Since North Macedonia’s lockdown was lifted on 26 May 2020, Galicica National Park has been a popular destination for the people in the Prespa-Ohrid region and across the country, seeking relaxation in nature after their indoor isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the park has kept the entrances open and waived entrance fees until the end of June.
While respecting the Government measures and recommendations relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, the park staff continued with the preparations for implementing the ambitious plan for maintenance and repair of the visitor infrastructure. Wooden shelters, benches, tables and fences at picnic sites and viewpoints were repaired and re-painted and the grass was mowed in the first week of July.
A local company was contracted to refurbish and repair more than 100 information boards and post signs along the extensive network of hiking and biking trails – a major maintenance intervention since the system was built in 2009-2010. The activities on the ground also commenced in the first week of July.
Promoting recreation is one of the primary objectives in managing Galicica National Park, and tourism revenues from entry, activity and concession fees have become a major source of the financing of park’s core operations: nature protection, species and habitat management, visitor management and environmental education.
Some 25% of the total budget of the 2020 Operational Plan, to which PONT contributes 44%, is related to tourism and environmental education, including funds for maintaining and upgrading the visitor infrastructure in the park. Tourism revenue is of critical importance for covering the park’s operational costs in 2020, especially considering that the 2020 Operational Plan excludes firewood production, for the first time in the park’s 61-year history.
With the late opening of the pay stations and a lack of foreign tourists, the park expects lower tourism revenues in 2020. At the same time, PONT stands ready to step up its support of the park in decoupling nature conservation from resource extraction and promoting sustainable nature-based tourism as a major ecosystem service of Galicica National Park.