Planagumà, L.; Martí, J. Geotourism at the Natural Park of La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone (Catalonia, Spain): Impact, Viability, and Sustainability. Geosciences 2018, 8, 295.
La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone is a suitable case study to analyze the impact and sustainability of geotourism on a protected volcanic field, as it has allowed the transformation of a poorly known territory into one of the best known and most visited geosites of Catalonia (Spain). The protection of this volcanic area represented the end of legal and illegal quarrying activities that significantly damaged most of its volcanoes, but also provided an opportunity to develop the zone for tourism. We compiled the available information from its establishment in 1982 as a natural park by the Catalan Government to the present day, in order to analyze the socio-economic impact of geotourism on this protected area and its surroundings. We paid attention to its evolution in terms of the number of visitors, the social and economic consequences that this type of tourism has had, and whether it is compatible with the conservation of natural assets, especially geological ones. We also studied the role that the co-management of the protected space by local administrations and private entities has had on its sustainability. The results obtained are relevant to visualizing the viability of geotourism in a protected area by combining the economic drive and the conservation of natural assets. Spaces such as La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone represent natural laboratories where we can observe the success of the application of environmentally friendly policies with a positive socioeconomic impact on geotourism.