An outline of economic impacts of management options for Šumava National Park
This analysis briefly compares the economic impacts of three potential future management scenarios for Šumava National Park (NP) in the Czech Republic: (1) continuation of current management, (2) the adoption of draft Bills that would declassify protected areas and enable developments (e.g. ski lift development) within some of the Park ’ s most valuable habitats for wildlife, and (3) the adoption of proposals to expand the wilderness area in the Park ’ s core with associated tourism opportunities.
The proposals in the draft Bills have the potential to generate employment through ski lift development, but much of this activity will use imported labour and/or be short-term (e.g. associated with construction work). The financial viability of this development is uncertain for a number of reasons, including: likely requirements to compensate for damage to protected habitats, reduced future snow cover due to climate change, and competition to attract sufficient visitors to use the ski lift. The economic impacts of the adoption of the draft Bills (and, to a lesser extent, of continuing with current management) would also include negative effects on current nature tourism activity and on its long-term potential to expand. Currently, and certainly if the proposed plans in the draft Bill are adopted, the value of the NP as an area of wilderness and high-quality ecosystems will be reduced. This would weaken one of its key selling points as a tourism and recreation destination. The opportunity for international branding of the national park based on these ecosystems would be diminished. This damage to ecosystems would go against the views of the 75% of the Czech population who agree that it is important to halt the loss of biodiversity because we have a moral obligation to look after nature.
Pro-wilderness development offers an alternative scenario. It would allow economic opportunities to be pursued to promote nature-based tourism at new locations and activities around an expanded non-intervention zone, while not undermining the ecological integrity of the NP. The Šumava NP is a unique area which supports a wide variety of habitats and species and has the potential to form one of the largest areas of natural forest and wetland habitat in Central Europe. This tourism offer is in keeping with visitor ’ s preferences (identified in a 2010 survey), and can exploit global growth in ecotourism activity. The best access points to the Šumava NP ’ s wilderness are currently regarded as being “full” in that further increases in visitors would damage the wilderness experience which draws visitors. Therefore, there is perceived to be demand for a larger number of carefully managed access points to a larger wilderness area.
To maximise the local economic benefits of this tourism development around the park, appropriate training for the local workforce is required. Local benefits could be enhanced through nature-based tourism development that is spread throughout the communities in and around the park. This would not conflict with the park ’ s wild image that attracts visitors, and this visitor market could grow with support from expanded marketing activity. The potential local economic benefits from the pro-wilderness development option include: maintaining and expanding employment in management of the National Park ’ s habitats, visitor facilities and access points; increased nature-based tourism trade in the villages within and surrounding the Park; increased opportunities to attract financing for local economic development (e.g. training and SME support for nature-based tourism), and for the Park ’ s management, both internationally (e.g. from EU funding sources), and locally (e.g. through fees for visitors using specific facilities); a greater proportion of value-added in the tourism offer being generated within the local community, meaning more income can be retained locally and support greater indirect economic activity, and maintaining forestry employment.
Key aspects of this analysis are the way in which tourism potential at the Park is developed, and the extent of logging as a measure to manage bark beetle. Šumava NP borders the Bayerischer Wald NP in Germany, which has developed a successful nature-based tourism industry. This offers a proven model to pursue sustainable economic development under the pro-wilderness development scenario, and a unique opportunity for complementary promotion of the two parks branded as the “Wild Heart of Europe”.
More specific predictions of economic and employment impacts will require a full economic study. However, this initial analysis indicates that the pro-wilderness scenario offers a more economically and environmentally sustainable development plan for Šumava NP than either the current situation or the plans proposed in draft Bills. It is recommended that proposals in draft Bills should not be pursued at least until a fuller economic evaluation of options has been undertaken.
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