IUCN Massive Open Online Course on Valorisation of Protected Area Resources


This MOOC is about the sustainable use or valorisation of natural resources in protected areas. The main goal of this course is to introduce some of the commonly-used ways to sustainably valorise protected areas (and their resources), thereby contributing to their long-term conservation.  It focuses on two complementary approaches: (1) benefits (direct or indirect) provided by natural resources in protected areas, and (2) sustainable tourism and its benefits, costs, opportunities and threats. The second part of the course is based on the IUCN Best Practice Guidelines on Tourism and Visitor Management in Protected Areas, developed by 58 members of the IUCN WCPA Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group.

iucn wcpa tapas logo

Enrol here (English and French available): http://papaco.org/mooc-val/


PART 1: NATURAL RESOURCES                         

Module 1: Ecosystem services
1.1 Introduction to the module
1.2 What are ecosystem services?
1.3 The range of ecosystem services and associated typology
1.4 Food security
1.5 Water security
1.6 Human security & disaster risk reduction
1.7 Climate change mitigation and adaptation
1.8 Cultural and spiritual benefits

Module 2: Managing ecosystem services
2.1 Introduction to the module
2.2 Understanding Ecosystem Services
2.3 Opportunities
2.4 Threats
2.5 Assessment and evaluation
2.6 Management
2.7 Management of indirect values
2.8 Monitoring and evaluation

Module 3: Rights and benefits for local and more distant communities
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Distribution of benefits from ecosystem services
3.3 Participatory approaches to understanding the range of benefits supplied by PAs
3.4 Free, Prior and Informed Consent and other principles (Malawi, Akwe Kon)
3.5 Resource-use agreements including both local agreements and e.g. bioprospecting
3.6 Co-benefit schemes such as Payment for Ecosystem Services
3.7 Managing expectations – summary of key advice no using ecosystem services from protected areas


Module 4: Tourism and visitation in protected areas, its governance and impacts
4.1 Introduction to the module
4.2 Overview of the TAPAS Group and the BPG
4.3 Sustainable tourism: opportunities and challenges
4.4 Environmental costs and benefits
4.5 Social and cultural costs and benefits
4.6 Economic costs and benefits

Module 5: Aligning PA management objectives and tourism
5.1 Introduction to the module
5.2 Principle #1 and #2 on management objectives and proactive planning
5.3 Principle #3 on visitor use conditions
5.4 Principle #4 on resource impacts and social conditions
5.5 Principle #5 on management practices
5.6 Principle #6 on impact
5.7 Principle #7 on monitoring
5.8 Principles #8 and #9 on Decision making and Affected groups
5.9 Principle #10 on communication

Module 6: Capacity building, managing tourism revenues for conservation
6.1 Introduction to the module
6.2 Capacity building for managers, local communities and partnership
6.3 Generating tourism revenue from fees and donations
6.4 Generating tourism revenue from concessions
6.5 Cost saving and efficiency
6.6 Wider economic benefits and their links to conservation outcomes
6.7 The future of protected area tourism

Conclusion of the MOOC


Congratulations to the first two graduates of the course!

By the end of March 2019, 694 students had registered in French and 253 in English (947 in total)!



Tourism and Visitor Management in Protected Areas released by IUCN: English and Spanish versions

Guidelines to help protected area authorities establish sustainable tourism and visitation

The IUCN released a new publication titled Tourism and Visitor Management in Protected Areasat the Convention on Biological Diversity’s 14th Conference of the Parties, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt on 27 November 2018.

Cover BPG2Protected area managers need a wide range of skills to manage the complexities of protected area systems. The IUCN Best Practice Guidelines Series aims to address these needs, including sharing experience drawn from good practices around the world. Many protected areas are managed for tourism and visitation as one component of achieving their purpose, involving a wide range of stakeholders, including the private sector. The rapidly expanding demand for tourism development associated with protected areas emphasises the need to provide clear guidance that will contribute towards sustainable tourism consistent with the primary conservation objectives of protected areas. The legal, political, economic and social contexts for tourism in and around protected areas vary widely across the globe, yet there are many common elements and a diversity of experiences that can enrich the understanding of those involved.

These guidelines are an initiative of the IUCN WCPA Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist (TAPAS) Group. One of several voluntary groups convened under IUCN WCPA, the TAPAS Group is a network of over 500 volunteers who are committed to promoting sustainable tourism in protected areas as a tool in achieving the long-term conservation of nature and associated ecosystem and cultural values. The TAPAS Group’s work includes disseminating knowledge, case studies and best practices on tourism and protected areas. This is the third edition on the subject of tourism in IUCN WCPA’s Best Practice Guidelines series, and builds on the foundations created by these guidelines published in 1992 (McNeely, et al., 1992) and in 2002 (Eagles, et al., 2002).

The guidelines are supported with an Online Resources Directory, which provides additional readings and invites sharing of new resources too.

Dr. Yu-Fai Leung, the Editor-in-Chief and member of the TAPAS Group’s ExCo, said: “This publication is a major milestone in building a global community of practice in protected area tourism. The diversity of best-practice examples, both geographically and topically, attest that innovative solutions for sustainable tourism and visitation in protected areas are achievable in all protected area systems regardless of their geography, governance types, and cultures. Sharing these cases through this publication and its associated online resource directory is essential if tourism is to fulfill its positive role in global conservation.”

Dr. Anna Spenceley, Chair of the TAPAS Group and co-editor of the publication said: “This guideline is the result of incredible effort by many highly committed and dedicated people, both within the TAPAS Group and beyond. The collaborative and iterative approach we adopted has generated meaningful and practical guidance for practitioners working sustainable tourism in protected areas across the world. We are immensely proud of this achievement, and incredibly grateful to all the contributors who participated in our journey, including numerous authors, reviewers, designers and editors.”

Dr. Glen Hvenegaard, co-editor of the publication and past Chair of the TAPAS Group’s Knowledge Development Working Group, added: “This publication will help develop a worldwide community of practice that develops, tests, shares, and challenges tourism practices in protected areas to support conservation goals.”

The production of these Guidelines was sponsored by the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (IUCN WCPA), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf the Federal German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development. Their generous contributions supported the development of this document in English, as well as its translation into French, German, and Spanish.

Available online:

English: https://portals.iucn.org/library/node/47918
Spanish: https://portals.iucn.org/library/node/48354

Online database of sustainable tourism guidelines and resources: https:/go.ncsu.edu/iucn-sustainabletourism-bpg/

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IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA)
The WCPA is the world’s premier network of protected
area expertise. It is supported by IUCN’s Programme on Protected Areas and has over 1,400 members, spanning 140 countries. IUCN WCPA works: by helping governments and others plan protected areas and integrate them into all sectors; by providing strategic advice to policy makers; by strengthening capacity and investment in protected areas; and by convening the diverse constituency of protected area stakeholders to address challenging issues. For more than 50 years, IUCN and WCPA have been at the forefront of global action on protected areas. www.iucn.org/wcpa

IUCN WCPA Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group
The IUCN WCPA Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist (TAPAS) Group is a voluntary network of over 500 people. The mission of the TAPAS Group is to provide a platform for protected area practitioners and others, where expertise and knowledge is shared, sustainability awareness is enhanced, collaboration and dialogue is facilitated, leadership is developed, and innovative solutions are fostered, in order to support the oversight of sustainable tourism in protected area systems. www.iucn.org/theme/protected-areas/wcpa/what-we-do/tourism-tapas

WCPA Best Practice Protected Area Guideline Series
IUCN-WCPA’s Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines are the world’s authoritative resource for protected area managers. Involving collaboration among specialist practitioners dedicated to supporting better implementation in the field, they distil learning and advice drawn from across IUCN. Applied in the field, they are building institutional and individual capacity to manage protected area systems effectively, equitably and sustainably, and to cope with the myriad of challenges faced in practice. They also assist national governments, protected area agencies, nongovernmental organisations, communities and private sector partners to meet their commitments and goals, and especially the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Programme of Work on Protected Areas. www.iucn.org/pa_guidelines

Sustainable tourism certification in the African hotel sector: Journal paper released

The purpose of this paper is to review the current status of certification and certified hotels on the African continent, and to discuss the implications for mainstreaming sustainable tourism on the continent.

Design/methodology/approach – The research design focused on a literature review and an online survey. The survey was used to consult stakeholders on options for incentives, and future interventions, which was distributed to 80 stakeholders from the government, certification bodies, intergovernmental agencies and NGOs. The survey resulted in 41 complete responses from 18 countries.

Findings – The study identified nine African certification programs, and nine international certification programs operating in Africa. Collectively, the African and international certification programs have certified at least 715 accommodation facilities in 19 African countries, against their environmental, social and economic criteria. So only a very small proportion of all hotels in Africa have been certified (certainly less than 3.4 per cent) and that these are patchily distributed across the continent. A number of incentives have been used in Africa, including marketing and promotion; interest free loans for new technologies; preferential inclusion in tour itineraries; free or discounted application processes; and technical support. Consultees suggested that hotels were generally motivated to seek certification to: promote their achievements to environmentally conscious clients and avoid negative criticism, and save money by conserving resources. However, hotels do not understand the financial benefits of sustainable practices.

Research limitations/implications – Research limitations include the modest sample size. For the purposes of this research, there was a greater emphasis in targeting a modest number of key respondents who could provide expert opinions on the topic, rather than a more extensive sample size of lower quality.

Practical implications – Practical implications include recommendations of incentives and approaches to mainstream tourism certification in Africa. These include promoting programmes and their returns on investment more broadly, promoting market advantage for certified accommodation (i.e. preferential marketing or concession terms) and the value of integrating sustainability criteria into national and regional quality-rating standards.

Originality/value – This is the first study of its kind to analyse certification on the African continent, which was presented at the Climate Change Summit (COP22) in Morocco in 2016 and the BEST EN Think Tank XVII in June 2017.


Citation: Spenceley, A. (2018) “Sustainable tourism certification in the African hotel sector”, Tourism Review, https:// doi.org/10.1108/TR-09-2017-0145

Access the full paper here 

Private Sector Tourism in Conservation in Africa – now in press

Book Cover FINAL

Our new book has been submitted to CABI for publication, featuring 32 case studies from 12 sub-saharan countries,

Country Lodge/ camp Private Sector Stakeholder/ Company


Vumbura Plains and Little Vumbura Wilderness Safaris
Mombo Camp and Little Mombo Wilderness Safaris
Ethiopia Bale Mountain Lodge Jember Ltd
Simien Lodge Nick Crane
Kenya Satao Elerai Satao Elerai Ltd
Namibia Damaraland Camp Wilderness Safaris
Doro Nawas Camp Wilderness Safaris
Serra Cafema Wilderness Safaris
Wolwedans NamibRand Nature Reserve
Malawi Mkulumadzi Lodge Robin Pope Safaris
Thawale Lodge Sunbird
Mozambique Anvil Bay Chemucane Lodge Chemucane Tourism Company (CTC)
Covane Community Lodge Scholtz Consutoria e servicos Lda
Ndzou Camp Eco-Micaia Lda.
Nkwichi Lodge Nkwichi Lodge
Rwanda Bisate Lodge Wilderness Safaris
Ruzizi Tented Camp Akagera Management Company
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Governor’s Camps
South Africa Pafuri Camp Return Africa
Ngala Main Camp and Ngala Tented Camp &Beyond
Singita Lebombo Singita
Phinda lodges &Beyond
Rocktail Camp Wilderness Safaris
!Xaus Lodge Transfrontier Park Destinations
Witieshoek Lodge Transfrontier Park Destinations
Tanzania Chumbe Island Chumbe Island Coral Park Limited (CHICOP)
Zambia King Lewanika Lodge Norman Carr Safaris
Zimbabwe Davison’s Camp; Little Makalolo; Linkwasha (Hwange camps) Wilderness Safaris


Tourism in Africa and the Sustainable Development Goals

The International Conference on Digitalisation and Sustainable Tourism was held in Mauritius from 23-24 May. Among the speakers was Dr Anna Spenceley, who spoke about Tourism in African and the Sustainable Development Goals.

An illustration of the types of case studies shared are provided below. To access the full presentation – click here.

SDG 15

The presentation drew several case studies from the forthcoming book by Sue Snyman and Anna Spenceley on “Private Sector Tourism in Conservation Areas in Africa” and a forthcoming book chapter by Anna Spenceley and Andrew Rylance on “The contribution of tourism to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals”.

Revenue sharing from tourism in terrestrial African protected areas

Journal of Sustainable Tourism, https://doi.org/10.1080/09669582.2017.1401632


JOST cover pageAbstract

A prerequisite for the sustainability of protected areas in Africa is the meaningful inclusion of local populations in conservation and tourism. This has been demonstrated in numerous destinations where communities receive benefits from tourism in terrestrial protected areas, they are more inclined to view it positively and conserve natural resources. This paper presents a review of revenue-sharing literature, and also an analysis of the evidence of quantified benefits accrued by local communities in Africa through institutional arrangements to share revenue or finance development projects by (1) protected areas, and (2) tourism enterprises. The review highlights the challenges of revenue sharing as well as four key components of successful revenue-sharing systems: (1) economic benefits must be clearly identified and communicated, (2) benefits are appropriate to the scale of threats to biodiversity, (3) involvement of communities in decision-making on the structure and process of the distribution system, and also how the revenues are used and (4) sufficient regulatory and institutional support is necessary to develop clear objectives, aims, goals and responsibilities. This paper constitutes the first multi-country, multi-scheme analysis of revenue sharing in terrestrial African protected areas.


50 free e-prints are available by clicking here