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Boost in visitor numbers post COVID-19 shutdown: Consequences for an Alpine National Park


Wipf, Sonja; Michel, Annina Helena; Walder, Diego; Poelsma, Felix; Anderwald, Pia; Cruickshank, Sam S; Jaroszynska, Francesca; Rossi, Christian; Backhaus, Norman (2023). Boost in visitor numbers post COVID-19 shutdown: Consequences for an Alpine National Park. Mountain Research and Development, 43(2):R12-R21.

Abstract

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic changed recreation patterns worldwide. Increases in protected areas’ visitor numbers were reported along with associated challenges. Changes in visitor numbers, composition, and motivation remain mostly unrecorded due to a lack of baseline records for comparison. We aimed to fill this gap with a study in the Swiss National Park (SNP), an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) strict nature reserve in the European Alps, where visitor numbers strongly increased in 2020 and 2021 compared to previous years. In summer 2020, we repeated a visitor survey previously conducted in 2006 and 2012, complemented by assessments of COVID-19-related motivations. To deepen our understanding of the COVID-19 context, we conducted semistructured interviews with SNP visitors. In general, COVID-19-related factors were a strong driver of increased visitor numbers. A fifth of survey respondents indicated that they would not have visited the SNP but for the pandemic, with most of them being first-time or infrequent visitors. Furthermore, our data showed that more young, domestic, and less experienced visitors came to the park. We discuss impacts and implications for practitioners and researchers (ie the need to better sensitize newcomers to environmental issues) and argue that our study holds insights for park managers worldwide.

Abstract

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic changed recreation patterns worldwide. Increases in protected areas’ visitor numbers were reported along with associated challenges. Changes in visitor numbers, composition, and motivation remain mostly unrecorded due to a lack of baseline records for comparison. We aimed to fill this gap with a study in the Swiss National Park (SNP), an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) strict nature reserve in the European Alps, where visitor numbers strongly increased in 2020 and 2021 compared to previous years. In summer 2020, we repeated a visitor survey previously conducted in 2006 and 2012, complemented by assessments of COVID-19-related motivations. To deepen our understanding of the COVID-19 context, we conducted semistructured interviews with SNP visitors. In general, COVID-19-related factors were a strong driver of increased visitor numbers. A fifth of survey respondents indicated that they would not have visited the SNP but for the pandemic, with most of them being first-time or infrequent visitors. Furthermore, our data showed that more young, domestic, and less experienced visitors came to the park. We discuss impacts and implications for practitioners and researchers (ie the need to better sensitize newcomers to environmental issues) and argue that our study holds insights for park managers worldwide.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
08 Research Priority Programs > Global Change and Biodiversity
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Uncontrolled Keywords:General Environmental Science, Development, Environmental Chemistry
Language:English
Date:8 August 2023
Deposited On:14 Sep 2023 15:07
Last Modified:29 Jun 2024 01:38
Publisher:International Mountain Society
ISSN:0276-4741
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1659/mrd.2022.00025
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)