International ecotourism conference kicks off at Rosa Khutor Resort in Sochi

What challenges does nature tourism face and what are Russia's prospects in this field of tourism? These topics are discussed in Sochi's Rosa Khutor Resort, where the annual conference on the topic of ecotourism has started.

This event takes place for the fourth consecutive years, and, by tradition, it has become a place for public discussion on acute problems of sustainable development of natural recreation in Russia and the world. During the conference "Natural Tourism: Global Challenges and Prospects for Russia", the participants will give a global overview of key challenges, prospects, trends and risks that stand in the way of sustainable tourism development in environmentally sensitive areas (ESA) on our planet.

"Nature tourism is one of the promising areas for the development of the industry. Russia is an extremely beautiful and hospitable country rich with natural attractions. The Russian government pays great attention to the development of domestic tourism and does everything to ensure that Russian and foreign citizens could travel to discover conservation areas of our country. A state-supported national project was launched to create conditions for tourist infrastructure, improve the quality of services and develop nature tourism. The conference is a unique platform, at which representatives of the professional community of government and business circles conduct a direct dialogue and exchange interesting ideas," Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said in his speech to welcome the participants of the conference.

Inna Petukhova, Deputy Mayor of Sochi, said that as many as 5.8 million tourists visited Sochi since the beginning of the year, and by the end of the year this number is expected to increase to 7 million.

"During this period, two million people have visited the mountain cluster. The development of the mountain cluster gave a powerful boost to the development of tourism in Sochi. The pandemic has contributed to this as well, as people opted for nature tourism, and these days vacation in the mountains enjoys great popularity, nature trails have been developing actively too. If we look at the official statistics over the past five years, budget revenues of the local level and the region have increased 1.6 times," Inna Petukhova, deputy head of the city of Sochi said.

The international block of the conference program "Nature Tourism: Global Challenges and Prospects for Russia" this year will be represented by an important event — a joint session of the UN Environment Program and the Food Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, as well as implementation of the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030)".

"We have been saying lately that ecology, nature, climate and biodiversity make the basis of our life in the future. Unfortunately, until today we have treated this, one might say, barbarously: we have exterminated 50 percent of living beings on the planet. This leads to the rapid degradation of everything related to the future of our children and grandchildren. The UN Secretary General decided that the organization is launching a new ten-year program to restore the ecosystem. Of course, we must support the initiative, as we have already sent a corresponding appeal to the President of Russia," Vyacheslav Fetisov, the UN Goodwill Ambassador, First Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Physical Culture, Sports, Tourism and Youth Affairs of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation said.

Russian companies are ready to support the green initiative, Vyacheslav Fetisov noted.

"I was surprised about eight years ago, when Norilsk Nickel announced that they would invest a lot of money to modernize production. That sounded odd to the ear, no one thought about it at that time. They do a lot now, I was in Norilsk, I saw the sulfur plant that would cut its emissions by 90 percent. The Arctic will be able to take a breath of fresh air. I know that many industries switch to environmental standards, realising that environmental standards will be developing, and the rules of the game will be different. They realise that they will have to leave the market, and their products will not be in demand," said Vyacheslav Fetisov.

During the conference, experts will discuss the implementation of green standards for the design and construction of infrastructure focused on environmental protection, human well-being and economic efficiency. The term first appeared on the Russian development market in the wake of the 2014 Winter Games, when Vladimir Potanin's Interros Company built the Rosa Khutor Resort. Green technologies were used in the construction project back then too.

Rosa Khutor Resort set forth an initiative to form green standards for the design and construction of infrastructure in the sector of natural recreation and tourism in ESAs using its own corporate standard — the Green Code — as a template.

"The Green Code is a corporate standard, by which we will evaluate the quality of tourist infrastructure. We are developing a network of camps connected by routes. We offer key principles so that we have high quality infrastructure integrated into natural landscape, so that the feeling of being close to nature is preserved. The green standard is not a dream — this is construction quality management. This is not a mature topic for Russia yet, so during the next year we will be developing it in the professional community so that experts, together with us, could consider the "green code” to prepare the industry-wide standard,” Dmitry Kolosov, Director of Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development of the Rosa Khutor Resort said.

Against the background of the rapid growth of the market, the conference will also touch upon issues of the financial sector, which declares its interest in investing in projects for the sustainable development of nature tourism and tourism in environmentally sensitive areas, including with the use of the principles of ESG investment. The industry is looking forward to the reform of the legislation on environmentally sensitive areas, which should establish transparent rules for the implementation of investment projects related to the development of tourism in ESAs.

One of the main topics of the conference is a mission to ensure good-neighborliness and well-being for humans and wild animals in the natural territory used for tourism and recreation. As part of the discussion session, the participants will discuss possibilities and conditions for combining efforts to strengthen the scientific, technical and organisational base to ensure the safety of tourists and preservation of wildlife in natural areas used for recreational purposes. Security issues are also on the agenda. Over the past year, against the background of significant growth of the consumer market in the industry, the legislation on its professional participants has changed. In particular, instructors and guides now need to be certified, measures of administrative responsibility have been introduced as well.

International conference "Natural Tourism: Global Challenges and Prospects for Russia" at the Rosa Khutor Resort in Sochi will end on October 8.