The Growing Role of Nature Tourism
This year, nature tourism has more advantages than ever
More and more travellers are opting for nature, a choice that this year is more beneficial than ever, as it offers contact with the open air, uncrowded niche destinations, calm in rural destinations and a return to ‘slow tourism’. The regional tourism officials from Aragon, Galicia, the Basque Country, and Castilla & León explain what their regions have to offer.
Elena Allué de Baro is General Executive for Tourism with the Government of Aragon.
She says that this year, the added value of a safe, peaceful destination in contact with nature and the countryside will be more important than ever. These features are part of offerings such as “family, activity, mountain and health tourism, trekking, wine tourism, slow driving, fishing, mountain biking, ornithology, gastronomy, culture and heritage.”
Estrella Torrecilla is General Executive for Tourism with the Castilla & León regional government. She says that her region offers “a chance to disconnect from urban life and stress” and adds that “finding nature again gives us unique experiences, both in terms of discovering the landscape and in terms of enjoyment for the senses.” She highlights a “safe and healthy provision with a variety of destinations and activities (such as hiking, birdwatching, micro-tourism, unspoilt countryside) for all kinds of people, all year round that cuts across other models such as rural, gastronomic and activity tourism.”
Goyo Zurro is Head of Tourism and Hospitality at the Department of Tourism, Trade and Consumer Affairs of the Basque Government. He says that ecotourism in the Basque Country is defined as “a trip to a natural area to get to know it, understand it, enjoy it and travel through it, while at the same time appreciating and contributing to its conservation, with a small environmental footprint and positive effects for the local population.” So, this kind of travel includes “tourist activities such as guided visits to protected natural areas, observation and understanding of nature and wildlife (such as birds, and marine mammals), photography, environmental education and science tourism.”
Nature tourism is also a growing attraction in Galicia. Xosé Manuel Merelles, Head of Communications with the Galicia Tourism Agency, says that people who travel to the region say that nature is their main reason for visiting. And, he concludes that “nature is our biggest visitor attraction.”
The Big Attractions
The Atlantic Islands Maritime-Terrestrial National Park, the Ribeira Sacra and the Catedrais (cathedrals) beach are three of the region’s most popular natural sites. Aragon has eighteen protected natural areas, including the Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park, one of the most beautiful places in Spain. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and was Spain’s national park, along with the Picos de Europa, which in 2018 celebrated the centenary of its creation in 1918.
Castilla & León has ten Biosphere Reserves, with compelling products and services for tourists: riverside beaches and lakes, country walks, deep gorges, cruises, winter sports, observation of large mammals such as wolves or deer, bird watching, fungus hunting, wine and cultural tourism, among others. Some of its most appealing attractions are trekking on the Cares Route, in the Picos de Europa National Park, bird watching in the Las Lagunas de Villafáfila Reserve in Zamora, and the Cuerdas de Amogable Park in Soria, next to the Cuerda del Pozo reservoir and its Pita Beach, perfect for swimming and water sports.
The Basque Country is a member of the Spanish Ecotourism Association (https://soyecoturista.com/), and the Soy Ecoturista (I’m An Ecotourist) club, and participates along with its Basque ecotourism destinations: Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, the Basque Coast Geopark, the nine natural parks in the Basque Country, bird watching areas, the Ekoetxeak network, the EDEN destinations of Goierri and Tierra Ignaciana, along with the Salt Valley, the Leitzaran biotope and the Salburua wetlands in Vitoria.