Biodiversity and sustainable tourism

Two workers wearing safty helmets cleaning solar panels on a rooftop

Capisaan cave in Nueva Vizcaya province in the Philippines; Photo: Berthold Schirm

The International Day for Biodiversity is being held this year on 22 May under the heading ‘Biodiversity and sustainable tourism’. With this event, the United Nations is shaping the agenda in the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

Biodiverse and intact ecosystems form a key foundation for many areas of the tourism economy. If this sector recognises the great importance of attractive landscapes and rich biodiversity, it underpins political and economic arguments for preserving biological diversity. Likewise, many of the topics addressed in the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) directly impact the tourism sector. The revenues from a sustainably structured, environmentally sound tourism sector can make a significant contribution to protecting and preserving endangered wild animal populations and to the sustainable use of biological resources.

Sustainable tourism is also addressed by many projects being carried out under the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB). These involve activities that aim to create additional income for local communities. Such alternative sources of income can help reduce the pressure on natural resources, for example wood or fish, and finance measures to protect and conserve biodiversity.

One IKI project in the Mexican Gulf of California, for example, is helping train managers, technical personnel and tourism service providers in nature conservation areas. The intention is to maximise the social, environmental and economic advantages of leisure and tourism activities in these nature conservation areas. The project also aims to reduce the negative impacts of tourism on oceanic and coastal biodiversity.

In the Philippines, an IKI project is working with ministries, authorities and municipalities to draw up management plans for protected areas. Nueva Vizcaya province is home to the unique Capisaan Cave ecosystem, and the municipality advocates the protection and conservation of these caves in its management plan. One area is open to tourists, while other areas can only be accessed by scientists. The region is difficult to reach, so tourists lodge in simple homestays alongside members of the community. The local inhabitants are also being trained as tour guides. These two measures provide alternative sources of income for the local population.

Boosting local eco-tourism was also the focus of an IKI project in the Ethiopian Kafa Biosphere Reserve. The project carried out training measures with the local communities geared towards the long-term maintenance of the tourism infrastructure, such as community-based guest houses. In addition, more than 400 tour operators, tourism authorities and biosphere reserves run under the auspices of UNESCO and partner organisations participated in an eco-tourism event to support the promotion of the Kafa Biosphere Reserve in Addis Ababa.

Through the IKI, BMUB has provided around EUR 750 million in funding so far for 160 biodiversity projects to support partner countries in implementing the CBD Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020.

The International Day for Biological Diversity is an initiative of the United Nations to commemorate the adoption of the text of the Convention on 22 May 1992 by the Nairobi Final Act of the Conference for the Adoption of the Agreed Text of the Convention on Biological Diversity. In order to preserve the unique wealth of ecosystems, species and genetic diversity on our Earth, the United Nations declared 2011–20 the UN Decade on Biodiversity.