Tourism can benefit wetland conservation

Many wetlands are prime locations for tourism. Consequently, tourism has contributed, and continues to contribute, to a growing awareness of the value of nature in general and wetlands in particular. In this way tourism can create public support for the conservation of wetlands.

The development of tourism can also be a way to make wetlands economically viable, and can provide employment and income for local people.

Moreover, some wetland sites have been able to raise considerable funds directly from tourism. Some of the mechanisms used to raise such funds are discussed below.

Tourism is growing rapidly, and the regions that are facing the greatest growth are in developing countries with high levels of biodiversity. Unfortunately, many conservation organizations have inadequate funds to respond properly to the demands of tourism and wetland conservation.

Clearly, wetlands provide society with a range of essential services, and these services should be recognised by some form of public financing. However, as this is not always possible, managers need to be inventive in raising funds, and tourism is a promising source of such revenue.

The main methods used by protected areas to raise funds for nature conservation:

  • Entrance fees: fees charged per person or per vehicle, or a combination of both, for entrance and access to wetland areas;
  • User fees: fees charged to visitors for undertaking specific recreational activities or for the use of specialised facilities within wetland areas, subject to compliance with the area’s regulations (e.g. for parking, camping, fishing, hunting, boating, diving, sports, photography etc.);
  • Concessions and leases: contracts between managers of wetland areas and business or individuals under which the businesses or individuals are permitted to operate within the wetland area;
  • Direct operation of commercial activities: provision of commercial goods and services (such as accommodation, guiding, specialised rental equipment, food sales or merchandising of clothing, crafts and souvenirs, for example);
  • Taxes: levies on certain goods, services or transactions that provide funds for national or local governments, and that, in this case, are used to support the conservation of wetland areas;
  • Volunteers and donations: volunteers are persons who offer their services to a wetland area of their own free will and without payment (except, in some cases, to cover their basic living expenses); donations are gifts or money, or in some cases goods and services, that are donated to support the conservation of wetland areas.

Clearly, as wetland areas rely increasingly on income from tourism to pay for conservation initiatives, local communities often have to compete with conservation projects for revenues.

The challenge is to direct a substantial proportion of the income earned through these means to community/local poverty reduction projects.

Conservation could do more to address poverty reduction, as poverty alleviation also can lead to improved conservation outcomes. When commercial operations are being developed, local people living within or around the areas should be involved, in order to bring jobs and income to the community.

This is the second in a series of posts that will discuss the complex relations between wetlands, poverty reduction and sustainable tourism development.

Contact Lorton Consulting about your specific tourism planning, environmental and community involvement needs — together with our specialist associates we would welcome the opportunity to advise you and work with you to achieve sustainable outcomes.

With acknowledgement to Wetlands International, RAMSAR and IUCN.

Wetlands International’s mission is “to sustain and restore wetlands, their resources and biodiversity”. Visit the Wetlands International website


  1. Makanaga bay on lake Victoria Uganda could be a good example with a UWEC and the communities.

Leave a Reply