Study identifies Polesia’s enormous potential for nature-based tourism

Polesia has enormous potential for the development of sustainable nature-based tourism, finds analysis by tourism specialists from the region. The authors carried out a four-month desk-based review and laid out a roadmap for the development of nature-friendly tourism in the area.

They found that:

  • If developed in the right way, nature-based tourism has massive potential to underpin sustainable, low-impact and profitable tourism in the region.
  • In particular, experienced travellers, families, and young people are key groups of tourists that could be attracted.
  • Investment in nature-based tourism would be the best way to boost tourist numbers in the area, but requires coordination between stakeholders.
  • Development of the E40 waterway would negate nature-based tourism opportunities.
  • The region should be branded as ‘Europe’s Amazon’.
  • A range of potential funding sources could help turn Polesia into a successful nature-based tourism destination.

Huge tourism potential

Polesia harbours pristine natural landscapes, a stunning flood season,  rich traditions and cultural heritage, and a myriad of biological species. It is Europe’s largest wetland wilderness with huge tourism potential.

‘If developed in the right way, tourism could help the region reach its sustainable development goals, boost local livelihoods and really show how important it is to keep Polesia in its natural state,’

says Aivar Ruukel, lead study author and board member of Global Ecotourism Network.

Development of the E40 waterway, however, would completely undermine these opportunities.

“We believe that the E40 waterway would seriously downgrade Polesia’s fantastic tourism potential. There’s also a risk that it will dramatically increase the number of people in the area which could result in ‘over-tourism’, and would impede the development of more sustainable water tourism using small boats and kayaks, ”

comments Valeria Klitsounova, chairwoman of Belarusian Association of Agro- and Ecotourism “Country Escape”.

Currently, there is only limited tourism in Polesia, primarily rural farm stays and ‘nuclear tourism’ concentrated around the site of the Chernobyl disaster. However, experts believe that Polesia has huge potential to become a top destination for sustainable nature-based tourism. There are many protected areas, such as Mid-Pripyat Nature Reserve, where visitors can hike, canoe, birdwatch, or get up close to charismatic mammals like bison, bears and lynx. The region is particularly spectacular in the flood season, and local people welcome visitors wanting to explore their culture and traditions.

Get inspired to visit in Polesia:

Roadmap to attract tourists

Adventure and nature-based tourism now accounts for about a fifth of all international travel. Demand is increasing for destinations such as Polesia that are ‘off the beaten track’ and present opportunities for authentic cultural experiences. Experts identified significant potential to attract more nature-based tourists to Polesia, especially amongst groups of experienced travellers, families, and young people.

At present, funding for nature protection is limited, existing infrastructure and information services are poorly developed. Investments in Polesia’s nature-based tourism would lead to a thriving tourism industry. According to the study authors, this requires cooperation of key partners. And it would need to be underpinned by a sustainable tourism development strategy, including zoning for tourism, and a tourism marketing plan. In addition, a strong and attractive ‘destination brand’ such as ‘Europe’s Amazon’ is needed to set Polesia apart from all other nature-based tourism sites.


  • Save Polesia is an international partnership of six civil society organisations. We strive to protect Polesia for the citizens of Belarus, Poland, Ukraine and wider Europe – now and in the future. We stand against the construction of the E40 waterway and for the development of nature-based tourism in Polesia.

Polesia has enormous potential for the development of sustainable nature-based tourism, finds expert analysis by tourism specialists from the region. If governments construct the E40 waterway this enormous potential would be undermined.