Braies faces the sustainability test

Maria Hochgruber Kuenzer is Councillor for Land Development, Landscape and Cultural Heritage for the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, South Tyrol, and is well placed to explain the current situation: “Far too many people have been visiting Lake Braies in recent years. This has had an impact on our quality of life, and robbed the visitor experience of some of its special qualities and natural charm. We therefore had to make some firm decisions, and work out how many people should be admitted at a time. The UNESCO Dolomites Foundation was very helpful during this process, and undertook a study to calculate the number of visitors. The scientific data provided by the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation proved a very important basis for explaining to people that quantity often conflicts with quality.”

During the summer period (from 10 July to 10 September), private vehicles can only enter the road to Lake Braies until all the car-parks in the valley are full. When every parking space is taken, the road will be closed until 3:00 p.m. Cyclists and walkers can enter at any time, while the shuttle bus routes 439 and 442 require advance booking and payment online. These are some aspects of the “Braies 2020” plan, developed by IDM and the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, together with the Transport Committee of the Municipality and the local Tourist Association, and based on the study conducted by the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation.

The sustainability project carried out by the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation examined the effects of large numbers of tourists on nature, local society and the economy. Both Maria Hochgruber Kuenzer and Daniel Alfreider, Councillor for Transport at the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, agreed that support for sustainable travel and the partial closure of the road were a step in the right direction. In 2019, an average of around 250,000 people visited the lake every month throughout the summer. As Maria Hochgruber Kuenzer stressed: “Further brave measures are required. We must put our trust in nature – it’s our most important resource.”

The figures

The research carried out by the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation made it possible to paint a detailed picture of visitor flow into the valley. The area became an even greater attraction after the “Un Passo dal Cielo” (One Step from Heaven) TV series, which has now moved its main location to San Vito di Cadore. From July to September 2018, at a time of unlimited access, 1.2 million visitors were still entering the Braies valley (i.e. an average of 9,936 people a day over the summer), reaching a peak of 17,874 visitors on a single day in August. A total of 393,522 visitors were recorded as coming in August.