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Featured Project: I Giganti della Sila Reserve in Calabria

3 May 2024

Harnessing Natural Heritage for Well-being and Quality of Life.

The I Giganti della Sila Reserve in Calabria exemplifies how a protected natural area can serve as a sustainable tourist destination, positively impacting both the well-being of the community and visitors alike.

In February 2024, CABI published the book “Nature-based tourism and wellbeing: impacts and future outlook,” aiming to establish a solid scientific foundation for the study of nature-based tourism within protected areas and resilient destinations, aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 2030. The University of Derby, initiator of the project, selected the case study of I Giganti della Sila, recognizing it as a tangible illustration of how a protected natural area can thrive as a sustainable tourism destination, enhancing the well-being of both the local community and visitors.

Excerpt from: Article by Sonia Ferrari, Nicolaia Iaffaldano, and Simona Lo Bianco, University of Calabria, Italy; University of Bari, Italy

I Giganti della Sila, nestled within the Sila National Park, Europe’s largest plateau, and designated as a UNESCO Sila Biosphere Reserve, stands as a unique biogenetic reserve and a significant tourist attraction in Calabria. To conduct a quantitative exploratory survey, an online questionnaire was distributed to visitors in 2022, seeking insights into their motivations for visiting and opinions on tourism’s impact on natural resources. Respondents were also asked to assess how their visit to The Giants influenced their well-being and if it met their expectations regarding physical and mental health.

The survey sample, comprising 157 individuals, primarily consisted of young adults (48.4% aged 26-40), with 56.1% women and 43.9% men. Results revealed that the majority of visitors (86.6%) frequent natural sites regularly. Notably, a significant proportion believed that tourism fosters respect for nature (73.9%) and local development (65%). Moreover, more than half emphasized the role of nature tourism in promoting environmental education (63.1%) and enhancing wellbeing (51.6%), with some noting direct improvements in health (35%).

These findings underscore the growing recognition of nature experiences’ importance and their positive impact on visitors’ psycho-physical health. It reflects a rising demand for nature-based tourism, particularly among ‘nature lovers,’ following the pandemic, who prioritize sustainable practices and value the benefits of nature contact.

A considerable percentage of respondents expressed satisfaction (30.6%) or high satisfaction (53.5%) with their visit to the Giants, highlighting the positive outcomes of their experience.

These insights shed light on the FAI’s efforts in preserving and promoting this valuable heritage at the Reserve. Since 2016, when the FAI was granted the concession of the Reserve by the Sila National Park, it has undertaken significant initiatives to safeguard and raise awareness about this natural site on both a national and international scale.

The increasing visitor numbers and FAI’s development plans underscore the Reserve’s pivotal role in driving sustainable development in the area, fostering positive socio-cultural impacts for the local community.

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