Green tourism: the benefits of this type of recreation

Become part of nature. What is ecotourism and how it develops in Russia

The pandemic has forced us to rethink our relationship to travel. After quarantine, people were drawn to nature, and many are interested in ecotourism. On a type of eco-tourism, its development and places where they can be engaged in our country, says the CEO of the company to create eco-villages in Russia LLC “Amega” Andrei Mikhailov

Photo: Dmitry Kovalchuk/Unsplash

Ecotourism is a way of traveling without damaging the environment, which is becoming more and more popular due to the change in people’s attitude towards environmental issues and awareness of the importance of the “green” agenda. In fact, the traveler learns about the world and discovers new places with minimal impact on nature and, more often than not, even contributes to the preservation of local ecology and culture. At the same time, ecotourism is not something new for Russians. Let us recall the well known “wilderness tourism” in Soviet times. Admittedly, the “savages” were quite civilized: they took the trash with them, lit fires in the right places and sang along the guitar. Now to this kind of recreation added technological and organizational components with equipped resting places, water and electricity. In addition, people have become more conscious of the planet, so there are more and more new areas of “green” tourism in the world and in Russia.

Eco-trails

An ecological trail is a walking or hiking route arranged so that a person can visit little-known natural sites. The trail often includes historical and cultural sites that are located in inaccessible places in the middle of the wilderness. Combined with outdoor activities, hikers broaden their horizons and explore the diversity of nature around them.

Creating a large network of eco-trails is one of the goals of domestic tourism. When an ecological trail for hiking appears in the region, the flow of tourists grows exponentially. In this regard, we have something to learn from other countries. For example, the creation of ecotrails in the heart of the Mississippi Delta in America has rekindled interest in the place. As one of the largest river deltas in the world, it is constantly growing and reconfiguring, and the trails are changing as well. As a result, many tourists return there every few years to see an updated picture.

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Where to go

The Krasnoyarsk Pillars Nature Preserve has been attracting both tourists and locals for many years. Every year the reserve is visited by up to 350 thousand people, also thanks to the developed tourist infrastructure.

Another example is the eco-trail along the Gulf of Finland in the Leningrad region. It is located on the territory of the natural monument “Komarovsky coast”. The road is lined with wooden panels, with bridges across streams. Along the trail there are information boards with stories about the flora and fauna of the area (e.g., giant anthills). The trail ends with an exit to the Gulf of Finland.

Rural tourism

Rural tourism allows not only a break from the bustle of the city, but also supports the development of villages and remote areas of the country. In fact, it combines several types of holidays at once: staying on private farms or in farmsteads, tasting products grown by farmers, learning about local culture and history. Depending on the location, travelers can also take part in agricultural work, go to the woods for mushrooms and berries, go fishing, ride horses or learn how to care for animals on the farm. This destination is in particular demand both from tourists and from farmers and artisans, who unite in agri-housing, where people can learn new skills and feel involved in something important.

Where to go

At a farm in the Tula region, you can see how local products are made and taste farm cheeses, cottage cheese, yogurt, and poultry and meat. There you can also go hunting or fishing, learn how to care for animals and work on the farm, or just relax in a Russian bathhouse.

In Astashkov, in the north of the Kostroma region, you can stay in a real carved terem. There is a guest house and a museum of village life. Nearby there is a forest where you can gather mushrooms and berries. Bikes and quad bikes are available for rent, and it is possible to explore abandoned villages and churches of Galich land.

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Another example of rural tourism is the purchase of land in eco-settlements on the Golden Ring. Depending on the project, eco villages are designed to build agrohouseholds, ecohouses, ecohotels, or to grow priority crops on ecologically clean land.

Children ecotourism

Children’s ecotourism should be singled out as a separate direction of rural tourism. Many farmsteads now offer a huge range of creative and informative workshops just for children, and the atmosphere itself allows the child to be closer to nature and forms a caring attitude towards it. On such trips, children explore the flora and fauna around them, learn about agriculture, and become acquainted with rare crafts such as blacksmithing and carpentry.

Photo: Yulia Dubyna/Unsplash

Where to go

To instill a love of nature in children, you can go with them to the eco-farm “Nesterovs” in the Tver region. It will be interesting for a child living in the city to watch and, if desired, learn how to take care of the pets of the local farm: cows, sheep, chickens, guinea fowl, geese, ducks and cranes. In the farmstead you can also go fishing, ride a boat or a snowmobile (depending on the season), take a walk in the woods, as well as take part in competitions, intellectual games and creative tasks, which are constantly held on a specially equipped playground.

In Smolensk region there is an agro-farm “Miroedovo”. which is also aimed at recreation with children. On the farm live turkeys, chickens, goats and sheep. Near the farmstead there is a large orchard. Children and adults are explained how to look after the plants, harvest and take care of the animals.

Volunteer tourism

Quite an interesting new direction for Russia is volunteer tourism, aimed at both young people and entire families. More and more young people want to be involved in something interesting, important and big, and many parents want to create something with their children: for example, to improve nature reserves, parks or farms. Such ecovolunteers help mark trees in “green” areas, lay new eco-trails, repair fences and so on.

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Where to go

The Big Baikal Trail volunteer program is aimed at building eco-trails in the Baikal region. Volunteers buy their own tickets and come to the gathering place and pay the organizational fee. Then they are provided with all the necessary equipment (tents, awnings, tools, gloves, campfire equipment, first-aid kit, repellents, etc.), given brigadiers and interpreters, bought food for the team.

If you are interested in the experience of the volunteer movement in other countries, it is worth to pay attention to the international organization “Association of Organic Farming”. It brings together a huge number of organic farms around the world, which are largely developed thanks to the activities of volunteers.

Sports tourism

Sports ecotourism includes active recreation and sports tours, including diving, rafting, biking, skiing, orienteering, SUP-surfing and other sports. The main advantage of sports ecotourism is that it is not necessary to go somewhere far away.

Where to go

Bicycle tourism is well developed in Moscow and the Moscow region. You can go for a ride in any of the region’s major parks or make “circular” excursions through the cities, such as Serpukhov, Kolomna, Pavlovsky Posad or Dmitrov.

Altai, Crimea and Anapa are famous for hiking and horseback riding trails. For example, in Altai there are complete horseback riding tours from 6 to 13 days, where on horseback you can walk along the lakes of the North Chuya Mountain Range, see Karakol Lake, and spend the night in tents in the mountains.

SUP surfing Photo: Gorky SUP

In recent years in Russia, especially popular is SUP-surfing, that is surfing on a board with a paddle sitting or standing. This sport is accessible to people of all ages and sportsmanship. You can take a SUP-tour, for example, in the Nizhny Novgorod region, in Serebryanny Bor in Moscow or on the Gulf of Finland in St. Petersburg. There are different programs: from small two-hour walks on the river for beginners to three-day tours, designed for more experienced athletes.

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Ecotourism in Russia is still a niche area and occupies less than 2% of the total tourism market in Russia. In this case, according to the World Tourism Organization (WTO), Russia is one of the most promising areas for the development of ecotourism. While we are seriously lagging behind the pace of development of the global industry. This is partly due to the lack of necessary infrastructure and information. For example, in the USA 318 million people a year visit protected areas, in Russia – only nine million. But thanks to closed borders and state support, ecotourism has begun to develop actively. For example, in 2021 the Moscow region has doubled its spending on it. Entrepreneurs who are interested in “green” tourism can now count on subsidies from the state.

In terms of investment for businessmen ecotourism is much more profitable than usual tourism. For example, construction of an eco-house will cost 700 thousand rubles, while an ordinary tourist house will cost one and a half or two million rubles. At the same time eco-houses are rented at the price of usual houses. The volume of investments into eco-hotel is also not comparable with investments into a full-fledged hotel: it will take 10-20 millions of rubles to create the first hotel and five times more to create the second one.

Informing people in Russia about ecotourism, government support and attracting investment in the creation of new routes and infrastructure development gives a full right to say that in the next five years ecotourism is doomed to success.

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