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

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