Innovative model of aboriginal ecotourism in Russia

Nikita Vronskiy and Rodion Sulyandziga, Center for Support of Indigenous peoples of the North (CSIPN), Moscow

The term ‘aboriginal ecotourism’ is here used for activity in this economic sector, which is organised and implemented by the Indigenous Peoples of the Russian North, Siberia and the Far East (referred to as Northern indigenous peoples hereafter). The purpose of this activity is to ensure sustainable use of land resources, includ­ing biological diversity; another purpose is to achieve a sustainable economic situation for the aboriginal population.

There is no efficient aboriginal ecotourism model in Russia yet; it has to be developed. We have clear prerequisites for this. There are two principal prerequisites: resources for environmental and ethnic tourism in the vast area populated by Northern indigenous peoples on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the great number of their communities that want to participate in tourism developments.

CSIPN has shown initiative and developed a project aimed at creating an innovative model of aboriginal ecotourism in Russia. The European Commission supports the project, which will start in 2006. The overall task is to assess the potential and the investment opportunities, and to establish the information and human resource base for sustainable development of ecotourism in the indigenous areas. This work will be done in three model regions, namely, in Yakutia, Primorye and Kamchatka.

The project will work at creating a tourism model with reliance on the Northern indigenous peoples’ representatives and for the benefit of their communities. After the model is developed and tested, and after the methodologies and the organisation tools have been analysed and tested also, this model can be distributed to other Russian regions populated by Northern indigenous peoples.

The project will progress in the following four directions:

The project-borne geographical database will make it possible to produce mapping modules to assess investment capacities to promote sustainable ecotourism development in each region as well as to provide a basis for compiling tourist guides and advertisement materials.

Existing ICT[1] standards make it possible to combine multi-layer regional databases on the Internet. This will produce a common ecotourism reference and data system covering the Northern indigenous peoples’ territories of traditional nature use.

All the three pilot regions are well known well for their touristism potential. A certain proportion of their potential is already in use, but benefits of tourism do not reach the indigenous peoples. The project’s goal is to rectify this. Repre­sentatives of the indigenous peoples’ communities of the three major regions will for the frst time be able to participate in training in the basics of organizing and developing ecotourism as a sustainable business of their own and in their native territories.

The proposed project is an innovation to Russia. Its innovativeness lies in that it is not only designed to promote sustainable ecotourism (which is not yet the most popular type of tourism in Russia), but also strives to ensure sustainable ecotourism progress with reliance on the Northern indigenous peoples and for their benefit, as they are the least protected communities socially, economically and politically and who are also the most needy segments of the Russian community.

Environmental and the ethnotourism is destined to develop in such regions as Yakutia, Primorye and Kamchatka. The task of the project is to ensure that the process is well thought out and well coordinated and to make it sustainable. This will first be done by the active involvement of the Northern indigenous peoples in the tourism business. The mentality of these peoples is that of stability. Therefore, if the Northern indigenous peoples govern the tourism business development facilities on their own, this alone will guarantee stability for these projects as well as sustainable development in a broader sense of the word.

[1] Information and Communication Technologies