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Unveiling the Potential of Technology to Enhance the Experience in Protected Areas

Since 2018, we have been working with digital technology as a tool to enhance the visitor experience in protected natural areas through the development of our BoRa app. In this FubáZINE, we will share our insights on this topic and present possibilities for your space to harness the potential of technology without losing the essence of direct contact with nature.

Firstly, it's important to emphasize that, for us, technology is not an end in itself. It helps us promote fun, educational, and accessible experiences for more visitors, fostering public use and biodiversity conservation.

That said, one of the great potentials of digital technology is scalability. In ecotourism spaces, digital technology enables the simultaneous provision of high-quality information and content to thousands of people.

The Iguaçu National Park is a prime example of this. The park is one of the most visited in Brazil and welcomes thousands of visitors daily. There, our BoRa app has assisted the park's team in serving schools and tourists, introducing them to the Legend of the Falls, the new Canafístula Trail, and the School Park Trail. Tourists can also navigate the park more easily with the app's maps and easily find services and facilities such as cafeterias and bathrooms.

Woman in front of a sign with a cellphone in hand. In the background, trees and grass are visible.
Woman in front of a sign with a cellphone in hand. In the background, trees and grass are visible.

Another crucial point for us is expanding access to tourist information and educational content. After all, everyone has the right to learn about our biodiversity. The BoRa Iguaçu National Park allows people with various disabilities to connect with the Atlantic Forest and the beauty of the Falls through image descriptions, videos in Brazilian Sign Language (Libras), accessible route indications, and a user interface based on universal design. This is not to mention tourists from other countries who also have access to content in English and Spanish.

Engaging in environmental communication with local communities and visitors has always been a significant challenge for protected natural areas. Many people are unaware of these areas, don't know they can visit, or, even if they visit, don't understand the role of the area in research and conservation.

Technology also facilitates this communication with the public since digital interactivity is one of the most prominent features of our current world. In BoRa app, we send notifications to app users, informing them, for example, when the Onças do Iguaçu Project needs to close a trail for fieldwork. Besides providing useful information, the notification also raises visibility for this research and conservation project in the park. There is also space to promote contact information for tour guides, hotels, and other local businesses.

Woman in front of the Iguaçu Falls. She holds the cellphone with one hand and touches the cellphone screen with the other hand. She is leaning on a safety railing.
Woman in front of the Iguaçu Falls. She holds the cellphone with one hand and touches the cellphone screen with the other hand. She is leaning on a safety railing.

Moreover, people can get to know the park from a distance, gaining a better understanding and appreciation of the role of protected natural areas. This virtual visit also captures the attention of people who have never been to the location or have visited and want to return. We always receive feedback about our BoRa apps along the lines of "It makes me want to visit" or "I miss this place."

Finally, the ability to monitor public use to improve planning, assess infrastructure needs, evaluate risks, among other relevant information, is also facilitated by digital technology. With GPS, we can determine the days and times when the area receives the most visitors, which areas within the park are the most sought after, and which are rarely visited. The app also allows for analyzing visitor profiles and sending satisfaction surveys, polls, or any other relevant questions for area management.

These are some of our experiences with the use of digital technology in ecotourism, leisure, and education spaces that receive visitors. Trends in future technology indicate that our daily lives will become increasingly FIGITAL, which combines physical and digital elements. We like this idea because it values the direct experience of nature while harnessing the benefits of the digital world.

Have you ever thought about the future of public use in protected natural areas?

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