Using Tourism as a Tool for Sustaining Biodiversity Conservation

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Biodiversity can be rightly described as ”diversity of life on planet earth”.  It is a collection of all living things, the places, their existence. According to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Biodiversity is a key tourism asset for many developing countries worldwide. It is directly responsible for 40% of the world’s economy, particularly in sectors such as agriculture, forestry & water resources.

In many developing countries, most communities live in rural locations where their survival, their basic needs are directly based on biodiversity, natural resources, clean water and land use. These countries host the largest stock of natural resources, species and natural wonders along with a high demand of tourism attention. Biodiversity acts as a vital tool for the tourism industry. There has been an increase in tourism practices to many developing countries which are rich in biodiversity making way to national parks, mountain ecosystems and coastal beaches.  Tourists interact and take advantage of these biodiversity resources, this in return provides economic opportunities and benefits to locals for enhancing their business potential.

Tourism and its Effects

Tourism is an industry which provides employment and income opportunities to many local communities. It also provides a financial support to protected areas, national parks, various ecosystems which raise awareness to visitors and hosts, and often fewer environmental impacts than some other industries offer. On the contrary, the tourism industry consumes significant amounts of natural resources and degrades ecosystems, the cost of living for the host population increases, may also degrade local culture and sell its values where revenue earned causing massive leakage to the destination with no sustainable future.

The most common categories that divide these impacts are the ‘triple bottom line’ worldwide as people, planet and profits which are commonly known to most of us as socio-cultural, environmental and economical categories. All these categories can be positive as well as negative to the tourism industry. Conditions may differ in various circumstances / resources for these impacts.

Using the Industry as a Tool

Tourism communities, stakeholders and leaders must balance these impacts that may either improve or effect the community and the local environment. Stakeholders and leaders needs to start thinking policies that are out of the box with strength and vision.

Careful planning of tourism could potentially mitigate negative impacts to biodiversity. Tourism infrastructure development has been linked with factors associated with biodiversity loss, land destruction and climate change. Many case studies around the world have shown that tourism development kept in relation with concepts like sustainability which measures futuristic long term goals in environment, protecting nature and supporting the well being of local communities leads to a positive impact on biodiversity conservation.

The biggest focus has to be in managing tourism properly, by engaging local communities who live closest to wilderness hotspots with public / private stakeholders and government agency involvement’s. As nature based tourism has grown significantly in these past years, progress has been made by key players both in terms of tourism strategy for local area development and various stakeholders partnerships.

As tourism continues to grow and expand to new wilderness regions across the world, more grass-root actions and policies need to be in place: to safeguard these ecosystems; have sustainable economic benefits that are directly benefiting local communities; and encourage communities to see the importance of the existing biodiversity and participate in tourism as a tool for its sustainable future.

Reference: Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) & United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP)
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