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Green tourism flourishes in Chasseral

Chasseral is a typical massif of the Jura mountains swissinfo.ch

Green tourism has been steadily gaining in popularity, amid growing awareness of the damage that tourism can cause to both local culture and the countryside.

This content was published on July 20, 2003 - 11:46

One such project is the Chasseral Regional Park, which aims to minimise the effects of tourism on the surrounding environment.

“It’s an idea born out of good sense,” Fabien Vogelsperger, the project’s coordinator, told swissinfo.

“We don’t want to create a nature reserve or a theme park like Disneyland. We just want to harmonise human activity – tourism, agriculture, forestry – and the natural environment.”

Many inhabitants from Biel, Neuchâtel and La Chaux-de-Fonds have weekend homes in the Chasseral massif, considered one of the most beautiful areas in the Bernese Jura mountains.

The area is populated by about 100 farmers and agricultural workers whose main source of income is from milk production.

The milk is of such good quality that it is used as the basis of such famous cheeses as Gruyere and Tête-de-Moine.

Traffic jams

Although the area is rich in nature – including the rare plant “arenaria grandiflora” – tourists mainly limit themselves to a trip by car up to the hotel on the summit of the massif.

“There can be real traffic jams in the zone adjacent to the hotel, especially on nice Sundays in October,” said Vogelsperger.

“People go to Chasseral to breath a different type of air to the city air. But going by car is really a contradiction in terms.”

If people do decide to take a walk, then it usually means the couple of hundred metres from the hotel to the transmission antenna nearby.

Chasseral Regional Park is trying to resolve this contradiction. Vogelsperger believes this can be achieved by informing people about the mountains so as to increase respect for the natural environment.

The park doesn’t want to increase the number of tourists – there are no plans for any other hotels in the area - but it does want to distribute them more evenly.

It aims to achieve this by increasing public transport services, improving the network of paths and offering interpretive trails.

Safeguard future resources

Vogelsperger says that the park isn’t just about protecting the habitat. One of its other important tasks is to play a part in the sustainable economic development of the area through tourism.

The project represents an opportunity for the inhabitants to diversify from agriculture, which is presently going through a difficult phase, by offering refreshments or overnight stays.

Vogelsperger says another objective is to help the locals develop new ideas and encourage them to further exploit their cheeses or honey.

He maintains that this is an essential part of the park’s work.

“If we don’t intervene, there are firms that will be forced to close their doors within the next decade and this could have grave consequences for the Chasseral countryside,” Vogelsperger told swissinfo.

Green tourism

The park’s move towards green tourism or eco-tourism is following a rising trend within Switzerland.

In a recent survey by the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco), 30 per cent of people asked said they liked holidays “close to nature”.

The report concluded that eco-tourism was worth SFr2.3 billion a year and this type of tourism could rise by ten to 40 per cent in the next ten years.

Vogelsperger agrees that green tourism has come into fashion.

“Today people want to do green tourism, whereas only a decade ago anybody who said they were going to spend their holidays on a farm in the Chasseral would have been considered mad.”

swissinfo, Doris Lucini in Chasseral (translation: Isobel Johnson)

Key facts

30 per cent of people asked said they liked holidays “close to nature”.
Eco-tourism is worth SFr2.3 billion a year.
Green tourism could rise by ten to 40 per cent in the next ten years.
The green tourist is ready to pay between 10-20% more.

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