March 3, 2024

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Sustainable development, eco-tourism carrying capacity and fuzzy algorithm-a study on Kanas in Belt and Road

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Based on the eco-tourism environmental data of 2018 Kanas National Nature Reserves in Xinjiang, the eco-tourism environmental carrying capacity is exemplarily processed in this paper. Kanas National Nature Reserves are awarded to national 5A scenic area. Since the first tourist was received in 1997, the tourism in Kanas has been developing at a fast pace. With the implementation of Belt and Road Initiative strategy and the approval of the World Cultural Heritage application of “Silk Road” in 2022, the tourist attractions in Xinjiang along the Silk Road are once again warming up. Xinjiang accounts for six among the 33 representative sites successfully applied for World Heritage. The once dazzling pearl on the ancient Silk Road has again been glamorous to the global tourists. At present, Kanas National Nature Reserves, one of the two leading tourist destinations in Xinjiang, have been shaped as a quality national tourism route.

Overview of the region

  1. (1)

    Nature resources

Kanas National Nature Reserves are located at the junction of four countries (Fig. 4). Kanas tourist destination is centered on Kanas Lake which changes color with seasons and weathers. It is well-known as a “Color Changing Lake”, which is dyed with trees and surrounded by soaring snow peaks and bright mountains in every autumn. The scenery is picturesque.

Figure 4
figure 4

According to the Baidu Map, the area circled in red line is Kanas National Nature Reserves. It is located in northern Xinjiang, at the junction of China, People’s Republic of Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Tuva Republic.

Kanas tourist destination, located in the hinterland of Europe and Asia with high latitude, is featured with great changes in solar altitude angle with seasons, short time of direct exposure, heat disparity, which result in warm spring and autumn without summer climate characteristics, cold winter but not dramatic. The average annual temperature is − 0.2 °C, with the annual rainfall ranging from 780 to 1114 mm. Due to the complex terrain, the difference in vertical height, and the different climatic conditions related, various soil types have been developed in Kanas region. The complex naturally geographical environment in the area has brought rich animal and plant resources into being. At present, Kanas National Nature Reserves still maintains a primitive environmental state, providing a good place for the habitat and growth of wild animals and plants.

  1. (2)

    Socio-cultural and economic conditions

The nature reserves have anciently been a nomadic area for many ethnic groups (i.e. Mongolian, Kazakh) from north, which are located in Kanas Village, Hemu Village, Baihaba Village, Tilekti village and Zibaroi, etc. Besides the tertiary industry related to tourism, the nature reserves are mainly in the line of animal husbandry and agricultural production business in small amount. In a word, the economic development level is still very low in the tourist destination.

Eco-tourism in Kanas and Belt and Road initiative

Located in the hinterland of the Eurasian continent, Xinjiang is an important channel for the exchanges between Eastern and Western civilizations, an important junction on the ancient Silk Road, and a pivotal gateway for China to open to the west. Xinjiang is a pearl on the Belt and Road plate. Its unique geographical advantages and cultural spirits are full of mysterious colors, attracting tourists to explore here. The rapid development of transportation and infrastructure has remarkably propelled the tourism development in Xinjiang. On June 16, 2022, Alar Tarim Airport, the first geological airport built in the Tarim River basin, is opened up officially. The annual passenger throughput could be expected to reach 300 thousand person-time. In 2021, Xinjiang received 191 million tourists. As a name card of Xinjiang tourism, Kanas holds the position of enhancing the brand influence of Xinjiang tourism, establishing unique regional advantages, and promoting the development of tourism markets along the Belt and Road plate.

According to the “Classification, Investigation and Evaluation of Tourism Resources” (GB/T18972-2017) of the People’s Republic of China, the tourism resources in the region are classified and summarized in line with main category, sub-category, fundamental type of tourism resources and object of tourism resources. It shows that Kanas tourist destination is endowed with 8 main categories (geomatic landscape, water landscape, biological landscape, celestial and climatic landscape, architecture and facilities, historical relics, tourist purchases, humanistic activities) and 18 sub-categories which have been exploited to varying degrees. The main tourist attractions, in variety types of nature and culture, as well as rich landscapes, are concentrated in Kanas Lake, Hemu Village, Baihaba Village. In recent years, relying on the regional advantages in ecological environment, ice and snow attractions, folk culture, Kanas tourist destination has fully achieved a rapid development for being leisure, vacational village and health preservation. By virtue of the uniquely geographical advantages of Belt and Road Initiative, Kanas tourist destination prevails in becoming an area for international ski tourism.

With the Belt and Road Initiative, Kanas National Nature Reserves have seen a tourism boom in the past decade. Statistics show that the number of tourists to Kanas in 2018 was 22.83 million, more than seven times that of 2008. Tourism revenue was 23.4 billion RMB, 18 times that of 2008. On July 23, 2019, the number of tourists in Kanas scenic spots (Kanas core scenic spots, Baihaba scenic spots and Hemu scenic spots) exceeded 10 thousand a day, more than 20 days earlier than that in 201861. The two peak tourist seasons in Kanas are generally during July to September in summer and the ski season from October to March of the following year. In recent years, with the entertaining and leisure facilities in Kanas getting further developed and improved, the peak tourist seasons are promisingly extended. At the same time, Kanas has also prompted its marketing and promotions, especially the hit of the variety entertainment program named “See You Again” in collaboration with a well-known Internet Video Platform in 2021.Kanas has become one of the tourist destinations that many young people most yearn for. This program, which was being filmed in Hemu scenic area and Kanas Lake scenic area, invited three celebrity couples with relationship problems to embark on an 18-day trip to Kanas. The audiences marvel at the magnificent and vast natural scenery as well as the exotic culture offered by Kanas, as a “fairyland on earth”, with the snow-capped peaks that never melt all the year round, the blue lake in the dense forest, and the arcadia-like villages. On July 9, 2022, even though the epidemic has not yet ended, with the aid of the local Corban Festival in Xinjiang, the average daily number of visitors to Kanas tourist attractions has surpassed 30 thousand, setting a new record for single-day tourist reception in recent years62. The 2023 Spring Festival marked the first tourism outbreak in China after the end of the epidemic in the past 3 years. On January 25, 2023, the three major ski resorts of Jungshan International Ski Resort in Altay City, Kokotohai International Ski Resort and Hemu (Jikepulin) International Ski Resort received a single-day high of 15 thousand tourists for sightseeing and skiing63.

Environmental protection objectives for Kanas eco-tourism development

In compliance with the regulations pertinent to the classification and protection goals from the Ministry of Ecology and Environment of the People’s Republic of China, Kanas National Nature Reserves and Kanas tourist destination are functionally categorized into Grade I by the “Air Environmental Quality Guidelines” (GB3095-2012), while Kanas Lake is functionally classified into Grade I in line with the “Environmental Quality Guidelines for Surface Water” (GB 3838-2002).

The computing process of Kanas eco-tourism environmental carrying capacity

In combination of general situations of eco-tourism development, as well as the uniquely natural, social, economic characteristics in Kanas tourist destination, the daily carrying capacity of spatial resource, ecological environment and economic environment in 2018 are obtained by applying related formulas and barrel theory. In the analysis of local history and reality, the daily carrying capacities of people’s psychological and socio-cultural environment are emerged64. Therefore, based on the calculation and analysis, the vectors S1/S2/S3 corresponding to the saturated/optimal/deficient standard patterns are determined. Then, the threshold vector Smax consequently comes out given by the following formula,

$$ \textThreshold\,\textCarrying\,\textCapacity = \textSuitable\,\textCarrying\,\textCapacity \times 120\%^64 . $$

Since the consultation from the assessment group is not available so far, the threshold acquired by the above formula might be unreasonably less than the correspondingly numerical value regarding the saturated standard pattern. Hence, an appropriate amendment is made in this paper as follows,

$$ c_i\textmax = c_i1 \times 110\% $$

Kanas Lake is the main scenic spot of Kanas tourist attractions (Fig. 5) The touring routes to the Xiahukou Scenic Spot are verifiably pivotal to the threshold by calculating the spatial resource capacity of the Kanas Lake (Lake landscapes, Xiahukou Scenic Spot, Kanas Village). The daily carrying capacity of spatial resource is ascertained as follows,

$$ \beginaligned &c_11 = 5789\,\textperson – time/\textday, c_12 = 4728\,\textperson – time/\textday, c_13 = 4070\,\textperson – time/\textday, \hfill \\ &c_\text1max = 6368\,\textperson – time/\textday \hfill \\ \endaligned $$

Figure 5
figure 5

Touring routes of Kanas tourist attractions and main scenic spots (Kanas Lake, Hemu Villiage, Burzin, all marked in red) are displayed. Jiadengyu (marked in blue) is the entrance of the main scenic spots.

The ecological environment carrying capacity is constraining to the daily sewage treatment capacity. The maximum daily wastewater effluent of Kanas tourist destination is 590.50 m3/day. Sewage treatment capacity reaches 413.35 m3/day, given the sewage treatment rate as high as 70%, due to the continuous improvement of the drainage facilities64. The following can be deduced from this,

$$ c_21 = 590.50\,\textm^3 /\textday, c_22 = 413.35\,\textm^3 /\textday, c_23 = 177.15\;\textm^3 /\textday, c_\text2max = 649.55\,\textm^3 /\textday $$

The daily accommodation capacity of tourist reception, composed of limited number of wooden homes and yurts outsourced by the individual enterprises, in addition to 3000 beds in different scale and grading, goes up to about 4000 beds63. The following data rises in response,

$$ c_31 = 4000\,\textbeds, c_32 = 3200\,\textbeds, c_33 = 3000\,\textbeds, c_\text3max = 4400\,\textbeds $$

800 indigenous people and 1200 Hemu villagers, currently home in the main communities, are mostly nomadic people. The Tuva culture (i.e. the life style, religion, ritual activities) is the most distinctive folk custom featuring an atmosphere of antiquity and simplicity64. With the opening of family hotels and start-ups from the residents due to the rise of tourism, most of the Tuvas have being greatly improved their living conditions. The psychological carrying capacity of residents who are engaged in tourism as service or management personnel is conceivably close to infinite64. The 3-dimensional correlational vectors as following are generated by all accounts,

$$ S_1 = (5789,590.50,4000) $$

$$ S_2 = (4728,413.35,3200) $$

$$ S_3 = (4070,177.15,3000) $$

$$ S_\textmax = (6368,649.55,4400) $$

From 2011 to 2015, the number of tourists in Kanas has been massively increasing. In the peak season of 2018, the average number of arrivals soared to about 4000 person-time/day, and 6500 person-time/day for the rush hours64. Accordingly, the carrying capacity of spatial resource = (4000 + 6500) ÷ 2 = 5250 person-time/day; the sewage treatment rate = 80%, the carrying capacity of ecological environment = 472.4 m3/day; the carrying capacity of economic environment = 4000 beds; and people’s psychological capacity and socio-cultural capacity need not be discussed. Therefore, the actual state vector S0 in 2018 is,

$$ S_0 = (5250,472.4,4000) $$

which is input into formula (6). The following membership vectors of the three standard patterns and the actual state membership vector are output in consequence,

$$ S_1^* = (0.3530,0.2500,0.3333) $$

$$ S_2^* = (1,1,1) $$

$$ S_3^* = (0.5988,0,0.8333) $$

$$ S_0^* = (0.8220,0.7756,0.3333) $$

According to formula (1), the lattice degrees of proximity between S0* and S1*/S2*/S3* is respectively calculated as follows,

$$ N\left( S_0^* ,S_1^* \right) = \frac12\left[ 0.3530 + \left( 1 – 0.3333 \right) \right] \doteq 0.5099 $$

$$ N\left( S_0^* ,S_2^* \right) = \frac12\left[ 0.820 + \left( 1 – 1 \right) \right] = 0.4100 $$

$$ N\left( S_0^* ,S_3^* \right) = \frac12\left[ 0.5988 + \left( 1 – 0.7756 \right) \right] = 0.4116 $$

In accordance with the evaluation matrix of formula (9), the indirect method of fuzzy pattern recognition is adopted to assess the actual state of eco-tourism environmental carrying capacity of Kanas tourist destination in 2018,

$$ N(S_0^* ,S_1^* ) = \textmax\{ N(S_0^* ,S_1^* ),N(S_0^* ,S_2^* ),N(S_0^* ,S_3^* )\} $$

which illustrates that Kanas tourist destination is most approximate to or categorized into the saturated standard pattern, indicating that the tourism attractions are being overdeveloped right now in terms of the carrying capacities of spatial resource and ecological environment, which should be paid attention by the tourism monitoring authorities and operators.

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