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Toward the development of sustainable ecotourism in Italian national parks of the Apennines: insights from hiking guides

Stefano Poponi, Faculty of Economics, Niccolò Cusano University, Rome, Italy
Jordan Palli, Department of Agriculture and Forest Sciences (DAFNE), University of Tuscia, Viterbo, Italy
Sonia Ferrari, Department of Business and Legal Sciences (DiScAG), University of Calabria, Rende, Italy
Goffredo Filibeck, Department of Agriculture and Forest Sciences (DAFNE), University of Tuscia, Viterbo, Italy
T'ai G. W. Forte, Department of Chemistry, Life Sciences and Environmental Sustainability (SCVSA), University of Parma, Parma, Italy
Cinzia Franceschini, Department of Agriculture and Forest Sciences (DAFNE), University of Tuscia, Viterbo, Italy
Alessandro Ruggieri, Department of Economy, Engineering, Society and Business (DEIM), University of Tuscia, Viterbo, Italy
Gianluca Piovesan, Department of Agriculture and Forest Sciences (DAFNE), University of Tuscia, Viterbo, Italy


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National parks in mountain areas are biodiversity hotspots in which implementing the sustainability goals of Agenda 2030 is particularly urgent. Ecotourism provides an opportunity to convey bio-ecological and economic sustainability principles to the public, focusing on nature conservation and a reduction of the negative impacts of tourism. We investigated four national parks in the Apennines, Italy using the insights of hiking guides with park accreditation to assess sustainability issues. Multivariate analyses of questionnaires revealed that most of the interviewed hiking guides across the Apennines were sensitive toward the theme of sustainability. Limiting the ecological footprint of tourism was identified as the main challenge. Interesting feedback on management issues was given by hiking guides, indicating innovations such as food, waste-disposal management, accommodation, and transport as critical areas with the potential to impact sustainable development. Certification schemes were also recognized as an important tool with which to encourage ecologically responsible tourism. Hiking guides themselves revealed an interest in improving national parks’ scientific communication and the provision of lifelong learning initiatives regarding old-growth forests and nature conservation. Overall, the research highlights the key role of hiking guides as an effective means of conveying conservation messaging to ecotourists, while also encouraging sustainable development and the adoption of agro-environmental measures on the part of local communities. Hiking guides could, therefore, contribute toward both improving cultural awareness of conservation issues and encouraging local, low-impact economic practices.

Key words

conservation messaging; ecotourism; hiking guides; national parks; old-growth forest; sustainability; UNESCO

Copyright © 2020 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087