Aso City grasslands are the largest in Japan and are a cultural heritage handed down between people and nature for around 13,000; they are now at risk. The grassland has decreased by 241 ha over the past five years, and activities by rural communities and the number of grazing animals vital for grassland maintenance are also rapidly dwindling. A sustainable model was created, guided by a GSTC training program to bring together local stakeholders to help find solutions on how to develop and support sustainable tourism. Guidelines were formulated for conserving and utilising grasslands to ensure all parties agreed on medium- to long-term actions. A unique Aso traditional culture activity called ‘Kusadomari’ was brought back to life. The Kusadormari huts are 100% biodegradable, and with strict compliance with the formulated guidelines, they are now successfully used by tourists. In addition, six environmentally friendly lodging facilities were renovated to encourage and enable longer stays among visitors.
Furthermore, small buses are now in operation at sightseeing spots to encourage a reduction in private cars. This sustainable model has enhanced the symbolic relationship between people and the grasslands and increased the local stakeholder’s awareness of the importance of preserving the grasslands and gaining a deeper understanding of sustainability. The fees earned from tourists staying and experiencing grassland life can successfully fund grassland conservation.
Keywords: Destination Management Policy or Strategy, Tourism Action Plan, Nature conservation, Tourism impacts on nature, Natural resource protection, Community involvement in planning, Resident engagement and feedback, Stakeholder contributions, Inhabitant satisfaction, Monitoring economic impacts, Supporting local entrepreneurs, Promoting local tourism employment, Promoting sustainability among enterprises, Sustainability standards Ecotourism, Developing sustainable tourism tourism product development, agriculture, declining population, sustainable tourism content, grasslands, use and protection of natural assets