involves climbing the highest mountains of each of the seven continents.
The elevation at which a habitat change varies on a planetary scale, particularly by latitude, affecting the tourism activities that can be experienced in mountain areas. For example, the lower limit of montane rainforests in mountains is generally between 1,500 and 2,500 metres, while the upper limit is usually from 2,400 to 3,300 metres, depending on the latitude.
Mountain tourist destinations by region
Mountains cover about 27% of the world’s land surface, ranging over every continent and all major types of ecosystems, from deserts and tropical forests to polar icecaps. The development of tourism in the various regions and destinations is heterogeneous. The availability of data on the sector in mountain areas is generally scarce, which poses many challenges in benchmarking destinations and opens opportunities for further research on tourism development, demand and impact in mountain regions.
Asia contains the highest peaks in the world. The Hindu Kush Himalayan region is known as the Third Pole due to its masses of ice and snow and encompasses mountain ranges in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan. Central Asia’s mountains extend across Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan, where the majority of mountain communities make a living from agriculture, including pastoralism and forestry.6 Mountains in Southeast Asia and the Pacific are particularly rich in biodiversity. Indonesia and the Pacific Islands are recognized for the presence of many active volcanoes that attract large numbers of visitors each year.
Principal mountain chains and tourist destinations
Altay Mountains (Mongolia); Hindu-Kush Himalayan Mountains (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China – Tibet Autonomous Region, India, Nepal, Myanmar, Pakistan), Tian Shan (China), Zagros Mountains (Iran).
Trends in key mountain regions and destinations
Since the beginning of 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected all levels of the tourism value chain, including both supply and demand. Supply-side impacts are clear, with large and small businesses facing severe economic hardship. The economic, psychological and emotional repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic on tourism demand are still emerging and are likely to continue at least until the pandemic is over.
So the key focus should be on
Key points to emerge from the report include the following:
- Tourism is refocusing on leisure rather than business. Mountain tourism is based mainly on leisure tourism.
- Consumer preferences are shifting to less crowded tourist destinations, and in particular to rural, nature-based locations. This could positively affect mountain destinations.
- Covid-19 has changed tourists’ priorities, values and behaviour, and travelling as safely and healthily as possible is now a high priority. Consumers’ awareness of the environmental and social impacts of their travel choices is greater, building on a trend that had started before the pandemic.
- These preferences can be accommodated by responsible and more sustainable tourism while leading to a wider territorial distribution of tourists.
- The Covid-19 crisis provides an opportunity for rural and remote destinations (including mountain destinations) to attract remote workers and digital nomads for a longer period of time, contributing to local development and helping to reverse population decline.
Nature-based tourism – Mountains are ideal destinations for those who seek solace and respite from city life and the Covid 19 pandemic
- Health and well-being – According to the Global Wellness study (2021), the ‘integrated wellness’ market is expected to grow by US$1.3 trillion by 2024. This could offer valuable opportunities for tourism in mountain areas.
- Living local – The pandemic is proving an opportunity to rethink products and services. Staycations9 and domestic travel are likely to be priorities for many leisure tourists, certainly in the short term. Many small towns and villages are reviving their heritage through various forms of innovative tourism, such as Italy’s successful model of the Albergo Diffuso.
- Doing good – Visitors in the post-Covid era are looking for experiences that combine their wellness with that of the planet. However, they often lack the information needed to travel in a more sustainable way. When properly planned, managed and communicated, mountain tourism can offer an opportunity to meet tourists’ desire to contribute to sustainability.
The lack of reliable tourism data and indicators in most mountain destinations worldwide significantly challenges the monitoring and evaluation of the positive and negative impacts of tourism activities, especially in developing countries.
Mountain ecosystems include a wide range of small and unique habitats, with sometimes very short growing and breeding seasons for fauna and flora, and can be particularly sensitive to alterations produced by human activity. Mountain landscapes can change abruptly for a variety of reasons: avalanches, landslides, earthquakes, floods, rockfalls, deforestation, lava flows and drought.
Tourism activities often involve the development and intensive use of trails, as well as sports tracks made by vehicles, loss of landscape due to the construction of tourist facilities (sometimes illegal), and motorized and non-motorized transport.
Generally, the presence of visitors is concentrated in small areas, contributing to increased noise pollution and waste production. The practice of mountain sports, involving both athletes and pack animals, invades natural spaces, meadows and marshes, causing serious environmental problems associated with water pollution, the accumulation of waste, soil compaction in camping areas and the impact on fauna, often with severe repercussions for fragile and sensitive ecosystems (Barros and Pickering, 2015). For example, studies in both the Himalayas and the Andes show the effects of tents and improvised tourist toilets on water sources and the soil
Other environmental impacts of tourism may include land clearance, wildlife relocation and the introduction of exotic and invasive species and diseases.
Winter tourism, ski resorts and destinations with artificial snow have the highest impact on mountain environments. In particular, such activities can lead to
- An impact on the landscape due to ski runs, ski lifts and construction work for snowmaking
- Large consumption of water
- Massive and increasing energy consumption
- Increased soil erosion (additional flow of surface runoff in spring)
- Disturbance of fauna and damage to the flora
- Traffic congestion
- Indirect damage related to construction works and services for tourists, as well as building speculation, for example, the construction of second homes.
Concentrated visitor activity in mountain areas generates significant amounts of both solid waste and wastewater, which can pollute groundwater, streams, lakes and soil through improper storage and disposal. Solid waste can, for instance, build up from food and beverage consumption and the disposal of used packaging, supplies and equipment.
Certain types of waste, including pharmaceuticals, batteries, and personal and cleaning products, may, in addition, contain dangerous chemicals that can harm local ecosystems, wildlife and people. Emissions from the use of motorized transport, such as snowmobiles, contribute to climate change and pollute clean mountain air. Wastewater and sewage from facilities, watercraft and large numbers of pack animals can also pollute freshwater resources, particularly since human and other waste and chemicals break down more slowly in alpine areas. (Charters and Saxon, 2007).
The volume and composition of waste generated are often determined by the activities and practices of businesses in the tourist industry, as well as the behaviour of tourists themselves. As a result, even very remote areas are faced with higher amounts of waste, such as plastics, metals and other non-biodegradables, which did not reach those areas before. Particularly in developing countries, adequate practices and waste management systems (such as environmentally sound management) to cope with the issue have yet to be developed and implemented (Crawford, Mathur and Gerritsen, 2017).
The lack of formal institutional systems for waste management, especially in remote areas, often leads to informal methods of disposal, which are harmful to human and environmental health, for example causing water pollution. In addition, mountain tour operations can consume considerable amounts of natural resources and energy, putting additional pressure on mountain ecosystems
Of all waste sources, plastic is one of the most severe environmental problems on a global scale and poses challenges to the conservation of biodiversity and healthy ecosystems. The urgency of tackling rapidly increasing levels of (plastic) litter and microplastics is acknowledged and has recently garnered attention on a global scale (UNEP Resolution 4/6: Marine plastic litter and microplastics
Plastic waste in mountain areas
Two recent works, the Global mountain waste survey (2021) and the forthcoming Assessment on plastic waste in remote and mountainous areas,12 address and investigate the linkages between tourism and plastic waste in mountains. Preliminary findings from the draft assessment report, prepared by the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, highlight that mountain ecosystems are among those strongly affected by plastic waste. Tourism is a key driver increasing the pollution problem in mountain regions worldwide.
Data suggest that higher levels of economic development are linked to higher per capita plastic waste generation. These global findings also apply to mountain regions (Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, draft, forthcoming; Alfthan et al., 2016). Globally, mountain areas tend to have relatively low levels of economic development, correlated to lower per capita plastic waste generation, which increases with a rise in tourism, as further discussed below.
In addition to local impacts, studies have shown that mountain areas are also deposits of plastic waste in the form of microplastics originating from other regions. Microplastics travel long distances through the atmosphere and end up in significant quantities in mountain areas, far from their point of generation. So-called ‘plastic rain’ has been reported in the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Rocky Mountains (Hutt, 2019; Leahy, 2019; Martynenko, 2019), and microplastics have been found in glacier surface snow near the Tibetan Plateau (Zhang et al., 2020).
Plastic waste often contains persistent organic pollutants used as additives, which are used in products for packaging to clothing and other mountain equipment (Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, draft, forthcoming).
Tourism and plastics
The tourism sector is a significant contributor to the problem of plastic pollution, as much of the plastic used in tourism operations are made to be thrown away and often cannot be recycled. The issue is exacerbated by the littering of plastic products in pristine environments where tourism takes place, thereby causing significant harm to the health of animal species, humans and ecosystems (UNEP and WTTC, 2021). At the same time, the tourism sector is directly impacted by plastic pollution, as it leads to the degradation of the quality and health of destinations’ ecosystems.
Eliminating single-use plastic products across the tourism industry represents an opportunity to tackle plastic pollution at the source and enhance the contribution of tourism to the protection of ecosystems, thereby preserving the attractiveness of destinations. Single-use plastics are usually unnecessary and can be eliminated without compromising the tourist experience (WWF, 2019a; WWF, 2019b). In addition, addressing problematic plastics across the tourism value chain can lead to a shift toward innovative and circular business models, which can result in added value and support a sustainable recovery from Covid-19. (One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme, 2020; World Bank, 2021).
Packaging is a key source of plastic waste in mountain areas. To a large extent, pollution by packaging is driven by tourism generating disproportionate amounts of single-use and non-recyclable plastics. Consequently, the waste in mountain areas with significant mountaineering tourism tends to be primarily plastic, as can be seen for example in the Pamir Mountains, which are largely located in Central Asia, in Tajikistan (Taylor, 2019). Moreover, tourists tend to generate higher amounts of plastic waste per capita compared with the local population.
The significant contribution of tourism to increased plastic waste generation can be observed both in high-income countries and in middle/ lower-income countries. Research conducted in the Carpathians suggests a strong correlation between the growing number of tourists and the increased volume of municipal solid waste, including plastic waste (Przydatek and Ciągło, 2020). Popular mountain tourist destinations, such as the Himalayas summits (ICIMOD, 2019) and Kilimanjaro (Kaseva and Moirana, 2009) have thus become plastic waste hotspots (Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, draft, forthcoming).
In addition, tourism-related sectors, such as the construction of cable cars and outdoor sports, often generate even more bulky waste, which is difficult to dispose of due to the long distances to dump sites. Another example is the outdoor clothing sector, which often uses chemicals and hazardous additives in its products (Greenpeace, 2016). Various companies have taken, or are taking steps to reduce or eliminate critical substances in their production, though much work remains to be done.
The global Covid-19 pandemic has strongly impacted the tourism sector worldwide, and economic lockdowns and global travel restrictions have temporarily reduced waste and pollution in many destinations. However, this positive effect may be counterweighted by increased adoption of single-use plastics, chemicals and medical/cleaning equipment, which is often used as a means of demonstrating that tour operators take care of safety and cleanliness for their clients (Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, 2020; World Bank, 2021). Cleaning and sanitization measures should take environmental, health and safety risks of the products and applied procedures into consideration (Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, 2020).
Limited management infrastructure
The collection and separation of plastic waste are particularly challenging for mountain areas in less developed countries, resulting in low collection rates (Agovino and Musella, 2020). Similarly, functioning transport and separation systems, sanitary landfills, and recycling capacities are often not in place. These challenges result in increased rates of dumping, including illegal dumping, and open burning of plastic waste in mountain areas.
One prominent example is the growing amount of plastic waste (mainly food packaging) openly dumped in the Himalayas (Marsh and Shalvey, 2018). However, some progress is being made in certain areas. For example, in the Kilimanjaro National Park, a ‘trash-in-trash-out’ system has resulted in an improved solid waste collection rate, from 64% in 2003 to 94% in 2006 (Kaseva and Moirana, 2009).
According to research by UNWTO and the International Transport Forum (ITF) released in December 2019, the tourism sector is predicted to increase its CO2 emissions by at least 25% by 2030 (UNWTO and ITF, 2019).
While the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a 7% reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally, it is expected that emissions from tourism could rapidly rebound as operations restart, so the need to align tourism operations with climate action continues to be of the utmost importance if the sector is to respect international goals (UNWTO, 2021). Due to global warming, mountain ranges such as the Himalayas, Alps, Rocky Mountains and the southern Andes, and isolated peaks such as Kilimanjaro in Africa, are showing signs of severe glacial loss.
- Changes in the length and quality of climate-dependent tourism seasons can have significant implications for competitiveness between destinations.
- Climate-related environmental changes (water availability, loss of biodiversity, landscape degradation), increased natural hazards, infrastructure damage, and increased incidence of vector-borne diseases will impact tourism to varying degrees. Climate change is likely to trigger the rates and intensity of natural hazards such as landslides, avalanches, flooding, and river discharge, with dramatic consequences for tourist destinations.
- Climate change mitigation policies aimed at reducing GHG emissions may impact tourism mobility, leading to increased transport costs, and encouraging changes in the travel patterns of tourists.
- Climate change-related economic and political instability is expected to intensify in some countries, leading to changes in the travel choices of tourists, particularly international visitors.
Populations living in mountain areas can be highly sensitive to impacts and changes due to tourism activities. Negative impacts linked to tourism include issues of cultural authenticity and disruption of local communities. Some of the most serious negative impacts of tourism development in mountain areas include indigenous peoples dispossessed of their lands, communities exchanging their ancestral customs for the ‘modern’ ones of visitors, changes in values and lifestyles, loss of identity, and religious sites not respected by visitors.
On the other hand, tourists come to the mountains to experience “the old ways of life” and the preservation of these might be in conflict with local people’s aspirations for modernization, especially for the younger generations. With the advances of digitalization and the influx of tourists, the trade-offs between maintaining traditions and economic development might become even more frequent.
The negative social impacts of poorly managed tourism can also include reduced availability of scarce shared resources such as fuelwood, fish and freshwater. Rural or traditional and indigenous communities may not want to share their culture with tourists or recognize the interest that tourists may have in their way of life, but it is difficult for such communities to isolate themselves from visitors and the impacts of outside cultures.
In mountain areas, the most obvious economic issues are related to seasonality, leakages, the creation of stable and decent work, inclusiveness in the distribution of economic benefits among communities and destinations, the competitiveness of tourism businesses, and tourism as a means to reduce poverty and contribute to biodiversity conservation.
Seasonality: In general, there are few mountain destinations that have constant tourism throughout the year. The latitude, climatic conditions, presence of ski- lifts and infrastructures for winter sports influence the seasonality of the sector: in destinations with ski lifts and facilities for winter sports, there are two tourist seasons: the winter season (which generally begins with the arrival of the first snow and ends with the arrival of spring) and the summer season, which in the northern hemisphere begins approximately with the Easter holidays and ends at the beginning of autumn.
This is the case with the European Alps and the Rocky Mountains in the United States of America, among others. Other mountain destinations may be influenced by extreme winter conditions, where it is almost impossible to conduct any activity above 3,000 metres. Cases in point include the Hindu Kush Himalayas and The Central Northern Andes in Latin America.
Leakage: In the tourism industry, leakage “takes place when revenues from its economic activities are not available for reinvestment or consumption of goods and services within the same destination” (Jönsson, 2015), typically when tourism companies are foreign-owned and/or are based in another country. Tourism economic leakage is particularly evident in developing countries, and especially in many mountain destinations. Revenues leak out of local economies when working conditions are poor, employment is seasonal and short-term, and there is insufficient investment in skill-building or capacity development of local people.
However, well-managed tourism can improve infrastructure, enhance the local value chain, provide community services and help to diversify local economies, with positive impacts on the self-sufficiency and economic sustainability of mountain communities.
Health and safety: Addressing health and safety issues is a precondition for sustainable tourism development, particularly given the sensitivity of international travellers to both real and perceived health and safety risks. Indeed, the management of health and safety issues in tourism affects travellers, the industry and the local community.
Physical and environmental changes can create stress on visitors, particularly international travel in mountain areas. Examples include changes in air and water quality and exposure to changes in altitude, humidity, temperature and time zones.
Risks associated with travel are influenced by destination, length of stay, nature of activities undertaken, standards of accommodation and food hygiene, and traveller behaviour, along with health status, gender, age and experience. The most common problems are accidents, food poisoning and diarrhoea, sunstroke, asthma, fatigue, heart problems, and in high mountains, cases of hypothermia and acute mountain sickness.
Deaths due to natural disasters, such as avalanches, flooding and earthquakes, are not uncommon. In destinations where accommodation, tourism facilities and infrastructures, hygiene, sanitation and medical care are of a high standard, these risks are greatly reduced. The Covid-19 pandemic has made it even more important to ensure hygiene in tourist accommodation, facilities and infrastructure.
Health and safety regulations and standards are critical to ensure the quality of the tourism service. Such standards enable providers to improve safety, meet expectations for the safety of participants and staff, and support compliance with applicable legal requirements. Standards are approved and/or recognized by an industry institution but are also often developed from within the marketplace and adhered to on a voluntary basis.
Examples of formal standards that are voluntarily observed in the adventure tourism industry include quality assurance programmes for hospitality and tourism services, such as New Zealand’s Qualmark14 or Australia’s T-QUAL,15 and environmental management standards, such as the Global Reporting Initiative. At the global level, the ISO 21101:2014 Standard on Adventure Tourism – Safety management systems – Requirements are set to enhance safety performance, meet expectations for participant and staff safety, demonstrate safe practice and support compliance with applicable legal requirements.
Unlike standards, regulations are set by the government and can be much more expensive to develop, implement and enforce. Many tourism businesses, particularly those involved in adventure tourism and sports, are bound to apply national (and in some cases, to apply voluntarily to international) safety standards and regulations regarding the risks associated with the activities that they offer. For example, mountain tour guides should adhere to strict standards and safety protocols and should be trained in first aid.
To conclude With their soaring peaks, remote locations and majestic beauty, mountains have long been a powerful attraction for visitors from all walks of life, who are drawn by the often colourful traditions of local communities, the opportunities for sporting activities, and the spiritual solace to be found in highland landscapes.
This study highlights the important role that tourism can play in valuing the natural and spiritual heritage of mountains, and the cultural diversity and traditional practices of mountain peoples. Particularly when linked to nature and rural tourism, mountain tourism can make a valuable contribution to promoting sustainable food systems and adding value to local products.
Developing sustainable tourism in mountains requires reducing its negative environmental and social impacts and addressing the challenges posed by climate change. The Covid-19 pandemic has already brought about major changes in the mountain tourism sector and substantial losses for communities and businesses. However, consumer appetites for destinations that are outdoors and less crowded have increased in the wake of the pandemic, and these changes usher in new opportunities for mountain destinations to rebuild a greener and more sustainable form of tourism and rethink their products and services.
For this to happen, the following measures will be critical: innovation and development of year-round tourism experiences; investments in infrastructure, particularly for the digitalization of mountain tourism services; strengthening multi-level-governance, partnerships and active community participation; and ensuring regular assessments of the impact of tourism on mountains, the effective management of waste and resources, and clearer practices for defining and managing the carrying capacity of highland destinations.
Also Read: Sustainable tourism: Why is it important?
(Tavishi Datta is a student of Journalism and Mass Communication from Amity University.)
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Partnersincrave.com. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)