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Development, management and economy of show caves


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The problems concerning the development of show caves are here considered by taking into account different aspects of the problem. A procedure to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been established in the last decade and it is now currently applied. Such an assessment starts with a pre-operational phase to obtain sufficient information on the undisturbed status of a cave to be developed into a show cave. Successively a programme for its development is established with the scope to optimise the intervention on the cave at the condition that its basic environmental parameters are not irreversibly modified. The last phase of the assessment is focussed to assure a feedback through a monitoring network in order to detect any unforeseen difference or anomaly between the project and the effective situation achieved after the cave development. Some data on some of the most important show caves in the world are reported and a tentative evaluation of the economy in connection with the show caves business is eventually made.
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Tourism and show caves
Tourism and show cavesTourism and show caves
Arrigo A. Cigna
with 7 figures and 3 tables
Natural caves started to be opened to tourism over 400 years ago and now probably all the Coun-
tries of the world hosts at least one, but o en dozens, of show caves. Some 500 major show caves with over
50.000 visitor/year exist in the world and over 250 million visitors pay yearly a ticket to visit them. It is there-
fore evident that show caves are presently one of the most important geotouristic targets all over the world
and they represent an important economic resource for many of the still developing Countries.
But caves have also an exceptional scienti c value due to the fact that they represent one of the best
archive for all the Quaternary and allow for extremely accurate paleo-environmental and paleo-climatic
reconstructions. It is possible to maintain the aesthetic and scienti c values of a cave when transforming
it into a show cave; but to reach this goal it is important to follow strict rules before, during and a er their
tourist development.
Guidelines aiming to supply a recommendation to be endorsed for the development of show caves were
dra ed in the last years and received strong recommendations from the UIS Department of Protection and
Management at both the 14th International Congress of Speleology held in Kalamos, Greece, in August 2005
and the 15th International Congress of Speleology held in Kerrville, Texas, in July 2009. At the 7th Interna-
tional Congress of ISCA at Jenolan Caves, Australia, in November 2014 a  nal text was agreed upon with the
title “Recommended International Guidelines for the Development and Management of Show Caves“.
Key words: Show caves, tourism, parks, environment
1 Introduction
Show caves are one of the most important attractions from the point of view of tourism and
therefore they deserve much attention in their development.  e fundamental criteria presently
adopted are the protection of the cave environment, the safety of the visitors and a correct pro t
from the cave management. All such criteria must be taken into account otherwise the develop-
ment would have very negative e ects.
As D S (2012) stated, the worst fate that can befall a cave is for it to be developed
as a show cave, then for it to fail as a business entity, and be closed.  e cave becomes very vulner-
able to misuse.  erefore the show cave must not be pro table for the short term, but perpetu-
ally.  e view that a show cave is a golden goose laying golden eggs implies that the goose must
be properly fed and protected.  is means that is necessary to having all of the knowledge and
awareness regarding the physical needs of the cave to ensure that its environment is preserved
and conserved. Recent years have seen a veritable plethora of innovations and concepts relating
to the best cave management, which are here pointed out.
Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie, Vol. 60 (2016), Suppl. 2, 217-233 Article
published in print June 2016
© 2016 Gebrüder Borntraeger Verlagsbuchhandlung, Stuttgart, Germany
DOI: 10.1127/zfg_suppl/2016/00305 0372-8854/16/00305 $ 4.50
218 A.A. Cigna
2. Protection of the environment
A cave is an environment with little contact with the exterior. For this reason its equilibrium can
be easily changed when additional energy is introduced (C 1993). Obviously such changes
may occur more frequently when the whole energy budget of the cave is small, but in the case
of show caves the energy budget is o en not very small, because of their size, which is generally
large. A river or a subterranean lake play an important role in maintaining the natural equilib-
rium because they may absorb, more easily than rock, any further input of energy.
In a show cave both the visitors and the electric lighting system release energy into the envi-
ronment. A person who is walking will release nearly as much energy as a 200-watt bulb at a tem-
perature of about 37 °C.  erefore the total energy released by hundreds, or thousands, of visitors
in a day is not negligible as an absolute amount.  e heat released by the electric lighting system
has the same order of magnitude.
ere are di erent ways to keep the additional energy input into the cave as low as possible.
A limit of the number of visitors is given by the so called “visitors’ capacity” which is de ned
as the maximum number of visitors acceptable in a time unit under de ned conditions, which
does not imply a permanent modi cation of a relevant parameter. Otherwise, instead of reduc-
ing the number of persons, the time they spend in the cave may be reduced.  is result may be
easily achieved when people enter the cave through one entrance and exit along another passage,
instead of returning along the same pathway they entered the cave by.
Using high e ciency lamps, as LEDs, can reduce the contribution of the electric lighting
system. A further reduction can be obtained if the lamps are switched on only when visitors are
in the vicinity.
Another perturbation of the cave environment is caused by the lint (hair, dry- aking skin,
dust from shoes and material from clothing) le by visitors. In caves visited by a large number of
people the accumulation of lint becomes a real problem to be solved by careful removal. In fact
it would cause deterioration of formations and reduce their pristine white beauty to a blackened
Lint released into a cave might be reduced by means of air curtains at the entrance. Such a
solution would “wash” people entering the cave and, at the same time, isolate the cave environment
from the exterior since an air curtain acts as an invisible door and avoids air ow through it.
e protection of the environment of a show cave is fundamental, both from the point of
view of avoiding any damage to a non-renewable patrimony, and the conservation of the source
of income for the cave management.  erefore such a common interest may have an important
role in the implementation of any action aiming to safeguard the cave environment.
Visitors also release carbon dioxide as a result of their breathing. Until a few years ago such
carbon dioxide was considered a threat to the cave formations since it could have increased the
water acidity and, consequently corrosion, instead of the deposition of new formations. Further
accurate studies (B et al. 1998) have shown that in many instances the carbon dioxide
produced by natural processes (oxidisation of organic matter in the soil above a cave) may intro-
duce, through the water percolating into the cave, amounts very much larger than the carbon
dioxide released by visitors.
Tourism and show caves
When the water, with a relatively high concentration of carbon dioxide, reaches the cave
environment it immediately releases part of this carbon dioxide, which is not in equilibrium with
the carbon dioxide in the air.  erefore the chemical reaction moves towards the deposition of
calcium carbonate and the formations continue to grow. In general, rather small caves with a high
visitor  ux, and without any input of natural carbon dioxide, might have formations corroded
because the chemical reactions would be reversed when the carbon dioxide in the air dissolves
into water, particularly when water vapour condenses on the cave walls.
Another form of environmental pollution may occur through the joint contribution of visi-
tors and light. People may release cave spores or seeds of plants into the cave and they may grow
in the vicinity of lamps if the light  ux is high enough.  e result is the so-called “lampen ora”
i.e. green plants (generally algae, fern, moss) developing on cave walls or formations close to a
light source. Such plants cover the surfaces with a greenish layer, which can become covered by
the calcite deposit and no longer be removable. In fact lampen ora can be washed away by bleach
or hydrogen peroxide if it is not covered by calcite. Special care must be taken to avoid any dam-
age to the cave fauna.
e growth of lampen ora can be avoided by the employment of light sources with a very low
emission of light that does not encourage the chlorophyllian process and low light  ux at the rock
surface. A detailed description of the most e cient methods to control lampen ora is reported
in C (2012).
3 Safety of the visitors
As it has already been pointed out in the previous paragraphs the physical and chemical equilib-
riums of the environment should not be modi ed outside the range of the natural variations.
At the same time, any source of harm to the visitors must be avoided.  is means that the
pathways must be strong enough to withstand very high humidity and, sometimes, also  oods.
In the past, wooden structures were o en used, but they had to be replaced frequently. Today,
there are some self perceived “green” enthusiasts who want to still use wood because this mate-
rial is natural. Nevertheless the rather short life of a wooden structure in the cave environment
implies an additional cost, which is not justi ed. On the contrary the rotten wood provides large
amounts of food modifying the equilibrium of the cave life.  ere is only one particular situation
when wooden structures are to be preferred: and that is in the ice caves. In fact wood surface is
less slippery than any other material and the low temperature avoids its decay, but stainless steel
is sometimes preferred.
Again the “green” enthusiasts have emphasised the criterion to use only structures, which can
be easily decommissioned, once they are no longer needed. Such an argument is substantially
wrong because, once it is no longer viable to operate a show cave, no one will spend any money to
take any structure out of the cave even if they are relatively easy to decommission.
In the meantime, it is preferable to use a material that is compatible with the cave environ-
ment and will not release pollutants in the long run. At present, these materials are concrete,
stainless steel and plastic.
220 A.A. Cigna
Concrete in itself is economical but its use in a cave may become rather expensive when it
must be carried along di cult passages where the use of mechanical aids is not allowed. However,
any change in the future would make it di cult to disassemble the pathways and dispose of the
Handrails made from stainless steel are also a convenient solution, particularly when they
are also used as pipes to provide fresh water in di erent parts of the cave to wash the pathways.
In fact, this higher cost of stainless steel is justi ed by a lack of any maintenance a er many years
of operation.
Recently plastic structures have been used in caves to build pathways. Presently the best
material available on the market is a  breglass reinforced plastic. Its key product features are that
it is lightweight, corrosion resistant, non-conductive, low maintenance, slip resistant,  re retard-
ant, etc.  e use of reinforced plastic, being non-conductive, avoids also the propagation of elec-
tric surges from thunderstorms inside the cave with problems for the visitors and the electronic
In addition this material has a high strength-to-weight ratio with one-third the weight of
steel, allowing easy installation, with no heavy equipment, and less manpower. In fact simple
tools easily work such materials and the di erent parts of the structure are assembled with stain-
less steel bolts. Another interesting advantage is the possibility of modifying any pathway very
easily. On the other hand, other mixtures, e.g. of plastics and sawdust, must never be used because
they are easily degraded by mould and their mechanical characteristics are quite poor.
When an arti cial entrance is needed in order to give an easier access to the cave, or to estab-
lish a circuit to avoid the return of visitors along the same pathway, it is absolutely necessary to
install a system of doors to stop any additional air ow in the cave. Up to now, doors operated
mechanically or manually are normally used, but it would be most preferable to install air cur-
tains.  is solution (suggested already many years ago by Russell and Jeanne Gurnee 1990) is less
expensive, quite safe and has the great advantage of avoiding any sense of claustrophobia to visi-
tors. In addition it also decreases the release of lint by people as reported previously.
4 Pro t
Before starting any procedure to develop a wild cave into a show cave, a detailed study of the
whole situation is required. Nearly twenty years ago, two great experts of cave management,
R and J G (1981), wrote (p. 4): “ e successful development and operation of
a tourist cave depends on a combination of factors, including:
1) Scienti c investigation
2) Art
3) Technology
4) Management”.
Scienti c study is recommended at the beginning, as the  rst phase, in order to determine
which hydrologic and geologic factors may have an in uence on the development. Art is neces-
sary both in determining the routeing of trails and selecting particular cave scenes to feature, and
Tourism and show caves
in lighting – which is in itself a combination of both art and the next factor, technology.  e tech-
nology necessary to control water and other natural forces within the cave and to design suitable
trails again combines with art to create a tasteful and agreeable cave tour. Management continues
from the time the  rst plans are laid, through the developed or operational phase.
e four factors listed above apply both to the development of private caves and public or
government lands. O en, because of limited  nancial resources of a private owner, one or more
of these factors is not considered, and poor development and lack of  nancial success may result.
Failure of a cave to succeed, either through the development phase or a er, when the cave is open
to the public, can lead to an unprotected area which has been advertised and known to the public
that can be subsequently subject to vandalism.
In order to ensure that a cave has the highest chance of success as a tourist endeavour, a com-
prehensive study and evaluation should be made before any physical work is commenced. A cave
study provides a “blueprint” which investors, technical people, workmen, exhibitors and admin-
istrators can follow to bring about a successful cave operation.  e study plan is coordinated by
management in order to develop a plan for the best display of the cave.
With a detailed study and cost prospectus, at the time the development is originally pro-
posed, a cave can be successfully developed less expensively, more e ectively and in less time.
Technological advances in the past  y years in lighting, communications, transportation,
marketing techniques and almost every phase of cave development, make it important to  nd
the most e cient ways to complete the project. Every cave must be looked at from the posi-
tion of the businessman, artist, engineer, speleologist and conservationist.  e modi cation of
a natural cave to permit easy visitation of the public requires all of these viewpoints. Balance
among these views, through decisions made before beginning the venture, will assure a sound
Speleological associations, which bring together those caves being considered for tourism,
can be of great service not only to the group developing a cave, but also in preserving the cave as
nearly as possible to its natural state.
It would be really rather di cult to have a better description of the procedure to adopt for the
development of a tourist cave.
In addition to an Environmental Impact Assessment, the procedures suggested in the plan-
ning phase commonly include those that can quantify certain parameters (topographical, social
and economic) used to predict tourist  ows. Some of these methodological procedures, well
known and successfully applied in the geographic-economic  eld, tend not to be employed in the
development of show caves because of some lack of knowledge.
e rather widespread feeling among speleologists, and people in general, that a cave is “lost”
to science when it is developed as a tourist attraction, is not at all supported by the important sci-
enti c results obtained from many show caves. Sometimes the borderline between use and abuse
may be di cult to de ne; nevertheless a careful development continuously monitored may be the
most e cient way to protect a cave.
It is evident that the economy of a region around a show-cave-to-be can be radically modi-
ed by the cave development.  erefore strenuous opposition to any tourist visitation appears
to be rather unfair towards the local people, particularly when a suitable compromise between
222 A.A. Cigna
strict conservation and a sound development can be found. But in any case, as it was previously
reported, a cave development cannot be accepted if it is not supported by appropriate preliminary
A recent evaluation of the number of show cave visitors all around the world (C & B
2000), based on data obtained for about 20% of all show caves, estimate a global number of more
than 150 million visitors per year. By assuming a budget per person as reported in Table 1 the
total amount of money spent to visit the show caves is around 3 billion US $ (value 2008).  e
number of the local people directly (management and local services) or indirectly (hotels, res-
taurants, transport, etc.) involved in the show cave business can be estimated to be up to several
hundred per cave, i.e. some hundreds of thousands of individuals in the world.
Table 1. Rough estimation of the annual direct and local budget of a show cave per each visitor (US $
Source US $ (2008)
Direct income 6.5
Other local income:
Souvenirs & snacks 2.0
Meals 6.5
Transportation 2.5
Travel agency 2.5
TOTAL 20.0
By taking into account that there are several hundred other people working indirectly to each
person directly connected with a show cave (F & C 1989), a gross global  gure of about
100 million people receive income from the show cave business.  erefore, it can be roughly
assumed that for each tourist visiting a show cave there is about one other person directly or indi-
rectly connected who is earning income from the visit.
In addition to show caves, the existence of karst parks, which include a cave within their
boundaries, must also be considered. As reported by H (1981) the number of visitors to
the top three karst national parks in USA (Mammoth Cave, Carlsbad Caverns and Wind Cave)
amounted to about 2.500.000 tourists each year.  erefore karst parks give a further increase to
the number of people involved in the whole “karst” business.
ere are many other human activities that involve a larger number of people; nevertheless
the  gures reported above are not negligible, and give an indication of the role that show caves
play in the global economy.
e “destination life cycle” term was  rst mentioned in B’ model (1980) as A
et al. (2008) reported. Such a concept led to the development of a model very useful to describe
the stages of evolution of a tourist attraction as reported in Fig. 1.
Tourism and show caves
In recent years a worldwide decrease of the show caves’ visitors was noticed and its cause was
attributed to a general increase in the cost of living. Another reason for a decrease of interest may
be due sometimes to a tourists’ saturation of interest. In any case, a revitalization of the show cave
may be obtained by the development of a new attraction such as, e.g. naturalistic itineraries, visits
to more show caves in same area, sounds and lights, quality of the guide service, etc. (B &
C 1991).
In conclusion the whole show cave “industry” must be constantly and carefully changing to
adapt to the shi s that are brought to us all by our rapidly changing world.  ere are challenges
that we must all rise up and meet.
5 Caves, geoparks and science
For centuries caves were the single geologic objects interested by huge touristic  ow. But in the
last tens of years the idea of enlarging the content of a touristic attraction in order to take into
account any possible aspects of the area considered took gradually more attention.  is change
of view was also due to economical reasons leading to a better integration among the di erent
tourist targets.
In the third millennium geopark tourism grew in exponential manner and nowadays several
millions of tourists visit at least one geopark each year. Taking into consideration that at least 1/3
of the existing geopark host karst features, the touristic budget related not only to show caves
but also to karst geoparks should be probably doubled. Presently two other human uses of caves
generate huge touristic  ows: the  rst related to religion and the second to health care (C &
F 2013).
Even today the three largest monotheistic religions (Jewish, Christian and Muslim) are deeply
involved in caves and some of these sacred caves are visited by millions of pilgrims every year.
Fig. 1. Tourist area cycle of evolution (B 1980).
224 A.A. Cigna
us it is reasonable to evaluate that presently the cumulative budget of the sacred tourism in
caves may correspond to 15–20% of that of the normal show caves and the total employed peoples
should be increased by the same amount.
e second activity for economic importance, actually performed in caves is that related to
health care: in the antiquity thermal caves have been used as ermae (V 2000), but it is was
from the  rst half of the XX century onwards that thermal caves started to become important
from the economic point of view. In the second half of the last century the cold caves also started
to be widely utilized for speleotherapy, mainly in the Countries of Eastern Europe (S 1997).
Actually speleotherapy is normally used against several diseases like allergenic asthma, arthrosis
etc. (AA.VV. 1997).
e number of Countries, in which health care in caves is active, is still scarce, being practi-
cally restricted to Europe.  us the number of persons actually involved in such a kind of health-
tourism are of course much less than those involved in the sacred or normal cave tourism: in fact
they maybe a few millions yearly all over the world; anyway their number is growing fast and this
activity stats spreading outside Europe.
But even if the health care in cave represents no more than 3–5% of the total cave tourism, its
economic importance is by far higher due to its high costs.  us the budget of the Spas and spe-
leotherapic caves may be evaluated up to 10–15% of that of the normal show caves, while in this
case the employed persons should be considered no more than 2–3% of the total. In conclusion
the two types of peculiar cave tourism, just outlined, contribute up to 35–40% to the total budget
of the show caves of the world (Table 2).
Table 2. Di erent worldwide uses of show caves.
Use of show caves Visitors
Tourism 77–83 40–50
Religious 15–20 15–20
Health 2–3 35–40
Total 100 100
At the end of the second millennium it was already clear that caves are perhaps the best
place of the world to perform research in many di erent scienti c elds (F 2002, 2009).
is is because caves are low to very low energy sites, with scarce “noise” coming into from the
outside, thus allowing extremely accurate experiments impossible to perform outside. Moreover,
cave environment acts as perfect accumulation traps over extremely long span of time: most of
the knowledge we actually have about our ancestors will never be available to us without caves.
eir physical and chemical deposits proved to record practically any event occurring in the cave
area during their growth, thus allowing accurate paleo-climatological, paleo-environmental and
Tourism and show caves
paleo-seismical reconstructions. All these characteristics make caves perfect experimental labo-
ratory in  elds like physics, biology, geology, engineering, medicine etc.
Even if, theoretically, all natural cavities are suitable for research, in practice only few if them
may be transformed into laboratories: in fact scientists require that a cave meets a few of common
characteristics, which can be summarized as:
To be in a condition as pristine as possible
To be easily accessible
To be safe
To have power supply
e request of the scientists perfectly  t the common characteristics of any show cave, which
are always the best site where perform any kind of research: this is the reason why several experi-
mental laboratories have been located just within them.
Anyway, until now, sometimes the show cave managers may have scarce interest or, even
worse, they totally disagree in having in their cave a scienti c laboratory because they consider
the research only as a waste of their money and a hinder to the normal tourist activity.
Of course they are right when saying that scienti c research need space, time and money, but
they do not consider the fact that scientists may greatly help the management of a show cave in
two fundamental  elds: the conservation of the cave equilibrium and the increase of its touristic
It is well known that tourism may induce negative changes in the cave environment: dust, lint
and lampen ora degrading the cave formations and cave heating being the most frequent ones. It
is evident that the presence of a laboratory, where cave parameters are constantly monitored, may
help to prevent these undesirable consequences of the tourist activity.
Even more important is the second e ect of the presence of scienti c activities within a
show cave: in fact researchers may easily supply suggestions and materials for the environmen-
tal education of the visitors, satisfying also their request of clear answers about scienti c ques-
tions related to the show cave itself, or karst and caves in general. Hopefully scientists may also
train the tourist guides in order to improve their knowledge and ability to explain the cave to
the visitors.
6 New materials and methods
An important evolution occurred recently by the appearance of new materials in the market.
Since prehistoric time until few years ago the evolution of cave development for inhabitants and
visitors was rather slow moving from steps carved into rock or sediment (Fig. 2) or obtained with
slabs to concrete pathways and staircases or wooden structures (Fig. 3). Sometimes a cheaper
material, with respect to stainless steel, as zinc plated iron was used (Fig. 4) but it implies some
problems to cave fauna on account to zinc, which is toxic for fauna unless a high dilution could
be assured by a relevant water  ow.
With the appearance of plastic materials and a new approach to the protection of natural
environment the aforesaid evolution had an abrupt change. It is true that stainless steel was also
226 A.A. Cigna
Fig. 2.  e prehistoric (6000–4000 years b.C.) stair-
case in the Grotta dei Cervi di Porto Badisco.
Fig. 3. Wooden staircase in Grotta di Trebiciano,
Trieste, Italy,  ese staircases have been initially
installed in 1894 during the investigation for pro-
viding water for Trieste.  e platforms (top in the
photo) were installed one century ago in pitchpine
treated with copper sulfate and carbonileo (Photo
Tourism and show caves
used for some features as, particularly, handrails. Nevertheless cost, weight and some di culties
in working limited its use.
e totally new materials obtained by a compound of plastics and glass  bres supplied an
incredible improvement for show caves development, as its will be described below.
On November 2014 at the 7th International Congress of ISCA at Jenolan Caves, Austra-
lia, a document was approved with the title “Recommended International Guidelines for the
Development and Management of Show Caves. Such a document was developed by the Inter-
national Show Caves Association (I.S.C.A.), International Union for the Conservation of Nature
(I.U.C.N.) and the International Union of Speleology (U.I.S.): the text may be downloaded
6.1 Surface infrastructures
e site of the above ground facilities must be well planned by avoiding that these features be
built over the cave itself, or relevant parts of it. In particular any intervention such as the water-
tight surface of a parking area must be avoided. Any change in the rainwater seepage into a cave
as well any change to the land above the cave may have a negative in uence on the cave and the
growth of its formations.
Fig. 4. Zinc plated iron pathways in the SuMannau Cave (Sardinia, Italy).
228 A.A. Cigna
6.2 Pathways
In the past most pathways were obtained with concrete (reinforced when necessary) for steps and
oor. is material has no adverse e ects on the cave environment because from a chemical point
of view has the same composition of limestone.  e iron or steel used to reinforce the cement
could sometimes cause breaks when got rusty.
e handrails in stainless steel were also a convenient solution, particularly when they were
also used as pipes to provide water in di erent parts of the cave to wash out the pathways.  e
higher cost of stainless steel was justi ed by a lack of any maintenance also a er many years of
operation (C et al. 2000).
In the last tens years new material were developed with incredible advantages with respect
to the past. In particular the pathways can be built entirely with plastics.  e material used for
the pathways, including the railing and kickplate, are manufactured by a pultrusion process. It is
is a continuous moulding process whereby reinforcing  bres are saturated with a liquid polymer
resin and then carefully formed and pulled through a heated die to form a part.
Pultrusion results in straight constant cross section parts of virtually any shippable length.
where continuous  breglass roving and mat is covered by resin.  e resin used for handrails is,
e.g., isophtalic polyester and the resin used for other components is vinil ester. Both have a low
ame spread rating of 25 or less.  ese materials are delivered in various colours, avoiding, e.g.,
the brightness of the stainless steel that is not aesthetically agreeable.
ese components have about one-third the weight of steel allowing easy installation using
standard circular or sabre saws. Stainless steel bolts connect the di erent parts. Such pathways
may be easily repaired or modi ed to adapt to new layout if necessary.
Since the mechanical properties of these materials are very close to steel’s properties it is evi-
dent the advantage because also long sections can be easily transported inside a cave, while the
di erent parts can be easily worked out with simple instruments.
e design of  breglass pathways needs a detailed survey of the strip where the pathway its
self will be installed, because each element can be prepared in advance according the design. Dur-
ing the assembly of the pathway the legs require only small adjustment that can be easily obtained
with sliding feet.
6.3 Lighting
e power supply must comply with both the country rules, which at present are in general rather
severe and the aesthetic requirements.  e plastic pathways may host below the platform and
along the legs, pipes with the cables of the power supply.  e cable network may be somewhat
more complex than in the past because in general only the parts of the cave occupied by visitors
should be switched on.  e power supply of the emergency light should be splitted into at least
two independent sections as reported above.
Nowadays very e cient light sources have been developed.  e most useful in caves are the
LEDs and the cold cathode lamps (CCL). Both are characterized by a very long life of 50,000
hours and longer.  e LEDs cost from 20% to 100% more than CCLs for the same results.
Tourism and show caves
Fig. 5. Structure of the pathway before the positioning of the walking grid.
Fig. 6.  e pathway in the Grutas de Bustamante, Mexico, with visitors.  e cables of lighting and monitor-
ing are placed under the walkway.
230 A.A. Cigna
In Table 3 a comparison among the overall luminous e ciency (as lumen/watt) per input
power for incandescent lamps (ILs), LEDs and CCLs.
Table 3. Indicative comparison of the overall luminous e ciency per input power for di erent lamps
Lamp lm/W
Incandescent (IL) 15
Light emitting iodes (LED) 45
Cold Cathod Lamps (CCL) 67
e advantage of the new light sources is evident both for the cost of lighting and the long life
of the lamps. But these new sources have speci c qualities of their own. LEDs are point sources
while CCLs are linear. LEDs may be chosen with di erent temperature colour, i.e. warm (with
a red component) or cold (more white). CCLs may be produced with a negligible contribution
of their emission spectrum in the regions (around 430–490 nm and 640–900 nm), which mostly
contribute to the chlorophyllian process. In this way the proliferation of lampen ora is reduced.
e emergency lighting can be obtained at a very low cost with the “rope light” i.e. a  exible
plastic polymer rope with lights in inside that can be cut at a convenient length and placed along
the pathways (Fig. 7). In particular such emergency lights can be divided into two sections dis-
tributed alternatively and connected to two di erent power lines in order that, in case of a failure
of one section, there will always be another one in operation.
Such a kind of lighting can also supply enough light to the pathways in normal conditions,
and special features only must have additional light sources
6.4 Other networks
In case of a complete network to supply environmental data to a central computer, as well as the
telephone, cables run into other pipes. To improve visitors’ safety, a special network enabling a
guide to talk with the outside o ce from any point of the cave would be strongly advisable.
6.5 Visitors carrying capacity
As it is well known, caves may be classi ed caves into widely di erent energetic categories. H-
 (1986) proposed three categories: high-energy, moderate-energy, and low-energy levels. In
order to avoid any permanent change in the environmental equilibrium it is necessary to avoid
the introduction of energy beyond the intrinsic cave capacity. Such a constraint implies a limita-
tion of both electric power supply for the cave lighting and the visitors’  ow, i.e. the visitors car-
rying capacity.
Tourism and show caves
is limit may be evaluated according di erent methods and specialists only are entrusted to
carry out the whole procedure according the best choice to be applied to each local situation (e.g.:
M & ’H 1996, L et al. 2013).
6.6 Environmental monitoring
In the past a complete network to supply environmental data to a central computer was consid-
ered a best solution with the transmission of data to a central computer was considered a best
solution to be achieved. But it was experienced that such a network might be convenient for
larger caves only.  e main problems being a relatively high cost (installation and maintenance)
and the danger of damages due to lightning, which may discharge high tension peaks on the line
connecting the sensors with the main computer.
A less expensive solution, which is also more robust, is obtained with a number of stations
whose data are download, e.g. once a month, and the elaboration is carried out in a computer
outside the cave without any hardware connection.
In addition to the usual parameters (temperature, relative humidity, etc.) radon became a
relevant issue due to the regulation in some countries requiring a monitoring of its concentration
in air on a yearly basis.  e scope is the evaluation of the yearly average dose to cave guides to be
kept below a given value, other ways this personnel would be classi ed as professionally exposed
and implying a number of constraints for the cave managers (C 2005).
e most suitable detector is the etched track detector because it is una ected by humidity,
may be kept to record the average concentration up to one year and their cost is very low. Other
detectors do not comply with such characteristics and, in general, should be avoided.
Fig.7.  e emergency lights placed along the edge of the pathway in the Grutas de Bustamante, Mexico.
232 A.A. Cigna
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Arrigo A. Cigna, Str. Bottino 2 – 14023 Cocconato, Italy.
... Isso faz com que o potencial de muitas cavernas seja completamente subutilizado ou mal utilizado, deixando, também, de gerar inúmeros benefícios para as comunidades locais que poderiam se tornar verdadeiros destinos turísticos (Lobo, 2015). Além do mais, o fato de não haver nenhum controle da visitação expõe a caverna a atos de vandalismo com probabilidade de causar impactos ambientais ainda mais graves (Cigna & Burri, 2000). ...
... Posteriormente, a interpretação dos dados foi feita por meio da análise de conteúdo, de forma quali-quantitativa, para identificar as potencialidades e as limitações de cada entidade gestora, do ponto de vista da sustentabilidade ambiental, social e econômica. A análise de diferentes aspectos relacionados com a gestão de cavernas turísticas considerou diretrizes e recomendações sobre a adequada estruturação e funcionamento de uma caverna turística, bem como, a prática correta do espeleoturismo (Cigna, 1993;Cigna & Burri, 2000;Marra, 2001;ABNT, 2008;ABETA & Ministério do Turismo, 2009;Gillieson, 2001;Williams, 2008;Cigna, 2011;ISCA et al., 2014;Lobo, 2014;Lobo, 2015, ABNT, 2020). Ao final, as informações geradas apontam uma medida essencial para o desenvolvimento sustentável do espeleoturismo no Brasil. ...
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No Brasil há mais de 20 mil cavernas registradas no Cadastro Nacional de Informações Espeleológicas (CANIE), das quais algumas centenas são usadas de modo formal ou informal para a visitação turística e apenas 44 contam com o instrumento formal que regula a gestão deste uso, o Plano de Manejo Espeleológico (PME). Isso implica em aspectos positivos e negativos para o setor e desafios para as entidades gestoras de cavernas turísticas, públicas e privadas. Diante disso, esta investigação foi realizada com o objetivo de apresentar propostas para ampliar a sustentabilidade do espeleoturismo no país. Trata-se de um estudo de caso sobre cinco cavernas turísticas localizadas em Minas Gerais. A coleta de dados ocorreu através da revisão da literatura e da pesquisa de campo, que envolveu observação direta e entrevista semiestruturada com os gestores utilizando como instrumento um questionário. Posteriormente, os dados foram organizados e interpretados utilizando a análise de conteúdo como método. Os resultados obtidos ressaltam as potencialidades e as limitações de cada tipo de gestão de caverna turística, e constatam que a sustentabilidade do espeleoturismo no Brasil será atingida por meio da consolidação de parcerias efetivas entre o governo e as entidades privadas.
... These factors are scientific research, art, technology, and management. Cigna and Burri [9] recommend scientific studies at the beginning of the first cave research phase. Design is needed in determining the direction of sidewalks and in selecting cave scenes. ...
... It is a sustainable form of tourism with a primary focus on using the Earth's geological features and creating the products of geotourism [28]. The following authors of [9,28,29] dealt with the definition, specifics, and characteristics of geotourism, among others. Newsome, Dowling [30] state that, unlike ecotourism which, by definition, can only occur in areas of natural character, geotourism can take place in both natural and human-made areas (e.g., in mining areas within the so-called mining tourism [29,[31][32][33]). ...
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Caves represent natural phenomena that have been used by man since ancient times, first as a refuge and dwelling, and later as objects of research and tourism. In the karst landscape of Slovak Republic in Central Europe, more than 7000 caves are registered in a relatively small area, of which 18 are open to the public. This paper deals with the analysis of the speleotourism potential of 12 of these caves, administered by the Slovak Caves Administration. Based on the obtained data, we first evaluate the number of visitors in 2010–2019. Using a public opinion survey among visitors, we then evaluate the individual indicators of quality and each cave’s resulting potential. We use a modified standardization methodology and standardization of individual evaluation criteria weights for individual evaluation indicators. The resulting values of the potential of caves for speleotourism point to the great importance of these sites for domestic and foreign tourism and the protection of nature and landscape, as 5 of these caves have been part of the UNESCO World Natural and Cultural Heritage List since 1995.
... Relatively high conductivity values indicate a high concentration of dissolved salts. This is also observed in the results of the total hardness of the carbonates, which is also high in absolute value (13)(14)(15)(16) dH, compared to the usual values of 8-12 dH found in other caves). In Mez2 point, the average total hardness is higher (16.5 dH) compared to Mez 4 point (13.8 dH). ...
... Principal threats for the environment of show caves, their possible causes and effects (modified after[15]). ...
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(1) Background: Show caves are unique natural attractions and touristic traffic can trigger their degradation within a short time. There are no universal solutions to counter the effects of the touristic impact upon the cave environment and both protection protocols and management plans have to be established on a case-by-case basis. (2) Methods: The study includes four show caves from the Romanian Carpathians, where monitoring of the number of visitors, paralleled by the monitoring of the main physicochemical parameters of the air and water (CO2, temperature, humidity, drip rate, conductivity, and pH) was implemented. (3) Results and Conclusions: The results of the study have: established a set of basic principles to be enforced by the management of show caves and issued a set of preventive measures and instructions to be followed by the personnel and stakeholders of the caves.
... The opening of the first show cave in the early 17th century (Vilenica Cave, Slovenia) was just the beginning of the development of speleo-tourism (Cigna, 2019). Since then, more than 600 caves have been visited by tourists worldwide, receiving more than 25 million visitors per year (Cigna and Burri, 2000;Novas et al., 2017;Tièar et al., 2018). With the growing number of tourists, proper management of the caves' natural heritage is required against the impacts affecting cave habitats and microclimate (Pulido-Bosch et al., 1997;Hoyos et al., 1998;Northup and Lavoie, 2001;Mann et al., 2002;Paksuz and Özkan, 2012;Bercea et al., 2018Bercea et al., , 2019Debata, 2020;Constantin et al., 2021). ...
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Muierilor Cave is one of Romania’s most important show caves, with paleontological and archeological deposits. Recently, a new chamber was discovered in the cave, with unique yellow calcite crystals, fine-grained crusts, and black sediments. The deposits in this chamber were related to a leaking process from the upper level that contains fossil bones and a large pile of guano. Samples were taken from the new chamber and another passage to investigate the relationship between the substrate and microbial community. Chemical, mineralogical, and whole community 16S rRNA gene-based metabarcoding analyses were undertaken, and the base of the guano deposit was radiocarbon dated. Our study indicated bacteria linked to the presence of high phosphate concentration, most likely due to the nature of the substrate (hydroxyapatite). Bacteria involved in Fe, Mn, or N cycles were also found, as these elements are commonly identified in high concentrations in guano. Since no bat colonies or fossil bones were present in the new chamber, a high concentration of these elements could be sourced by organic deposits inside the cave (guano and fossil bones) even after hundreds of years of their deposition and in areas far from both deposits. Metabarcoding of the analyzed samples found that ∼0.7% of the identified bacteria are unknown to science, and ∼47% were not previously reported in caves or guano. Moreover, most of the identified human-related bacteria were not reported in caves or guano before, and some are known for their pathogenic potential. Therefore, continuous monitoring of air and floor microbiology should be considered in show caves with organic deposits containing bacteria that can threaten human health. The high number of unidentified taxa in a small sector of Muierilor Cave indicates the limited knowledge of the bacterial diversity in caves that can have potential applications in human health and biotechnology.
... Unfortunately, the wonders of these peculiar ecosystems attract thousands of visitors every year (de Freitas 2010, Lobo et al. 2015Danardono et al. 2018), that represent a serious threat for their preservation. The understanding of the nature and extent in space and time of the anthropogenic disturbances in caves is thus a priority for their sustainable management and long-term conservation (Cigna and Burri 2000;Korzystka et al. 2011;Lobo et al. 2013Lobo et al. , 2015. ...
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In cave ecosystems tourists represent moving sources of discontinuous disturbances, able to induce transient system responses whose knowledge is crucial in defining appropriate conservation measures. Here we propose an approach to evaluate the amplitude and scales of cave alterations based on high-resolution air monitoring, through the use of purposely developed low-cost monitoring stations and a consistent analytical framework for information retrieval based on time series analysis. In particular, monitoring stations adopt a modular structure based on physical computing platforms acquiring data through several sensors, with means of preventing humidity damages and guaranteeing their continuous operation. Data are then analyzed using wavelet periodograms and cross-periodograms to extract the scales of tourism-induced alterations. The approach has been exemplified in the Pertosa-Auletta Cave, one of the most important underground environments in Southern Italy, highlighting the development of monitoring stations and the information obtainable with the proposed analytical workflow. Here, 2 monitoring stations acquiring data for 1 year at 1′ sampling time on temperature, relative humidity, CO2, VOCs, and particulate matter were deployed in trails subjected to different levels of tourism. In terms of Pertosa-Auletta Cave air dynamics, the approach allowed estimating the temporal and spatial scales of tourism-induced alterations in the order of minutes and meters, respectively, with parameter-dependent variations. On more general terms, the approach proved reliable and effective, with its modularity and low-cost fostering its straightforward adoption in other underground ecosystems, where it can support the development of tailored management strategies.
... Following the closure of the tourist caves for Covid pandemic, it was possible to acquire useful information on the natural environmental of the cave, without tourism influence (tourists and lights). Usually, these data are unfortunately not recorded in cave before public opening; however, they are essential to understand the following environmental tourist impact (Calaforra et al., 2003;Cigna & Burri, 2000;Cigna & Forti, 2013). ...
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Caves are one of the most important and well-known geological features in the world, an environmental and cultural heritage, as well as an important economic resource for many countries. Their scientific and aesthetic value is often threatened by tourism, which unfortunately exposes them to a series of risks of degradation and, sometimes, irreparably changes. Therefore, the study of underground environment becomes essential in order to protect and preserve it over time. The national project “SHOWCAVE” aims to study, classify and mitigate the environmental impact in the tourist caves to finally propose useful solutions for their management. In particular, the DIATI team of the Politecnico di Torino deals with the acquisition of monitoring data of the main environmental parameters, the analysis of the speleothems corrosion and the analysis of the presence of microplastics in caves. The most advanced geomatics techniques are used to illustrate the topography of these cavities, their development relative to the surface and the studied areas. The researches have just begun, and in this work the study methodologies used and the first results obtained by our multidisciplinary research group are presented.
... The cave was visited by 5,228 more tourists compared to the previous year, but given the level of attractiveness, especially speleo-archaeological complementarities of the geosite, the number of visits should exceed 50,000 visits in order for the work of management and organizational structures of Magura Cave to be considered a significant success. All significant european show caves include more then 50,000 visits per year and the Magure cave should be included in that group (Cigna and Burri, 2000;Cigna, 2016;Cigna, 2019). ...
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Speleotourism implies visiting caves and respecting geomorphological values. A visit to the caves must include certain rules of conduct and implementation of geoethical values to achieve sustainable speleotourism development. This paper investigates the tourist traffic of an authentic cave in northwestern Bulgaria, the Magura Cave, which is a speleological object with exceptional potential for the development of speleotourism. The explored cave includes unique examples of cave paintings and imposing historical values. The research methodology mainly included descriptive analysis of data obtained by the administrative staff of the Municipality of Belogradchik. The data of tourist visits are presented in tables and graphs. The research results indicate the current state and potential prospects for the development of speleotourism in the Magura Cave. Moreover, the paper presents measures for more effective development of speleotourism, which are of special importance for organizational and cave management structures
Karst caves are widespread in Europe, especially in the Mediterranean area. Besides their purely environmental functions, they often are important tourist destinations and contribute to the so-called identity amenities or landscape beauties of a territory. In spite of their interest and tourism potential, economists have paid little attention to karst caves and their economic value. In this paper, the contingent valuation method (CVM) was applied to investigate tourists’ preferences and estimate the monetary value attributed to karst caves, and in particular to the Pradis Caves, Friuli Venezia Giulia region (Italy). 540 visitors of the area took part in a face-to-face contingent valuation survey. Mean willingness-to-pay was equal to € 5.37. When scaled up to the population, gross social benefit was estimated in about € 23 K/year. Findings suggest that the karst cave value could have a significant impact on the social welfare gains or losses, and inform the karst cave-use management debate concerning the trade-offs of developing tourism activities. The estimated values allow institutional decision makers to identify the volume of financial resources to be put into play for interventions aimed at protection and conservation of this environmental asset.
Report of 20 years of meteorological. hydrological and geochemical monitoring of Antro del Corchia cave, Tuscany (Italy).
Microorganisms colonize caves extensively, and in caves open for tourism they may cause alterations on wall surfaces. This is a major concern in caves displaying Paleolithic art, which is usually fragile and may be irremediably damaged by microbial alterations. Therefore, many caves were closed for preservation purposes, e.g. Lascaux (France), Altamira (Spain), while others were never opened to the public to avoid microbial contamination, e.g. Chauvet Cave (France), etc. The recent development of high-throughput sequencing technologies allowed several descriptions of cave microbial diversity and prompted the writing of this review, which focuses on the cave microbiome for the three domains of life (Bacteria, Archaea, microeukaryotes), the impact of tourism-related anthropization on microorganisms in Paleolithic caves, and the development of microbial alterations on the walls of these caves. This review shows that the microbial phyla prevalent in pristine caves are similar to those evidenced in water, soil, plant and metazoan microbiomes, but specificities at lower taxonomic levels remain to be clarified. Most of the data relates to Bacteria and Fungi, while other microeukaryotes and Archaea are poorly documented. Tourism may cause shifts in the microbiota of Paleolithic caves, but larger-scale investigation are required as these shifts may differ from one cave to the next. Finally, different types of alterations can occur in caves, especially in Paleolithic caves. Many microorganisms potentially involved have been identified, but diversity analyses of these alterations have not always included a comparison with neighboring unaltered zones as controls, making such associations uncertain. It is expected that omics technologies will also allow a better understanding of the functional diversities of the cave microbiome. This will be needed to decipher microbiome dynamics in response to touristic frequentation, to guide cave management, and to identify the most appropriate reclamation approaches to mitigate microbial alterations in tourist Paleolithic caves.
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Show caves play an important role in the socio-economic development of a country. A fast increase of such caves can be attributed to the increasing demand from tourists eager to observe natural features and phenomena. On the other hand, the karst environment is quite vulnerable to changes, and hence the transformation of a natural cave into a show cave must be designed, implemented, and managed with due attention to the problem of environmental protection. For this reason, the contribution of the engineering geology is instrumental. Engineering geology is particularly useful for the following activities. Environmental Impact Assessment including choice of the materials to minimise the environmental impact and to optimise the safeguard of tourists and employees; Identification and implementation of countermeasures for unstable zones in the cave; Design and construction of tourist pathways and other structures; Identification of the best light sources and their operation; Cave cleaning and maintenance (devices to supply water and to take out sewage, measures to minimise dust, and the problem of maintenance of old show caves); and Management of the surface area (planning and managing human activities in the outside area corresponding to the whole intake site for the karst system, as most of them may greatly affect the show cave environment, but, on the other hand, some of them such as parking, ticket office, and toilets are absolutely unavoidable). In the paper, the main engineering problems related to establishing and managing a show cave are presented together with practical examples from some of the main show caves in Italy and abroad.
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Tourism is a major activity in the Greek islands and more especially in the islands of North Aegean. Its development during recent decades stopped the economic and demographic decline of the area. The paper develops a framework for the appraisal of tourism's sustainability in the Greek islands, and it is concluded that the conventional tourism model, based on sun, sea and sand (3S) has failed to promote sustainability due to the limited economic benefits for host communities and growing environmental pressures, based on the theoretical scheme of the Early Warning System, the life cycle model. The latest trend in Greece and elsewhere is a shift from mass tourism to more environmentally friendly and sustainable forms of tourism. Policies to change tourism patterns in the Greek islands will need to take into consideration their unique characteristics, their existing realities, and to be based on the exploitation of the local natural and cultural resources in order to develop new forms of tourism. The purpose of this paper is to identify the early warnings of decline of the product, identify types of new forms of tourism that are being developed in the North Aegean islands and more especially on the island of Chios, and to evaluate their impact. Various practical examples are presented, together with the difficulties involved in their implementation. The initiatives are in fact so recent that it is difficult to assess their tangible results.
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Traditionally, the concept of tourist carrying capacity has been understood as a tool for planning tourism in natural areas. As such it has focused on quantifying impacts that are consistent with maintaining a specific environment. In this article tourist carrying capacity is considered from a different viewpoint in a case study of a Brazilian show cave, the Diabo cave, near Eldorado city, Sao Paulo state. In this instance decisions concerning tourism had been based primarily on the advantages that tourism could provide in maintaining economic-administrative sustainability and community support. More recently, other factors based on natural limitations have been considered in a process of participative discussion among stakeholders seeking to preserve the caves and their sustainable usage. This process led to the conclusion that the carrying capacity of the caves should be flexible, conditioned by protocols of environmental monitoring with reference to levels of demand. Such monitoring, it is hoped, will permit the adjustment of the initial cave limits as a function of changes in the patterns of consumption, local realities, and the identification of unanticipated yet unacceptable environmental impacts.
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The concept of a recognizable cycle in the evolution of tourist areas uses a basics curve to illustrate their changing popularity. Specific stages in the evolutionary sequence are described, and a range of possible future trends. The implications of using this model in the planning and management of tourist resources are discussed in the light of a continuing decline in the environmental quality and, hence, the attractiveness of many tourist areas. - Author
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State of the art in the speleological sciences
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