Positioning wildlife as a key factor for a thriving and sustainable tourism sector

20 July 2022

Following Eastern Rhodopes’ continuous growth as a tourist destination, one of the main objectives for Rewilding Rhodopes has been to facilitate a transition to a more values-based tourism industry. The last two years, provided an opportunity to rethink the tourism economy we want to have in the region, by focusing on factors such as the kind of visitors we want to attract and the kind of experiences we want in the tourism industry, and respectively the kind of outcomes we want for locals and the landscape.
Important step in setting the region on this sustainable path is the new edition of Crossbill Guides for the Eastern Rhodopes.

Photo: Dirk Hilbers/Crossbill Guides Foundation

Taking into consideration Rewilding Rhodopes’ values of restoring nature, and supporting local businesses and communities, Crossbill Guides was the perfect partner to approach. Crossbill Guides is a Dutch foundation that produces guidebooks on natural areas in Europe with a particular focus on ecotourism and nature conservation. Ten years ago, the foundation published a guide on the Greek and Bulgarian parts of the Eastern Rhodopes. Building upon that experience and considering the achievements of Rewilding Rhodopes’ team during the last few years, we set to produce a new second edition.

What will the new edition consist of?

The new edition will focus solely on Bulgaria, while maintaining the Eastern Rhodopes as the focal point and including the regions of Sakar, the Thracian Plain and the Western Rhodopes. It will consist of 22 routes with tips for finding wildlife and multiple site descriptions such as archeological sites or museums. Routes are carefully selected to provide the best possible overview of habitats and species typical for each region. As the focus is on the Eastern Rhodopes, routes in the other three regions, aim to enrich and broaden the visitor experience with additional locally distinctive species, landscapes and geology.

Photo: Stefan Avramov/Rewilding Rhodopes

What did we do so far?

In May and June, two field visits exploring the four regions of interest took place. Each route that will be included in the second edition was thoroughly examined, and multiple discussions with local stakeholders and entrepreneurs were also held. As the guide will contain information on lodging, proper conduct and local experiences, it was also necessary to meet with the local community and consider their insights. Following weeks of exploring half-forgotten tracks and visiting rich natural habitats, the final output will be a cohesive guide that connects different landscapes and highlights areas with rich natural heritage. Places and routes that will make nature lovers cross distances and immerse themselves in the local wildlife and culture.

Photo: Dirk Hilbers/Crossbill Guides Foundation

Why is this guide important?

The Crossbill Guide is an important step towards capitalising on the potential of the Eastern Rhodopes and Bulgaria, as excellent nature destinations. The diversity of landscapes and climates is remarkable, and recreational walking or hiking experiences provide immense and far-reaching social, cultural, economic, environmental, health and wellbeing benefits to individuals and communities. Connecting visitors to our natural heritage grows their understanding and appreciation for this heritage, but also builds support for its protection. Moreover, tourists that engage in nature-based tourism tend to stay significantly longer and spend considerably more money when travelling.

Аuthor: Polihorn Karapachov

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