Caves: the most important geotouristic feature in the world.


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January 2013


Natural caves started to be opened to tourism over 400 years ago and presently quite all the Countries of the world hosts at least one, but often dozens, of show caves. Some 500 major show caves with over 50.000 visitor/year exist in the world and over 250 million visitors pay yearly a ticket to visit them. If all the activities related to the existence of a show cave (transportation, lodging, etc.) are considered, some 100 million peoples take, directly or indirectly, their income from show caves: these figures may be at least doubled taking into consideration surficial and deep karst within geoparks. It is therefore evident that show caves are presently the most important geotouristic target all over the world and they represent an important economic resource for many of the still developing Countries. But caves have also an exceptional scientific value due to the fact that they represent the best archive for all the Quaternary and allow for extremely accurate paleo-environmental and paleo-climatic reconstructions. Moreover they are truly fragile environments, which may be easily destroyed when the cave is transformed into a touristic object. It is possible to maintain the aesthetic and scientific values of a cave when transforming it into a show cave; but to reach this goal it is important to follow strict rules before, during and after their tourist development. Guidelines aiming to supply a recommendation to be endorsed for the development of show caves were drafted in the last years and received strong recommendations from the UIS Department of Protection and Management at both the 14th International Congress of Speleology held in Kalamos, Greece, in August 2005 and the 15th International Congress of Speleology held in Kerrville, Texas, in July 2009.


Show Caves, Geotourism, New Materials And Frontiers

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Tourism and Karst Areas, Vol. 6, no. 1 (2013).