Uses of and Impacts on Biodiversity
What you Can Do
International Tourism and Tour Operators
Tourism is one of the world’s fastest growing sectors. Currently
over 200 million people work in the industry, representing 11% of
global GDP. The number of international tourists is expected to
double by 2020, reaching around 1.5 billion arrivals- nearly half
of these visiting Europe!
Over the last decade, nature and adventure travel has emerged as
one of the fastest-growing segments of the industry. Much of this
growth is taking place in biodiversity hotspots, areas harbouring
many species unique to that region, where tourism represents both
opportunities for and threats to biodiversity conservation.
In the UK, the striking beauty of the Lake District, dramatic cliffs
of the North Devon Coast, rugged Welsh hills, and the wilderness
of Scotland provide a diversity of landscapes and biodiversity.
Additionally, gardens, parks, and historical sites in villages,
towns and cities harbour biodiversity, forming part of the natural
heritage of the UK.
These attractions contribute to making tourism one of the UK’s
largest industries, worth around £75 million, and attracting
over 180 million visitors in 2002.
Uses of and Impacts on Biodiversity
In England, two out of every three adults will visit the countryside
each year, taking part in activities ranging from walking or cycling
to sight-seeing and dining. During their visits, tourists benefit
from biodiversity in many ways:
- From the hills of Cumbria to the Yorkshire Moors, the Brecon
Beacons to the Cornish coastline, the views and open spaces
are also home to a host of species of plants and animals, many
of which are unique to this part of the world. The British coastline
is enjoyed by families, surfers and boaters alike – and
is home to marine biodiversity, much of which we still know
very little about!
- Many of these natural sites are located in or near specially
designated natural areas such as SSSIs or National Parks.
- Many natural areas are responsible not only for nice views,
but play a critical role in water purification and, influencing
weather and climate. Wetlands where reeds and marsh marigold
are found and many bird species feed and nest are especially
important for water purification. Forests are home to wildlife
and play a crucial role in regulating climate through carbon
sequestration and providing a buffer against wind.
- Forests and hillsides are a source of building materials,
such as wood and aggregates, used in constructing hotels, roads
and other facilities supporting tourism.
- The countryside is also the source of most consumables such
as food, drink and souvenirs which tourists buy.
In enjoying the products of biodiversity, the tourism industry
impacts wildlife, plants and habitats. Damaging these natural resources
is not only detrimental to the biodiversity of the world, but to
the tourism industry itself. The industry’s complexity, with
a large number of small and independent players engaged directly
with tourism, or indirectly as suppliers and manufacturers of goods
consumed by the industry, means that negative effects of tourism
can also have far-reaching consequences for the wider economy.
What you Can Do
The success of tourism depends on a healthy and attractive environment,
which businesses operating within the sector can contribute to.
Some areas of action for the tourism industry are listed below.
Planning for Action
A Biodiversity Action Plan can
help you decide on your conservation priorities, and how to manage
and monitor activities. The Earthwatch publication Business
& Biodiversity- Site Biodiversity Action Plans provides
a general framework that companies can follow to identify impacts,
plan for action, and contact other organisations that can help with
biodiversity expertise. By adopting a planned approach you will
be able to monitor and track your progress, and gain recognition
for your actions.
Enhancing biodiversity on your site
Whether you run a small bed and breakfast or a large recreational
facility such as a campground or golf course, your business can
help encourage biodiversity by planting trees, shrubs, flowers or
grasses; developing and maintaining ponds or wetlands; or erecting
bird or owl boxes in your grounds. For further information click
Reviewing your purchasing strategy
Every business consumes products and services supplied by other
businesses. By managing what you buy, how you use products and how
you dispose of waste you can improve your own, and other companies
biodiversity performance. For further information click here.
Managing your environmental impacts
Reviewing and managing your overall environmental performance also
benefits biodiversity and can help reduce your costs. For instance,
the energy used to heat and light accommodation will come from the
power generation industry. Conserving energy reduces CO2 emissions,
considered responsible for increased rates of climate change, which
is having adverse impacts on species, habitats and ecosystems. Recycling
and waste reduction reduces the amount of landfill and potentially
increases the amount of space, which can be left for natural habitat
Tourism providers will be asked to recommend or refer visitors to
other attractions. Providing for services or goods that contribute
positively to biodiversity conservation can bring visitors closer
to wildlife. You can widen the potential for low impact tourism,
and help people to make links between their own environment, lives
and communities. Many people’s interests in wildlife watching
and conservation arise as a direct result of the experience they
receive from recreational activities and can lead them to begin
acting responsibly in respect of the environment as well as coming
back for more of the experience.
Working with others
For many smaller tourism businesses linking up with forums such
as the Tourism
and Environment Forum or local sustainable business forums can
be a good way to spread the word about what you are doing and attract
new customers. Such networks are also valuable sources of current
information about new opportunities, grants, trends and regulations.
Promoting your biodiversity actions
Informing visitors of your own biodiversity activities can directly
benefit your business by increasing customers and revenues. For
many tourism organisations, one way to do this is through linking
with an award scheme, such as the Green
Tourism Award. Your business may receive acknowledgement
that could be of promotional use. Some biodiversity initiatives
could also qualify for funding.
International Tourism and Tour Operators
Tourism is a global business and tour operators
in the UK play a central role in the tourism industry, acting as
intermediates between tourists and tourism service suppliers in
different countries. These ‘holiday packages’ and tourism
activities can impact on biodiversity directly through activities
such as, resource consumption, pollution and generation of wastes
in the host countries.
Integrating sustainability into the tour operators’ policies
can help reduce these environmental impacts, strengthen a tour operator’s
brand value and reputation with consumers, build better relationships
with staff and local communities which in turn limits the risk of
conflicts and increases shareholder value. Sustainability can be
integrated in many ways which The
Tour Operators' Initiative for Sustainable Tourism Development
has broken it down into 5 key areas:
• Internal Management: The company itself can account for
it’s management and environmental policies. Office supplies,
heating etc could be recycled and economical. Site landholdings
can be managed to improve the biodiversity, see Site
Biodiversity Action Plans.
• Product development and management: Tours and holiday
packages can be selected and promoted that minimise environmental,
economic and social impacts
• Contracting with suppliers: Suppliers in different countries
could be asked provide a description of their operational performance
and management systems in order to co-align their environmental
policies with that of the companies
• Customer relations: Providing customers with information
on responsible behaviour and sustainability issues at their destinations
will reduce their impacts on biodiversity.
• Relations with Destinations: Incorporating stakeholders
in destination locations can help to address specific biodiversity
The Tour Operators' Initiative
was created in 2000 by a small group of tour operators from different
parts of the world. The initiative is voluntary, non-profit and
open to all tour operators. Members are committed to integrating
sustainability into their business practices and working together
to educate each other on methods and practices compatible with sustainable
Good biodiversity management is good business for tourism companies.
Through contributing to the conservation of biodiversity, tourism
companies can improve the quality of the service or product provided,
enhance their reputation, increase recognition, publicise themselves,
save on costs and increase their income. Significantly, you can
contribute towards making tourism sustainable and guaranteeing the
livelihoods of people who work within or benefit from the tourism
industry now and in the future.
Click here to see case studies
from the tourism sector
Tourism Business Scheme is an accreditation scheme for tourism
businesses relating to environmental good practice.
Tourism Council and the Countryside Agency are working together
with a view to developing a national sustainable tourism accreditation
Awards are awards to parks, which are making real achievements
in protecting the UK environment.
Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Award recognises and encourages
sustainable tourism initiatives across the globe.
21 is a sustainable travel and tourism benchmark and certification
program, for use by consumers, companies and communities.
on Biodiversity and Tourism development - Sectretariat of the
Convention on Biological Diversity
and Biodiversity Mapping UNEP Report. Report on tourism and
biodiversity highlighting threats and opportunities for the world’s
largest global industry.
Earthwatch’s Sustainable Tourism leaflet available in publications
to Green Foundation provides information about environmental
aspects of sports. The Foundation has published guidelines for organising
sports and golf events in environmentally responsible ways.
Centre for Responsible Tourism provides research and resources
on responsible tourism.
and Environment Forum is a partnership of public and private
organisations set up to promote sustainable tourism in Scotland.
They recognise that the environment is the Scottish tourism industry's
main asset and are working to ensure that both tourism and the environment
are well managed.
Audit Kit is a self-help kit for small tourism enterprises that
contains tried and tested practical ideas to help tourism businesses
benefit from operating their businesses in a sustainable manner.
Association brings together hotels interested in environmental
provides statistics and research on tourism.
Nature Tourism Sector Analysis explains the ways in which tourism,
recreation and access businesses and industry impact on nature conservation.
Hotels Environment Initiative (IHEI) promotes the benefits of
environmental management as an integral part of running a successful,
efficient hotel business.
Operators' Initiative for Sustainable Tourism Development develops
and implements tools or experience to design and conduct tours that
minimise negative environmental, social and economic impacts while
Photo Credit: Will Wain/Bryn Maen Bed
and Breakfast, Ir Booth - Coral Reefs