Cracow: the first meeting of the VIMOMA consortium
Cracow hosted the opening in-person meeting for the VIMOMA project earlier in September, leading to important collaboration for tourism management in protected areas.
The first workshop of the VIMOMA project was held between the 8-9th of September in Cracow, with a main aim of introducing survey tools and methodologies for visitor monitoring. In addition to indoor activities on the first day, participants could also gain hands-on experience during a field trip to the Pieniny National Park, focused on its handling of visitors to avoid degradation of nature and manage overcrowdedness.
This first-time meeting of the VIMOMA partners was organized by Jagiellonian University, Institute of Geography and Spatial Management. Representatives from each of the consortium partners participated in the meeting, alongside protected area (PA) managers who were invited from each country. Involving the expertise of partners and PA managers in the workshops sought to raise awareness around the possibilities for visitor surveying, as an essential tool for identifying visitors’ motivations and perceptions of natural and recreational areas.
The meeting was officially opened by a speech by Prof. Dr. hab. Anita Bokwa, Head of the Institute of Geography and Spatial Management, welcoming all participants. Prof. Bokwa was followed in speaking by Joanna Hibner, another expert from JU, and Bernadetta Zawilińska from the Economic University in Cracow: the pair presented some theoretical background on visitor monitoring methodologies, and their importance for management of visitors to the PAs. In the latter talk, it was emphasised that knowledge regarding visitors’ needs, motivations and behaviour is essential for good communication between tourists and PA managers, as well for proper management of tourism movement. This set the tone for themes communicated throughout the workshop.
Several research tools were presented during the time in Cracow, relating to visitor motivations, perceptions of levels of crowding, and opinions on the awareness of ecosystem services of the natural areas. Bernadetta Zawilińska was again instrumental here, presenting methodological criteria for conducting surveys in study areas (e.g. sampling size, types of questions, data collection, data analysis etc.). This work was backed up by insightful examples from previous research campaigns. Other sessions involved more active discussion, with participants presenting key issues within their protected areas related to tourist movement. Participants admitted shortcomings in the current visitor monitoring practices, recognising that visitors surveys were carried out only occasionally. Hence, there was a shared feeling among participants that the PAs lacking regular research would benefit from more structured and planned surveying processes.
Image: participants discuss their ideas for innovation in visitor monitoring methods, and obstacles to their implementation.
Lending important weight to these discussions about monitoring and assessing tourism, PA managers shared challenges related to visitor movements within their respective parks, linking these to the limited knowledge about these visitors. With the specificities of each area highlighted, participants agreed that the development of a single research questionnaire template for all PAs would be inappropriate, due to local variations. However, it was seen as possible to develop common elements that would be complemented by questions addressing particular local issues. Thus, during the last session, a discussion on the possibility of creating a common methodological framework for conducting surveys in various protected areas was initiated.
In a more active second day of the workshop, participants visited the village of Krościenko nad Dunajcem, where a meeting with representatives of the Pieniny National Park was held. Andrzej Kowalski from the National Park management gave a short introduction about the Protected Area, and gave an overview of their challenges relating to visitor management. After this knowledge exchange, participants went on a field trip to visit the Trzy Korony (Three Crowns – a peak in Pieniny mountains), one of the frequently visited sites in the area, with the guidance of Ewelina Zając (Pieniny NP).
Image: Ewelina Zając leads the group with some introductory information about the Pieniny National Park (left); a view from Trzy Korony, overlooking Sromowce Niżne, a settlement beside the Dunajec river.
After this successful first interaction of the consortium partners, the next meeting will be held in Brno, Czech Republic between the 24-26th of October. Once again focusing on monitoring methodologies, Brno will host a particular focus on visitor monitoring equipment and methodologies for data collection, analyses and planning.
Partners: Matej Bel University, Slovakia; Mendel University in Brno, Czech Republic; University of Novi Sad, Serbia; CEEweb for Biodiversity, Hungary; and Jagiellonian University, Poland.
National Park representatives: Tatra National Park, Pieniny National Park, Mala Fatra National Park, Őrségi National Park, Duna-Ipoly National Park, Sutjeska National Park, Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic, and The Moravian Karst House of Nature.