The Valley of Geysers is a unique geothermal area, one of a kind on the territory of Russia and Eurasia, it is one of the five major geyser fields on the planet. Fortunately for our country, the Valley of Geysers remains the only place in the world where no geyser has been damaged by human impact.
Every year about 5.5 thousand tourists from all over the world come to the valley of the Geysernaya River in the Kronotsky Reserve. This number of people can visit a relatively small and vulnerable area of the Valley of geysers during a rather short tourist season, which lasts from the end of May to the end of September, taking into account the unstable Kamchatka weather and helicopter delivery to the place of excursions.
Visitors to the Kronotsky Reserve are not just tourists, they are people who form public opinion about the nature reserve and become supporters of wildlife conservation. Therefore, it is important for the Kronotsky Reserve to accept them “as friends, close ones", and follow the rules:
- Ensure that as many Russians as possible from different social categories can travel around the reserve;
- Foster the culture of nature conservation, fill excursions and expositions with information that can change a person's approach to travelling, instill a love for nature, pride and responsibility for its preservation;
- Give visitors the opportunity to feel the unity with nature: manage tourist flows and improve logistics strategy, avoid infrastructure overload and crowding.
Vladimir Putin noted that infrastructure development is needed to accept more tourists in the Valley of Geysers. The reserve has been improving infrastructure for the last ten years – boardwalks, observation decks, a visitor center, tourist and employee cabins, and helicopter pads have been built. But this fragile place has a maximum permissible recreational load measured by scientists. This is the load that will not influence natural processes and will not change the Valley: the number of people and infrastructure facilities, the noise of helicopters, the factors that can cause ecosystem degradation, changes in the wild animal behavior and threaten the tourist safety (for example, cause mudslides). Thus, the infrastructure of the small (4x8 km) Geyser Valley cannot be developed with the only aim to meet tourist demand.
"The expert group should evaluate the possibilities of increasing the tourist flow in the Valley of Geysers on the basis of scientific research and monitoring results. It is impossible to increase profoundly the number of tourists. It is necessary to assure a comfortable visit – the crowd and noise can break the principles of ecological educational tourism. A tourist should not just catch a glimpse of geysers, he should have a closer look, feel the unity and its energy, get to know it to feel love for it, be proud of and responsible for the natural heritage of his country," said Petr Shpilenok, director of the Kronotsky State Nature Reserve. – Nowadays the Valley of Geysers is accepted in Russia as a model of environmentally responsible educational tourism due to its modern infrastructure, qualified guides, tourist flow management and meaningful excursion programs. UNESCO experts during their last visit to Kamchatka in 2019 noted that The Kronotsky Reserve has set a high standard of tourism in the protected areas as a tool for nature conservation."
At the same time, the Uzon-Geyser Area, of which the Valley of Geysers is a part, can accept more tourists. On its territory there are such interesting natural objects as the Death Valley, the Burlyashchy volcano and others in addition to popular tourist destinations such as the Valley of Geysers and the Uzon Volcano Caldera. These impressive natural wonders can accept thousands of tourists if the appropriate infrastructure is created.
Currently the project is being developed to build infrastructure in the area of the Burlyashchy volcano, 25 km from the Valley of Geysers. Tourists will be able to walk across this beautiful area to see the Valley. There is the need for hiking trails in the reserve and it will help to meet this demand.” The walking route "Uzon-Geyser Ring" that lasts several days is also being developed. In addition to the Uzon-Geyser area, the Kronotskoye Lake, The Semyachiksky Liman (Lagoon) and other areas of the reserve have tourist potential and also require infrastructure development.
The reserve spends its extra-budgetary funds (received from excursion services) on infrastructure development, it also participates in grant competitions, looks for partners who donate money for infrastructure development, but all these efforts can’t create new tourism products without state support.
The tourist flow is restricted by the number of factors: weather features of Kamchatka, the need for helicopter delivery of tourists and a short tourist season (late May – late September). It’s possible to lengthen the tourist season. A new strategy of expanding the tourist season is being developed. For example, the Valley of Geysers is beautiful at any time of the year, not only during the summer months. Several thousand tourists could see it in October and November. The reserve has experience of organizing trips to the Valley in the winter months.
If you do not focus on the tiny Valley of Geysers and the entire Kronotsky Reserve, you can see that in Kamchatka there are a lot of natural areas with a protected status and without it, which are either not shown to tourists at all, or suffer from powerful anthropogenic pressure. Such territories include the areas of Klyuchevskaya Sopka, the Tolbachik volcano, the Mutnovsky volcano , the Gorely volcano, and numerous hot springs. Tourist infrastructure, business providing tourist services, will not harm, but will save these natural objects!