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: https://portals.iucn.org/congress/motion/065

And visit the IUCN WCPA Website on tourism: https://www.iucn.org/protected-areas/world-commission-protected-areas/wcpa/what-we-do/tourism-tapas

Address:

Tropical Resources Institute, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

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

Tel: +1 (484) 269-4745

Email: shanefeyers@gmail.com

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