Protected area management effectiveness and COVID-19

Research paper information:

Title: Protected area management effectiveness and COVID-19: The case of Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Publication name: Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, 2021.


Please cite this article as:

Mandić, A. (2021). Protected area management effectiveness and COVID-19: The case of Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia. Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, In Press.


The decline in economic activities and tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the pressure on the environment and protected area (PA) systems to some extent. However, the financial losses within nature-based tourism due to travel restrictions and park closures will negatively impact tourism income-dependent PAs’ management effectiveness. This exploratory study incorporates a risk-assessment framework to investigate and provide first insights into the pandemic’s influence on the delivery of management outputs in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia. Although in 2020, this PA faced a 75% decline in overall revenue compared to the year before, analysis suggests that, in the short term, conservation-related outputs are least affected. Visitor management and PA efforts to support the local community’s sustainable development are the most severely impacted first-order outputs. Third-order nature-based tourism-related outputs face average to high risks. This study’s risk-assessment framework provides a starting point for a post-pandemic reassessment of the delivery of PA management outputs and decision-making about output prioritisation and resource allocation. Results suggest several new avenues for research.
Management implications
Post-pandemic recovery of PA requires a prioritisation risk framework to identify specific objectives that should be addressed first and which require additional effort or funding. Facing a crisis PA will allocate financial resources in a way that sustains primary functions such as conservation until negative trends change, or at least until financial resources become available. PAs require a paradigm shift, which includes tailoring of financial mechanisms to practical and policy purposes, effective allocation of financial resources, and responsible tourism recovery plans that capture the value and efforts of conservation through tourism and investments in nature-based solutions for sustainable tourism within PA.

Keywords: Management effectiveness; Protected area; Plitvice lakes national park; COVID-19; Nature-based tourism; Risk-assessment framework; Croatia

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