Eco-tourism: Feasibility study for a Large carnivore center

Project location: Romania, Carpathians
Project start date: December 2000 - Project end date: February 2001
Project number: 2000-02
Beneficiary: Carpathian Large Carnivore Project

The Romanian Carpathians are vital to the conservation of Europe's large carnivores: more than 1/3 of all European brown bears, wolves, and lynx live in this mountain range. The integrity of the area around the Piatra Craiului Mountain is currently at risk. Eco tourism could provide an economic alternative to its destruction. The Carpathian Large Carnivore Project (CLCP) initiated an eco tourism programme in 1997 to support the local community and to demonstrate that conservation of large carnivores and their habitat can bring revenues to local enterprises.

The town of Zarnesti is located at the foot of the Piatra Craiului Mountain in the Romanian Carpathian. This area is home to the largest population of brown bears, wolves and other large carnivores in Europe (more than a third of the total population). Romanian forests are crucial to biodiversity conservation in general, as recognized among others by the World Bank (who has started a Global Environment Facility in this area1) and the World Wildlife Fund.
The community of Zarnesti has experienced a severe economic downturn in the last decade, with a loss of about 7,200 jobs on a total population of 26,763 inhabitants.


The proposed Large Carnivore Centre for Piatra Craiului (LCC) is a visitor centre which can also host researchers and will be surrounded by enclosures containing captive specimens of the local carnivores. The centre should pull in tourists in higher numbers. However, its long term viability depends on the fact that the centre adds enough value to the CLCP eco tourism programme (in financial and economic terms) to justify the cost of establishing and operating it. That is to say, that the centre represents a good investment. The proposed Cost Benefit Analysis will address this issue, trying to assess whether the eco tourism option is viable.
Econornists Dr. Gil Yaron and Britt Groosman of GY Associates will carry out the economic cost benefit analyses with the help of biologists and wildlife experts Barbara and Christoph Ptomberger (who works in Romania as researchers for the CLCP). Some members of ESUSG win review the report draft. The GYA, the CLCP, and the ESUSG members, as well as local volunteers in Zarnesti, will be employed through the Eco Tourism Association who will manage the funding and provide logistic support.

The standard method of analysis is to project costs and revenues over a 15-20 year period and to calculate the net present value (NPV) of the project. The analysis will use accepted local discount rates for project investment e.g. that assumed in the financial analysis of the proposed mine. Sensitivity analysis with alternative discount rates would also be undertaken.
The study will also calculate more intuitive indicators such as net returns per community member and net returns per day spent on eco to UnSm work. This will require a basic cash flow model in order to illustrate to stakeholders how much net revenue (or equivalently how many jobs) will be produced by eco tourism in each year over the next 15 20 years.
The data available for the cost benefit analysis must be sufficiently detailed and reliable to allow a professional cost benefit analysis to be undertaken, and their sources must be credible to local stakeholders. The data available for the proposed cost benefit analysis of eco-¬tourism meets both these criteria.

If the economic appraisal is in favour of eco tourism this report could be used to help convince the local council to invest in nature not in nature conversion (i.e. abort the mining concession discussions) and commit long term to eco tourism. The result would be a contract with the community of Zarnesti where the community commits to a specific local policy. If the economic returns to investment in the Centre and the hay meadows are also positive the Foundation could wish to invest in this.

Carpathian Large Carnivore Project
an initiative of the Carpathian Wildlife Foundation
think global, act local
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