Authors: Irena Mrak, Environmental Protection College, Velenje, Slovenia , Sarah J. Halvorson*, Department of Geography, W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana , Slavka Zupan, K&Z Consulting, Radovlijica, Slovenia
Topics: Tourism Geography, Mountain Environments, Europe
Keywords: sustainable tourism, mountain geography, visitation, Julian Alps Biosphere Reserve, Slovenia
Session Type: Paper
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Slovenia has experienced a dramatic increase in visitorship as a result of aggressive tourism marketing and the global promotion of its natural and cultural heritage. The significant increase in tourism pressure, especially in the mountainous northwest, has sparked debates within Slovene society regarding tourism-related impacts, the inherent meaning of sustainability, thresholds of tolerance, and the appropriateness of an expanding array of nature-based recreational activities. Visitorship in the Julian Alps is highly fluid and challenging to quantify. Assessing visitorship presents technical and administrative dilemmas for government entities, environmental conservation actors, municipalities and local communities. In this paper we report on the design and implementation of a methodology to address the challenges of visitation monitoring. Since 2016, our collaborative efforts in visitation monitoring have resulted in much-needed statistics and qualitative data from stakeholder interviews and public intercept surveying in UNESCO’s Julian Alps Man and Biosphere (MAB) Reserve, which includes Triglav National Park. The results underscore the ways in which visitation pressures pose new challenges for local communities in terms of infrastructure and socio-ecological resilience. Based on the outcomes of this study, we recommend that monitoring efforts focus on: (1) the full range of diverse landscapes within the Julian Alps; (2) tourism impacts on natural resources and infrastructure; and (3) conflicts between user groups over access and shared recreational spaces. The methodological approach is designed to be adaptive to local priorities and potential tourism-related growth scenarios in the future.