Effective visitor management practices in protected areas were highlighted at the 11th Meeting of the World Protected Areas Leaders Forum (WPALF) held in March 2019 in Victoria, Australia.
At the event, leading protected areas management practitioners from Australia, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Finland, Israel, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, and South Africa came together and discussed the impacts and opportunities of visitation in protected areas.
Ms Lidan An, the Nature Reserve Division Chief of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration of China (NFGA), informed participants that more than 80 percent of the country’s nature reserves are tourist-friendly. Tourism activities in these areas are, however, strictly limited to certain locations.
Ms An added that some nature reserves make significant economic contributions to local provinces. Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve in Sichuan province, for example, attracted close to three million tourists in 2011. Over 539 million yuan (USD 79.2 million) worth of ticket sales were generated as a result.
According to Mr Kang, Heejin, Chief Programme Officer of the Partnership Department, KNPS, more than 40 million people visit Korean national parks every year. To manage the large number of visitors, KNPS has created low-lying circuit trails in an effort to draw people away from the popular – but ecologically sensitive - high altitude areas. It has also introduced reservation systems for some national parks.
Some of these low-lying circuit trails can be found at the Bukhansan National Park. Instead of developing new trails, existing trails were connected to form 21 circuits, each with its own unique character and natural and historical values. Special signage was developed to create a “brand identity” for the trails and to guide visitors. These low-lying circuit trails have contributed to the dispersal of visitors from higher areas to lower areas, thereby decreasing fragmentation of wildlife habitat in the higher areas of Bukhansan National Park.
Reservation systems allow park visitors to visit particularly popular or sensitive areas by booking their spots online or at the entrance of the national parks. This is a win-win situation: KNPS is able to ensure that visitor numbers remain within the parks’ carrying capacity, while visitors are assured of having a pleasant and safe environment. Piloted in Jirisan National Park in 2008, the reservation system is now operational in 15 other national parks across the Republic of Korea.
About the Korea National Park Service (KNPS)
The Korea National Park Service (KNPS) is a professional protected area management organisation established in 1987. It manages around 30 percent of Korea’s protected areas, including 21 national parks. Guided by its vision: ‘Leading Protected Areas Management by Connecting Nature, People, and the Future’, KNPS commits its resources to achieving conservation and sustainable use of national parks, and provides support to locally-managed protected areas.
About the National Forestry and Grassland Administration of China (NFGA)
The National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA) was established in 2018 to consolidate the governance of the protected areas estate. The NGFA implements the guidelines, policies, decisions and plans made by the Party Central Committee governing forestry and grassland work. It will oversee a process of revision and standardisation of protected and conserved areas of all types across the country.