NUKUS, UZBEKISTAN, 12 August 2021 – Ecotourism is slowly becoming a worldwide phenomenon with enormous potential to create positive environmental and social impacts, lifting millions of people out of poverty while protecting ecosystems for future generations. However, if not managed properly, tourism can undermine and damage the nature and communities they seek to protect.
But when successful, ecotourism allows countries and communities to build their economies without harming the environment, allowing local wildlife and their natural habitats to thrive. The UN World Tourism Organization defines sustainable tourism as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities."
To chart a sustainable way forward, while promoting local economic development for the people of Karakalpakstan, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports of Uzbekistan recently organized a series of trainings on “Development of Sustainable Eco and Rural Tourism in Karakalpakstan". The main goal of the training was to strengthen the capacity of the representatives of the Main Department of Tourism and Sports of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, entrepreneurs, specialists of the specially protected natural areas, museum professionals, tour operators, local communities and activists and other stakeholders in the field of development of ecological and rural tourism.
Ivanna Lebedeva, president of the Russian National Association of Rural and Eco-Tourism, said the programme aims to address the environmental, social and economic insecurities in the most vulnerable communities of the Aral Sea region. “We do this by offering comprehensive solutions to address the environmental issues, while promoting access to basic services, improving living standards and developing sustainable tourism in Karakalpakstan,” she said.
Lebedeva, who coordinated the training, said the programme also seeks to enhance the social wellbeing of the rural population, including women and youth, through expanding income generation opportunities and by promoting inclusive sustainable growth of the tourism sector in Karakalpakstan.
Svetlana Kopylova, director of the Agency for the Development of Rural Initiatives in Russia, supported the training. She said the experts shared experiences and best practices in creating competitive eco and rural tourism products, enabling staff of the protected natural areas and local communities to interact with each other. She said the training curricula emphasized income-generating activities and how to involve the rural population in tourism. “Through the training, participants developed business proposals for tourism products and services, that could involve different stakeholders from the local communities,” she said.
The event is initiated within the UNDP and UNESCO Joint Programme“Addressing the urgent human insecurities in the Aral Sea region through promoting sustainable rural development” is funded by UN Multi-Partner Human Security Trust Fund for the Aral Sea region in Uzbekistan. More information is available at http://aral.mptf.uz/site/projects/page38.html
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