Involving the Tourism Sector in Biodiversity Conservation Planning

Sustainable tourism has the capability of being a feasible tool for biodiversity conservation by providing economic alternatives for communities to engage in other than destructive livelihood activities, creating new revenue streams to support conservation through user fee systems and other mechanisms, and building constituencies that support conservation priorities by exposing tourists, communities, and governments to the value of protecting unique natural ecosystems.

In every case, tourism should pay attention to the “triple bottom line”: economic, environmental and social factors must be attended to simultaneously. This implies the need for integrated management and the adoption of an ecosystem approach.

Continuous management of tourism is just as important as proper planning and development. It is imperative to provide incentives for the wide range application of environmental management systems. The only viable relationship between tourism and nature conservation is a symbiotic one. It is not enough to have a situation of coexistence and certainly nobody benefits from a conflictive relationship. Tourism management needs to form part of biodiversity management planning.

The allocation of land uses must be carefully coordinated and inappropriate activities that damage ecosystems should be strictly regulated. This may be done only by strengthening and developing integrated policies and management that cover all socio-economic activities in the different ecosystems, including terrestrial, coastal and marine zones. Management solutions are also needed for simple, but persistent, problems such as litter.

It must be emphasised that enjoyment of biodiversity and natural areas is not only for rich foreigners, but for all national inhabitants. Ecotourism is made up of visitation by both national and international tourists. The former component is usually more sustainable than the latter if a sufficient standard of living exists in the country (i.e. domestic tourists possess the financial means to visit, and consequently support, protected areas).

The different sectors must understand the tourism market for cultural and natural heritage products, and how this is linked to tourism’s ability to support conservation through product demand. Understanding the experiences and products tourists are looking for, enables protected area managers to tailor certain aspects of the destination for the desired type of tourist. Accurately forecasting the amount of anticipated visitors enables planners to lobby for and develop sufficient infrastructure.

Selected protected areas (including World Heritage Sites and other areas with international protection status) should be promoted as ecotourism destinations for their biodiversity values, in those cases where tourism is allowed by their management plans.

It is important to demonstrate how the private sector can implement environmental management plans, using low cost methods first, and then use any left over money to retrofit, making the tourism facility more sustainable. It is necessary to show the large hotel chains that environmental management brings a profit. Using environmentally friendly techniques saves money for hotels and all other tourism service providers.


  • Apply integrated management methods, within the framework of an ecosystems approach, that cover all socio-economic activities in an area, including tourism.
  • Promote the benefits of conservation to the different fields of human activity, including tourism ­– “conservation is profitable!”
  • Maximise socio-economic and environmental benefits from tourism and minimise its adverse effects, through effective coordination and management of sustainable, integrated development.
  • Use integrated management approaches to carry out restoration programmes effectively in areas that have been damaged or degraded by past activities.
  • Promote biodiversity conservation training for tour guides carried out by conservation organisations
  • Promote exchange of information: invite biodiversity specialists to tourism meetings and tourism operators to biodiversity conservation meetings.
  • Promote tourism activities as conservation activities within the wider conservation framework.
  • Apply management tools to reduce the negative impacts of mass tourism. Environmental management systems for all types of hotels should be encouraged and/or enforced. Include environmental management into all aspects of the tourism sector.

Lorton Consulting has extensive experience in planning tourism in protected and sensitive areas where integrated management and the adoption of an ecosystem approach is the obvious solution. If you need professional input for your project to maximise tourism’s ability to support conservation, contact us now.


  1. Hi

    nice post. In fact we are trying to setup something conceptually similar on the Venice (Italy) mainland, by using cycle tourism as a lever of sustainable development. We invite enterprises, bodies and associations in the food&wine, culture, natural heritage, accommodation, bike sector to network so as to deliver higher quality touristic services in a integrated way

    Thanks for inspiration, I follow you on twitter

    Good luck


    Manfredi Vale, PhD Environmental Sciences

    Aghetera Ambiente & Sviluppo
    San Polo 3082/C
    30125 Venezia (VE) – Italy
    T +39 041 740956
    F +39 041 0991509
    M +39 328 5828251

    • Darryl Lombard

      Thanks Manfredi. Happy that you found the post useful. Like that you are using cycle tourism as a lever for sustainable tourism!

  2. Pat HAYES

    Thanks. Eco-heritage has been my goal for 25 yrs. it ain’t easy with small Island communities. Your ideas will be shared and I thank u. Every place has unique a culture and geography. Twitter is great. Kelleys Island Obio in the Great Lake Erie.

    • Darryl Lombard

      Thanks Pat. Happy that you found the post useful!


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