The relationship between tourism and the biosphere reserve status: The Danube Delta – If the Danube is “the sustainable highway’ of Europe, then the Danube Delta should be the sustainable gate to the Black Sea

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Barukchieva, Elitsa I.
The main aim of this article is to find out whether the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve (DDBR) demonstrates the characteristics of a biosphere reserve, and if its functions contribute to the sustainable socio-economic development, particularly tourism, without causing negative impacts on the ecological integrity. The study is based on mixed methods, including primary data collected through structured and semi-structured face-to-face interviews with representatives of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority (DDBRA), the National Centre for Promotion of Tourism in Tulcea (CNIPT), Romania, and 15 tourists; personal observation during first-hand experience in the Danube Delta; and analysis of secondary data and related previous research. Overall, the research found that the DDBRA undertakes all measures to fulfil the criteria of the biosphere reserve designation: it has the three zones and management plan, it focuses on nature conservation and maintaining cultural heritage, it supports opportunities for environmental education, socio-economic development and local decision-making. However, this article suggests that the functions of the biosphere reserve are not very well understood by visitors and by local people, and that the biosphere reserve objectives are not very clear and are not reflected clearly enough from the DDBR management to the visitors and people living in the Danube Delta. Therefore, the dissemination and implementation of all objectives of the biosphere reserve designation could benefit not only the sustainable development of tourism, but also the biosphere reserve itself. This article recommends the integration of the "cultural landscape", as described by the German MAB National Committee (2005) and "wilderness" concepts into the official biosphere reserve definition.
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