Knowledge support for spatial planning
Spatial planning and environmental assessment at local level often relies on knowledge support from regional and national levels. Often the national information is too aggregate for local planning and the regional knowledge support is crucial. This is true for areas where knowledge support in many countries may be more or less well developed at regional level such as environment, nature conservation, cultural heritage, archaeological finds etc. Detailed information on tourism, recreation and the users of areas and amenities is however at regional level often sparse or fragmentary. This may be especially true for the tourism areas and resources of particular importance for development in the Baltic coastal and archipelago areas. Studies of nature and culture base coastal and archipelago tourism are in Scandinavia relatively rare compared to the interest and focus on mountain and forest areas. This is especially the case with respect to important user data.
The importance of visitor data in planning and management
"The absence of visitor use data of many of the world's protected areas is a major policy problem. The lack of such data results in tourism being undervalued in public policy. It is difficult to understand the scale of the world's tourism use of protected areas without standard measurement units, collection procedures or integrated data management systems."
Conflicts may arise because of differing attitudes, experiences, activities and geographical dispersion, but without knowledge of the visitors it becomes difficult to plan for them. A good visitor monitoring programme consists of visitor surveys and visitor counting and in planning and management processes, it is relevant with an awareness of both the numbers of the visitors and their characteristics. To be able to plan and manage any coastal areas, it is important to get knowledge of the visitors in order to get a valid picture of their reality. What do the visitors do during their stay? Where are they in the area? Are there any conflicts? To handle conflicts, it is necessary to evaluate and have insight in which knowledge is needed; what conflicts exist according to whom, where, how, when and why? Knowledge of the visitors' experiences, activities and effects on nature could contribute to decreasing conflicts, and to achieve an appropriate and effective management of nature areas for tourism and outdoor recreation, a good knowledge of the visitors is required.
Visitor data is significant in the work of identifying and handling conflicts in planning, where zoning is a tool. By restricting certain recreational activities from some areas that are valuable or sensitive, and where the use of the area is in contradiction, zoning may solve or at least reduce the problem of conflicts. By the management of conflicts, the visitors may reach a higher satisfaction.
Monitoring nature tourists
In the Nordic and Baltic countries, the importance of tourism and outdoor recreation is increasing. In management, it is vital to gather information of visitors to guarantee nature and culture conservation together with quality recreation experiences and tourism development. To learn more about tourism and outdoor recreation in nature areas, there are several methods, tools and ideas. The manual Visitor monitoring in nature areas (in Swedish) includes guidelines, recommendations and examples on different methods which are appropriate for Nordic and Baltic nature areas. By using the information in the manual of how to carry out visitor surveys and counting (for example, by questionnaire surveys), how to report the results and how to use the information, the first step is taken towards a more uniform visitor monitoring information and a common base for visitor information statistics and databases. The manual provides managers with information on practical matters since there is a need to obtain more reliable and comparable knowledge of the visitors in the Nordic and Baltic countries. The different guidelines, recommendations and examples on visitor monitoring methodologies in the manual, could be of interest for not only the land manager on a local level but the planner on a regional or national level.
Evaluation of methods for visitor monitoring and user studies in coastal areas and archipelagos
In the Agora project integrating sustainable tourism in spatial planning at local and regional level methods for user studies and visitor monitoring have been applied and evaluated. One of the simple but rough methods often applied to visitor monitoring is self registration .Questionnaire surveys are standard tools which are often used without due methodological attention. Knowledge support for planning using extensive and well designed user surveys have been used in the Agora project and also applied to other management and planning situations by ETOUR.
Environmental impacts of nature tourism
Systematic studies of the impacts of nature tourism and outdoor recreation in the Baltic coastal areas and archipelagos are lacking. Thus we have fragmented knowledge of littering, waste handling, vegetation and soil damage as well as of the special environmental problems of seasonal facilities. For management purposes and to assists judgments in environmental assessment much of the internationa literature can however be used as guidance. In Swedish an overview of relevant research has been published and a textbook for university level is under publishing.
"Project part-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund) within the BSR INTERREG III B Neighbourhood programme"