Lots of Culture and Biology here in North Devon......
Adeline Gladieux and Sarah Jordon of the UNESCO North Devon Biosphere Reserve team talked to Coastwise members about a Bio-Cultural Heritage Tourism project which is in progress.
The objective is to understand the impact of tourism on the local environment, and come up with plans to mitigate any impacts, consistent with the Biosphere's philosophy of encouraging a balance between mankind and the environment.
Adeline and Sarah ran through the adverse and positive impacts of tourism; here in North Devon there's a huge commercial benefit, but the impacts of crowding and road congestion on local communities. There is also the problem that such tourism only brings seasonal employment with it.
The coast, beaches and surfing are the biggest single attraction, and the project aims to find out whether it's possible to spread some of these visits further afield to take pressure off the coast.
Part of the project scope is to carry out visitor surveys, both near and away from the coast. Locations such as the Tarka Trail inland, War Horse Valley, Cookworthy Forest and Okehampton Granite Way were chasen to sample, as well as Lundy, Saunton Sands and Fremington Quay on the coast.
Predictable, the older age groups were happiest to talk, and all quoted the natural environment as the biggest draw. The local heritage, history and archaeology also represent an important driver, as well as to a lesser extent, local events and culture.
The main activities were seeing nature, walking, visiting museums and attractions, and the beach.
In addition to this, an initiative is being lauched with local businesses, who will be 'Eco-players' - they will pledge to support conservation, e.g. more bird boxes and reducing carbon footprint,
local development, e.g. promoting other eco-players, using local produce, developing new immersive experiences, and awareness raising, e.g. inform visitors about tourism impacts.
Overall, increasing our understanding of tourism drivers is very important as a way of luring visitors away from honey-pots and spreading the benefits arounf the area.