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As it is estimated, annual impact of tourism to global warming (and consequently climate change) is 4.95%. Of that, 75.36% refers to transportation to and from tourist destination. That means that protected areas must approach this problem rapidly, seriously and efficiently. (Source).

Impact of personal cars is not focused only on CO2 emissions. In protected areas, there are also other negative impacts that are important. Noise pollution affects habitats and increase of vehicles demands expansion of parking areas. These are the reasons why there is a need of an approach towards sustainable mobility of visitors, regarding their arrival, departure and mobility within the area.

Role of information centers of protected areas on this issue is very important. But their activity should start before the visitor physically arrives to their information center, as they should offer him alternative modes of transport on the web site of specific protected area. Of course this seeks for an integrated approach on regional and national level with public transport providers.

If protected area charges an entrance fee, that one could be accumulated in the bus/train ticket; and/or reduced. This offer would also economically favorite the use of public transport. 
Visitor centers need to increase their cooperation with tourist sector, in order that touristic offers are more flexible and start at the rail/bus stations outside of protected area. Park authorities should work together with local tourist organizations, in order to assure and promote so called soft mobility. Key point of soft mobility is offering innovative approach to secondary types of transportation (bus, railand bicycle) and their combination (bicycle and rail), assuring visitor’s better nature experience.

Soft mobility can only be efficient and economical if it is a result of cooperation of all involved parties (PA’s, touristic sector, local sector, public transport companies, etc.), which share common interest in sustainable development of mountain protected areas.

Let’s make a little example of two families. They are from Bratislava and are going to short vacation into very heart of beautiful Vysoke Tatry national park, where they will get some fresh air, explore national beauty and relax from the busy week.

-    Familly “Zednik” This young family with 14 years old daughter decided to travel with car, because it is more convenient. So they depart Bratislava in Friday after work, which is around 16:00.  They will reach Štrbské Pleso after four hours of driving and 335 driven kilometers. Assuming that their car has an average petrol consume, and calculating the toll costs, return trip will cost them 80.02€. Their burden to the environment will be 37.3 kg of CO2. That is 12.43 kg of CO2 per family member.

-    Familly “Lubina”, also young family with 14 years old boy, who convinced their parents to travel with public transport, because it is greener and friendlier to environment, as his geography teacher in school explained to him. So, they also start they journey in Bratislava and their goal is to reach Štrbské Pleso. They will reach their destination after 5 h 3 min of driving by train, with one change in Poprad – Tatry, from where narrow gouge train will take them directly up to Štrbské Pleso. The return travel will cost the whole family 71,50 € (if they do not have any reduction). Their burden to the environment will be 11.4 kg of CO2. That is 3.8 kg of CO2 per family member.

Travel with car may be quicker and more flexible, but in this case it turned out to be expensive, although we did not calculate possible parking costs at the destination. And if you add to account that you have to buy a vehicle, register it and maintain it, costs go skywards. If you decide to travel by public transport it is not only cheaper and more comfortable, but it has also much less negative impact on the environment, the very thing that you came to see – the nature as it once was!

International cooperation on this topic is welcomed, especially regarding protected areas within Alpine arc, where some pilot projects of sustainable mobility, as long as cases of good practice have already been made.

Read more about mobility in protected areas. Click here and see examples of good practice from Alpine protected areas.