Theory and Practice of the development and maintenance of modern subterranean tourist attractions. A Speleologist’s point of view

This lecture tells about eight year experience of GermTec GmbH & Co KG in equipping (development and maintenance) modern subterranean tourist attractions. Here are just a few tourist attractions we equipped: Herbstlabyrinth Cave (Germany), Fundata Cave (Romania), Postojnska Jama (Slovenia), Grotte de Clamouse (France), Prometeus Cave (Georgia), Höllgrotten Cave (CH), Wendelstein Cave (Germany). We are going to talk about problems arising when operating a cave for a long time on a daily basis, as well as strategies and tactics in their solution. We are presenting tried-and-true modern technologies and equipment, which allow minimizing the harm caused by anthropic interference when operating a cave.

The objective of this presentation is to attract attention of speleological society towards the problems in running speleological tourist attractions. We would also like to present technical and technological innovations which can help to preserve show caves.

1. Introduction

Today, there are more than three thousand operating subterranean tourist attractions, located all around the world. On average, three to five new ones open to the public every year.
Due to the high demand of quality service, in modern society, show caves are very popular tourist attractions. There are plenty of people who would like to discover the wonders of an underground world. Running a show cave can be cost effective, if it is well organized, has proper infrastructure and marketing.
Subterranean tourist attractions have not been accurately classified yet. Our classification is not accurate either; this is just a relative systematization. This classification is based on the point of view of speleologists developing show caves. In our humble opinion, the human component an criterion which must be taken into consideration and which is essential for the proper planning/concept of a show cave business attraction.
The major criterion is the specific attraction

As a rule, natural vs. man-made attractions attract a different type of tourist.
As far as man-made attractions are concerned, information is of major importance. The point is to show and tell the history of the object and the role of human activity within it.
Natural subterranean attractions are aimed at presenting the underground world with its mysteries and wonders, beauty and fragility. A strong emotional impact of a show is of more importance than information provided.
The approach to equipping natural and man-made attractions differs as well. Properly functioning technical lighting is a major focus when equipping a man-made attraction. As for natural attractions, the artistic perspective is more important, because it presents the beauty of the inside surroundings to the public.Equipping and running a natural tourist attraction is a more sensitive business, which requires caution and high professionalism. Visitors must be provided with the highest comfort possible, with minimum interference of the cave ecosystem.
Today, there are more than 300 show caves in Europe alone. But, for some reason, only few of them make the public want to return again.
Let’s see what affects the contradictory perception of tourist attractions?

Idea of ‘Cave Lighting’ was born when visiting one of those caves mentioned above …

Eight years ago (in 2005) two speleologists visited some show caves in Germany. The unbelievably poor maintenance/condition of one of those caves unbelievably disappointed and upset the cave professionals. They both decided that, since show caves are extremely popular among crowds of tourists (not just speleologists), the aim should be to preserve the caves as much as possible. Visitors must have a chance to enjoy and experience the mysteries of the underground world, while experiencing maximum positive emotions and unforgettable memories without harming cave ecosystem.

 2. Methods of ‘Cave Lighting’ Project

‘Cave Lighting’ Development is eight years old now.
Project ‘Cave Lighting’ has been constantly developing:

3. Results

Project ‘Cave Lighting’ today is:

Project ‘Cave Lighting’ is:

We partially or completely upgraded/replaced outdated electrical equipment and redesigned lighting systems in the part of oldest show caves in Europe, Postojnska Jama (Slovenia) and Grotte de Clamouse (France).

In some caves we designed and installed electrical power supply systems, lighting systems, music and light systems (DMX-show) and monitoring systems. These systems were developed according to customers’ requirements (Prometeus Cave, Georgia).

Besides modern lighting and music systems, our project specialists developed unique software which integrates all of these systems into one network and allows remote controlling and if necessary, correct operation of all (something similar to a ‘smart home’ system). Höllgrotten Cave (CH), Wendelstein Cave (DE).

‘Cave Lighting’ project is constantly developing. We observe modern scientific achievements and cooperate with leading speleological organizations and associations (ISCA, Karst Institute (Postojna), speleological clubs in different countries, etc.).

We continue to perfect our equipment and promote our specialists’ self-development.

In the near future, we plan on reconstructing that cave in Germany which made such an unforgettable negative impression on the ‘Cave Lighting’ development creators eight years ago.

4. Conclusions

The objective of this presentation was to attract attention of speleological society towards the problems in running speleological tourist attractions. Speleologists and show cave owners must work hand in hand, use all discoveries in modern science and up-to-date technologies if they want to find solutions.