Sustainable mountain tourism at the Seven Rila Lakes

Co-Cycle have executed their first project in the field of sustainable mountain tourism at the Seven Rila lakes in Bulgaria.

In Winter 2019, Co-Cycle have executed a project aiming at increasing the awareness among  stakeholders regarding sustainable mountain tourism practices. The focus of the project was on winter sport activities in the area of the Seven Rila Lakes and Skakavitsa reserve in Rila National Park, Bulgaria. The location has been selected, due to the increased environmental pressure of fast developing, unsustainable mass tourism, resulting in the presence of many skiers and snowboarders, as well as unregulated local businesses for motor sledge tours – none of which acknowledging the sensitive environment and the high nature conservation status of the location.

The project team, consisting also of partners from BEFSA and KNEB have implemented a series of activities to increase the information uptake regarding the nature value of the area and to active a variety of stakeholders, mostly locals and tourists.

The project delivered the following main outcomes:

  • Elaboration of a brochure containing information about the biodiversity status of the area, as well as rules for behavior of the tourists when practicing their favorite sport activities in the mountain (e.g. ski/snowboarding, touring, hiking, ice climbing, etc.); the brochure also contains a 3D map with ski touring and hiking routes of different difficulty level on the territory of the park, indicating also the potential avalanche areas to be avoided; a web address of the map is also provided for downloading and direct use on GPS and mobile devices by the tourists
  • Dissemination of the brochure at different locations in the area such as huts and hotels
  • Conducting a lecture and training of tour guides on the topic of biodiversity richness and conservation – knowledge, which is then to be transferred to the tourists during guided tours
  • Conducting a ski tour for guides aiming at introducing the biodiversity richness and specifics on field, i.e. in the mountain, and showing demonstrative examples for the prohibition of certain negative tourist practices
  • Conducting information campaigns for children in the form of games and lectures at the bottom station of the ski area
  • Elaboration of a movie disseminating the activities conducted during the project and capturing the nature beauties of the location in focus; the movie is to be distributed via variety of channels, i.e. web pages of project partners, YouTube, etc.

At a next stage, the project partners expect to continue the work by expanding the activities, activating a larger circle of stakeholders like the local communities and nature park management, and mediating the dialogue between them. This shall ensure improved preservation of the ecosystem services in the area for future generations and in parallel – improved conditions for tourists.