The UNESCO Dolomites Foundation is at the head of GATE (Granting Accessible Tourism for Everyone), a project founded on cross-border cooperation concluded in 2020 and financed by the European Regional Development Fund and Interreg V-A Italia-Austria 2014-2020. Project partners include the social cooperative Independent L., the Municipality of Santorso, CAI Alpago, the University of Innsbruck and Salzburg Research.
The project aims to make alpine tourism increasingly inclusive, enabling growing numbers of people to emerge themselves in nature, overcoming environmental, physical and linguistic barriers. Another of GATE’s aims is to increase the tourist offering, promoting what can be defined as an “experience-based approach”: seeing, listening to, touching, breathing and tasting the mountains. GATE is active in alpine and pre-alpine areas, which offer immense natural, landscape and geological value, beginning with four pilot sites. These are virtuous examples of how inclusive tourism can be implemented: Parco Rossi in Santorso (Province of Vicenza), “Sentiero della sensibilità” [nature-conscious trail] in the area of Alpago (Province of Belluno), the project “Kinderleicht Wandern” in the district of Pongau, in the Salzburg region, and GEOPARC Bletterbach in South Tyrol, within the Dolomites World Heritage Site.
Despite being the smallest System in the Dolomites World Heritage Site, the Bletterbach can be considered the area’s own Grand Canyon. This Natural Monument is a narrow gorge sculpted by the Bletterbach mountain stream. Tracing the sequence of layers, from volcanic rock at the base through to the white carbonates of the Corno Bianco, the gorge allows visitors to flip through the pages of the Earth’s history and, with an abundance of animal and plant fossils, to build a picture of life in the past. The deep gorge cut by the Bletterbach stream stretches for approximately 8 km and rises over 1,100 m, making the route inaccessible to the majority of visitors.
Thanks to the GATE project, tourists can now access it for the first time without barriers. Since October 2020, the GEOMuseum of Redagno has offered an unforgettable virtual-reality experience. Through a 3D headset, Maya, the virtual guide for this exciting educational journey along the Bletterbach gorge, explains how the canyon was formed and how geologists were able to reconstruct its history. The content was developed in collaboration with the South Tyrol Museum of Natural Sciences and is suitable for visitors of all ages. The virtual tour through the gorge allows users to select various settings, based on their different requirements: from language (English, German or Italian) to subtitles for visitors with hearing difficulties. A short introductory video explains to visitors how to get the most out of the experience, enabling them to use the 3D headset independently, without the need for supervision.
Also in the context of System number eight of the Dolomites World Heritage Site, from Passo Oclini to Malga Gurndin, a multimedia adventure path has been created that can be experienced through a web app, bringing the World Heritage Site to life through illustration of its geological and geomorphological features. The web app is inclusive and all content is available without the need for installation of an app on the user device.
On the website gateproject.dolomitiunesco.info, which is equipped with comprehensive functionality to maximise accessibility, users can find all the Project details.