Tourism partnerships and concessions in protected areas: Cooperating for success


The Convention on Biological Diversity has been addressing the area of biodiversity and tourism development since 2004. In 2004, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention adopted Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development (2004) and subsequently the Secretariat prepared two user manuals: ‘Managing tourism and biodiversity’ (2007), and ‘Tourism supporting biodiversity’ (2015).

A report presented to the Conference of the Parties at its 11th meeting in 2012 concluded that the tourism sector is the largest global market-based contributor to financing protected area systems in many countries, through entrance and other user fees, partnerships and concessions. However, the report noted that many Parties to the Convention underutilise tourism as a means to contribute towards the financial sustainability of protected areas. The present guidelines on tourism partnerships and concessions for protected areas have been developed to assist Parties in addressing this under-utilized potential in response to a recent decision by the Parties on tourism, inviting Parties to “. . . build the capacity of park agencies to engage in partnerships with the tourism industry to contribute financially and technically to protected areas through tools such as concessions, public-private partnerships” (decision XII/2).

The Biodiversity Secretariat is working with IUCN’s Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group (TAPAS Group), a globally recognized network of over 400 experts within the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), to design relevant capacity building activities in this area. With generous financial support of the Governments of Germany and the Republic of Korea, an initiative managed by IUCN and implemented by members of the TAPAS Group is underway focused on the following:

Guidelines cover

  • Development of guidelines on tourism concessions and partnerships for protected area authorities, to provide information to support protected area authorities in their development and use of tourism partnerships and concessioning to contribute financially and technically to protected areas through sustainable tourism. These build on previous relevant work, including initiatives of the TAPAS Group, the World Bank Group, UNDP and GIZ.
    • These guidelines have been drafted, and a review copy is available here until 2 June 2017.
  • Development of capacity for staff of protected area authorities and the relevant ministries working on tourism and concessions, through participation in networking and training workshops. Regional technical support will be provided in this process by the iSimanagaliso Wetland Park Authority. These meetings will provide opportunity for practitioners from 10 southern African countries to meet, debate, and learn from one another.
    • Three meetings will be held in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa (29 May – 3 June), Windhoek, Namibia, hosted by MET (20-21 June), and Maputo, Mozambique, hosted by ANAC (27-28 June)
  • Promotion of technical and scientific cooperation among counterpart agencies in various countries on the development of tourism concessions policies within national park systems.

For more information about this initiative, please contact Dr Anna Spenceley, Chair of the IUCN WCPA TAPAS Group, on

Operational Guidelines for Community-Based Tourism in South Africa

Authors: Anna Spenceley, Andrew Rylance, Sadia Nanabhay and Heidi van der Watt
Developers: EDGE Tourism Solutions
Publisher: Department of Tourism, Republic of South Africa

The role of communities in tourism in South Africa is strongly emphasised in a series of national policies and instruments that were established over the past two decades. For example, the 1996 White Paper on the Development and Promotion of Tourism Development in South Africa stressed that communities were expected to play a vital role in tourism development. The ground-breaking policy called on communities to identify potential tourism resources and attractions, to use them as a basis for exploring tourism development opportunities, and to seek partnership opportunities with the private sector, while supporting and promoting responsible tourism and sustainable development. In 2002, the National Responsible Tourism Development Guidelines for South Africa re-affirmed the White Paper’s call, and further stressed that communities should establish new and complementary products for the formal tourism sector, and that visitors should be encouraged to spend more money in the local economy. However, the guidelines stress that potential adverse social impacts from tourism should be monitored and minimised, and that local cultures should be protected from over-commercialisation and over-exploitation.

CBT Guidelines SA coverThese guidelines are the product of collaboration between the NDT and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to develop Operational Guidelines for Community-based Tourism (CBT),.

What are the guidelines?

The guidelines describe a step-by-step approach to developing a community-based tourism venture. They cover all stages of the process, from venture design to operation. The precise approach taken in any individual case, will of course, vary. However, following these guidelines will maximise the chances of success in your chosen CBT venture.

What is the purpose of the guide?

The guide is not a technical manual or a detailed toolkit and reading it will not make you an expert in community- based tourism. However, the guide does help create an understanding of community-based tourism and provides basic guidance to help establish and operate commercially viable community-based tourism ventures in South Africa, in both urban and rural areas. The guide also provides examples of good practice; highlights the challenges to community-based tourism and provides links to more detailed resources.

Who should use the guide?

The guide is intended to be used by organisations that develop community-based tourism ventures, but can also be used by individuals and groups that have an interest in community-based tourism or are already involved in community development. It is aimed at:

  • Government departments and support agencies that implement community-based tourism
  • Private sector operators interested in partnering with communities or adjusting their operations to the community- based model
  • Investors looking to invest in community-based tourism
  • Development nance institutions involved in nancing community-based tourism
  • Traditional authorities at all levels
  • Provincial heritage agencies
  • Organisations that work within communities

How to use the guide

The guide has three parts:
PART a: What is community-based tourism and what community-based tourism models are covered in this guide?
PART b: A step-by-step process to develop a successful community-based tourism venture
PART c: Additional resources and links to useful websites

Click here for the guide

Conference on Sustainable Tourism in Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

Conf header

Dates: 22-24 November 2017 (Conference), 25-26 November 2017 (Field visits)

In the framework of the 2017 UN International Year for Sustainable Tourism for Development this conference wishes to provide a platform for tourism professionals, academics and practitioners from other SIDS and the region to discuss an integrated practical approach to sustainable tourism in SIDS. For this event, the Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Foundation (SSTF), and the University of Seychelles (Department of Tourism and Cultural Heritage) partnered up with the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas’ Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group (TAPAS group), the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) and the Paris Tourism Sorbonne Institute of Research and Higher Education in Tourism (IREST), to organize a regional conference on sustainable tourism in SIDS, which will combine academic tourism research with practical best practice examples. The conference aims at connecting the various stakeholders working and researching the environmental and socio-cultural development of the tourism industry, for constructive discussions and networking. The specificity of this event would be to bring together experts working in the field of protected area management and specialists in cultural site preservation, to create synergistic knowledge and fruitful exchanges.

The conference aims to produce a publication with conference presentations and results, which will be widely disseminated through our joint partner network.

Conference dates:

  •   Wednesday 22 November: registration and social event at UniSey campus
  •   Thursday 23 November: Full day conference
  •   Friday 24 November: Full day conference and gala dinner at partner hotel
  •   Saturday 25 November: Field visit (optional)
  •  Sunday 26 November: Field visit (optional)

Conference venue: UniSey campus, Anse Royale, Mahe, Seychelles Conference Themes

 Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas
In Partnership with the TAPAS Group, the focus areas will be will be sustainable tourism in protected areas, including terrestrial parks and reserves, marine protected areas, and World Heritage Sites:

  • Evaluating the financial and economic benefits of tourism in PAs;
  • Impacts on biodiversity of PA tourism;
  • Tourism concessions and partnerships for tourism;
  • Community benefits and socio-economic linkages;
  • Destination management and the application of standards and certification tools for protected areas (e.g. IUCN Green List; GSTC Criteria and certifications, etc.)

Tourism’s social responsibility and cultural protection in SIDS
In partnership with the UniSey – TCH Department

Main questions/themes/focus areas:

  • Tools and best practices to reinstall destination ownership among local populations.
  • Tools and best practices to involve local populations in sustainable tourism and provide training opportunities, foster sustainable product enhancement etc.
  • Destination management and the application of standards and certification for heritage sites and cultural preservation in SIDS.

Audience: Tourism professionals from public and private sector, NGOs involved in tourism, academics, students.

Conference fees: 250 EUR (includes conference participation and coffee breaks). Registration details will follow

We invite all academics and practitioners with relevant sustainable tourism research and projects related to the two conference themes to submit their papers to

Please indicate clearly which conference theme and focus area your paper fits in. The deadline for submission of abstracts is June 30th 2017.

Abstracts should be max. 500 words with a title page containing full name and contact information, as well as a short bio as annex.

Embarking on the International Year of Sustainable Tourism!

Yesterday the UNWTO launched 2017 as the United Nations International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. This focus provides a ‘unique opportunity to explore and highlight tourism’s potential to help transform our world into a place of prosperity and wellbeing for all’.

To mark the beginning of this landmark year in our sustainable tourism journey, I’d like to highlight some initiatives I’ll be working on this year, and also reflect on some recent achievements.

Current and forthcoming initiatives

thr-coverA Decade of Progress in Protected Area Tourism’, is a new special edition of the journal Tourism and Hospitality Research, released as one of the first sustainable tourism publications of the year. Coordinated by Dr Susan Snyman and myself, it contains nine original research papers from members of the IUCN’s Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group (TAPAS Group). The papers address important topics including: innovation and sustainability in protected area tourism; its contribution to conservation area financing; inclusive business approaches; visitor perceptions of parks; and sustainable tourism standards. The contributions by international academics and practitioners provide an excellent start to the International Year of Sustainable Tourism!

“Visitation counts! Evaluation of tourism in natural World Heritage Sites’ is an innovative project being implemented by the University of Würzburg and myself, and supported by the UNESCO Netherlands Funds-in-Trust. Together we are developing and pilot testing a new tool that will help World Heritage Sites to monitor visitor expenditure. The pilot testing will take place in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site in South Africa during January. When finalised, the new monitoring tool will contribute an additional resource for WHS managers as part of the existing UNESCO Sustainable Tourism Toolkit.


‘Tourism partnerships and concessions in protected areas: cooperating for success’ is a new project spearheaded by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). I will be coordinating this project on behalf of IUCN, and collaborating with other tourism concession experts from the IUCN TAPAS Group including Prof. Paul Eagles and Dr Susan Snyman. Together we will develop a CBD new market-led publication on tourism concessions, and to provide capacity building and skills development opportunities for protected area managers across southern Africa, at a series of training and networking events. Our team will be working closely throughout the process with protected area authorities with extensive concessioning experience in the southern Africa, such as the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site. This project is being supported by the German Ministry of Environment (BMUB) and as a pilot projects under the Bio-Bridge Initiative (BBI) financed by the Government of the Republic of Korea.


bpg-coverTourism and Visitor Management in Protected Areas’, will be released later this year as part of the IUCN’s Best Practice Guidelines series. Edited by Prof. Yu-Fai Leung, myself, Prof. Glen Hvenegaard and Prof. Ralf Buckley, the publication combines contributions from 58 TAPAS Group experts based in 23 countries. The book provides a major update from the last edition, acting as a key reference and training guide for protected area managers globally, is linked with an online resource directory. Production of the guideline has been coordinated by the IUCN TAPAS Group and supported by the IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas, GIZ the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and NC State University. This Best Practice Guidelines is the 3rd edition of this tourism publication from IUCN, and it anticipated that (like its predecessors) it will be an important resource for protected area managers.

Highlights from 2016

Last year I was honoured to be re-elected as Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected TAPAS-LOGO-(cmyk-for-print)Areas’ Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group. Working with an impressive executive committee, and together with our extensive volunteer network of over 4o0 experts, I plan to continue  implementing our 2015-2020 strategy.  Part of my role includes participating in the 10YFP Sustainable Tourism Programme’s Multi-stakeholder Advisory Committee, which promotes sustainable consumption and production in tourism.  I also became an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Brighton’s School of Sport and Service Management in 2016.

HappyIn Tanzania, I did a review of economic valuation studies and value chain analyses of wildlife based tourism together with Damian Bell of the Honeyguide Foundation. This USAID PROTECT initiative studied the flows of revenues between tourism operators at Wildlife Management Areas and local entrepreneurs and enterprises. It is envisaged that this research will inform new initiatives to improve commercial linkages between the tourism sector and local community economies.

kosi-bayIn South Africa, I was commissioned to conduct a final evaluation of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority Global Environment Facility Grant (GEF). This reviewed the achievements of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority over the past 6 years to restore the Lake St Lucia ecosystem, promote conservation compatible local economic and cultural development, and build skills and capacity for biodiversity conservation. The evaluation highlighted the impact that the park has made on local people’s perceptions of conservation, such as “iSimangaliso helps us to grow so we can employ people and provide incomes, so they stop destroying the park”, and how the Authority has helped to strengthen local businesses, including guiding and traditional food catering enterprises.

seychellesIn the Seychelles, and on behalf of UNDP, I did an evaluation of tourism development, partnerships, and fee collection systems within protected areas managed by the Seychelles National Park Authority. This included visits to all of SNPA’s protected areas, consultation with park staff and partners, and gave a unique insight into their management of globally important biodiversity for tourism. The findings will be used by SNPA and the GOS/UNDP/GEF Program Coordination Unit to improve the quality and diversity of visitor facilities, and also to improve the efficiency of the revenue collection to finance conservation.

Also in Africa, and on behalf of the African Development Bank’s African Natural Resources cop22-ppt-imageCentre, I undertook a review of tourism certification programs in Africa, and also reviewed the uptake of sustainable waste and water management practices in the hotel sector. A series of case studies were produced, on the Travelife and Green Hotel Star certification programs, use of certification to promote sustainability in the Kavango Zambezi Transfronteier Conservation Area, by the southern African operators Wilderness Safaris, and by the Seychelles’ hotel resort Constance Ephelia, and I was privileged to make a presentation of the findings and recommendations at the Climate Change Summit (COP22) in Morocco. The work will be used to inform new initiatives on the continent to mainstream certification and good waste and water management practices in the future.

I continued my long-standing involvement with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, as a volunteer member of the Destination Working Group, delivering a training program on the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria to the public and private sector in Cape Town, and reviewing a number of certification body standards seeking GSTC Recognition as part of the Accreditation Panel.                

oie_82110153oRUxjPt“The Responsible Tourist: How to find, book and get the most from your holiday” was developed and released as a unique e-book by Andrew Rylance and myself. The Responsible Tourist provides travellers tools to make informed decisions about their trips. It describes how to find a responsible destination, how to find and use online booking platforms that promote sustainable holidays, and also how to book directly with a responsible hotel or tour operator. It is available on Amazon, Slideshare, and Researchgate. The book is an initiative contributing to the 10YFP Sustainable Tourism Program.

Concessioning 14 tipsAn introduction to tourism concessioning: 14 Characteristics of
successful programs”
 was published by the World Bank Group, as the first part of a ‘Tourism Concessioning Toolkit in Protected Areas’. The report was produced by myself and experts from the World Bank’s Competitiveness Global Practice, and the International Finance Corporation’s Public-Private Partnership Transaction Advisory Department (C3P) – Hermione Nevill, Carla Faustiano Coelho and Michelle Souto.


COP22 event – Sustainable tourism certification in Africa: Water and waste practices by hotels

On Tuesday 8 November 2016 at the 22nd Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP22) an event on “Certification of Green Tourism in Africa” was hosted by  the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) African Natural Resources Centre (ANRC).

The event will featured the results of a study on the current status of certification, water and waste management among hotels in Africa, in addition to case studies on Travelife,  Green Star Hotel, Wilderness Holdings, the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, and the Constance Ephelia hotel.  A distinguished panel and delegates attending reflected on recommendations of potential areas of intervention to support AfDB member countries.

  • Where it was: Africa Pavilion at COP22 (Salle 2), Marakesh, Morocco
  • When it took place: 2.30 pm – 4 pm, Tuesday 8 November 2016
  • More information on COP22:
  • Full session presentation (with introduction, presentation, panel and discussion questions): click here
  • Situational analysis presentation, including case studies: click here


Introduction: Dr Tarek Ahmed, ANRC, AfDB

Presentation:   Situational analysis – Sustainable tourism certification in Africa – Dr Anna Spenceley, AfDB consultant; Chair IUCN WCPA Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group – click here

Panel discussion: Moderator – Dr Tarek Ahmed, AfDB

  • Mr Jean Michel Ossete, African Water Facility /Ag. Coordinator, African Water Facility
  • Mr. Emad Hassan, Sustainable Tourism Certification Alliance Africa/Ministry of Tourism
  • Mr Oseloka Zikora, African Minister’s Council on Water (AMCOW)/Program Coordinator and Head of Communications
  • Mr Ahmed Abou Elseoud, CEO, Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency
  • Dr Anna Spenceley, AfDB consultant

Plenary discussion




Raising the bar for ecotourism: IUCN joins effort to align ecotourism with conservation goals

IUCN has over 1,300 Members, including 217 state and government agencies, 1, 066 NGOs and networks of over 16,000 experts worldwide from more than 160 countries. The IUCN World Conservation Congress meets once every four years to debate and adopt resolutions and recommendations on important conservation issues. These decisions guide IUCN’s policy and work programme, as well as influence many organisations around the world.

September 12, 2016 – Honolulu, Hawaii — Among the landmark decisions emerging last week from the 2016 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress is a bold decision to improve standards for ecotourism worldwide. Motion 65, “Improving standards in ecotourism”, proposed by the Yale Tropical Resources Institute in collaboration with The International Ecotourism Society, Nature Seychelles, the African Wildlife Foundation, the WILD Foundation, The Wilderness Society Australia, National Parks Australia Council, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, and the Moroccan Association for Ecotourism and Nature Protection, urges IUCN to renew their definition of ecotourism and address the barriers to its effectiveness as a conservation tool.

Defined by The International Ecotourism Society as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of local people, and involves interpretation and education,” ecotourism aspires to be a form of nature-based travel that helps people and nature. Today, the fastest growing sector of the largest global industry, ecotourism development is used as a tool for countless conservation efforts in public and private protected areas around the world. “Ideally,” says Anna Spenceley, Chair of IUCN’s Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group, “ecotourism should be the most sustainable form of nature-based tourism. In protected areas, and other areas of high biodiversity, this form of travel should inspire visitors, conserve nature and culture, and benefit local people equitably.”

However, these tourism operations often create complex conservation challenges. Despite the alleged role ecotourism has in sustainable development, poverty eradication, and biodiversity protection, there is growing concern that ecotourism activities are failing to protect communities and natural areas due to commercial greenwashing and inadequate management, monitoring, and resources. “Done poorly,” remarks Peter Cochrane, IUCN Regional Councilor for Oceania, “it can be degrading in every sense of the word. So high standards of performance and behaviour are essential, not only to protect the environment but also to communicate and demonstrate to visitors, local communities and regulators that ecotourism is a mature, responsible and valued part of every economy.”

Welcoming the resolution after it passed with overwhelming support, Mr. Cochrane is “delighted that IUCN will be collaborating on the development and adoption of high standards and associated certification to ensure that ecotourism operations and operators deliver what they promise, with positive impact.” Through this initiative, together, IUCN Commissions, Members, and the Tourism and Protected Area Specialist Group will help the travel industry develop and manage ecotourism in a more responsible way. Seeing its effects first hand, Andrea Athanas, Program Manager for the African Wildlife Foundation agrees, when done responsibly “eco-tourism…is a positive ally for conservation.” By building global partnerships and synthesizing data and perspectives from the tourism industry, natural and social scientists, and economists, IUCN will play a large role in improving and promoting new standards to reverse the negative impacts of ecotourism across the planet.

For more information:

Read the full motion adopted at the IUCN Congress here:

And visit the IUCN WCPA Website on tourism:


Tropical Resources Institute, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

301 Prospect Street, Room 202, New Haven, Connecticut 06511

Tel: +1 (484) 269-4745


Market research for the AfDB on tourism certification, waste and water management in Africa


The African Development Bank (AfDB) is currently doing research on tourism certification in Africa, focusing on incentives and standards for waste and water management (and what actions could encourage better practices across the accommodation sector.)

If you would like to contribute your ideas and insights, please complete this short online questionnaire by Friday 23 September 2016