New research shows a global trend in nature-based tourism

June 29, 2009

A new study out today found that many nations throughout the world, including the United Kingdom, are seeing an annual increase in visitors to their conservation areas.

The research, published today (29 June) in the journal PLoS Biology, found that in 15 of the 20 countries for which information was available there was an increase in the number of visitors to their nature reserves. This has important implications for nations who are reliant on nature-related tourism to generate funds for conservation, as well as for engaging the public about the importance of conserving biodiversity.

Professor Andrew Balmford, Professor of Conservation Science at the University of Cambridge and lead author of the study said: "Nature-based tourism is one of the most tangible benefits that people derive from conserving biodiversity. Unfortunately it is often remarkably poorly quantified. When a study based on visit rates to American and Japanese nature reserves last year showed these were declining, it prompted widespread concerns that the public was falling out of love with nature. However, this report refutes this contention."

For the study, the researchers compiled and then analysed a database with far broader geographical coverage than previous ones. Their findings show that since the 1990s, while visitor numbers have been falling slightly in the US and Japan, these results are exceptional: in three-quarters of the 20 countries analysed, visitation to nature reserves is increasing - in some countries by as much as 7 or 8 per cent per year. In Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America the increases were on average positive and the United Kingdom saw an average 3 per cent annual increase.

It is believed that the previous results for the US and Japan arose because the growth in nature-based tourism is linked with wealth, with visit rates increasing fastest in the poorest countries (such as Ghana, Madagascar and India), and growing more slowly in richer ones, eventually falling below zero in the richest nations.

Professor Balmford explains: "We don't yet have the data to understand why this link with wealth arises. It could be because affluence leads to a rise in sedentary alternatives to nature-based pastimes, such as TV or the Internet, but other explanations - such as a shift from increasingly overcrowded reserves to quieter nature areas nearby where visitors are not counted, or even to overseas reserves - are equally plausible."

Professor Balmford concludes: "The trends demonstrated in the paper underscore the point that nature-based tourism generally remains extremely popular and is in most places still growing quickly.

"There are many places where large-scale nature tourism is not feasible, and there are important concerns to be addressed about the potential negative impacts of tourism on local people and on the environment. But despite these caveats, we believe nature-based tourism continues to offer an important route to linking conservation with sustainable development."
-end-
For additional information please contact:
Genevieve Maul, Office of Communications, University of Cambridge
Tel: +44 (0) 1223 332300, +44 (0) 1223 765542
Mob: +44 (0) 7774 017464
Email: Genevieve.maul@admin.cam.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

1. The paper 'A Global Perspective on Trends in Nature-Based Tourism' will be published in the 29 June 2009 online edition of PLoS Biology.

PRESS ONLY PREVIEW OF THE ARTICLE: http://www.plos.org/press/plbi-07-06-Balmford.pdf

PRESS ONLY PREVIEW OF THE RELATED PRIMER ARTICLE: http://www.plos.org/press/plbi-07-06-BalmfordPrimer.pdf

2. The research was supported by a grant from the Natural Capital Project, through The Nature Conservancy.

3. The 20 countries included in the report were Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Ecuador, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Madagascar, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda, UK, and the United States. The data was from 1992 until 2006.

University of Cambridge

Related Conservation Articles from Brightsurf:

New guide on using drones for conservation
Drones are a powerful tool for conservation - but they should only be used after careful consideration and planning, according to a new report.

Elephant genetics guide conservation
A large-scale study of African elephant genetics in Tanzania reveals the history of elephant populations, how they interact, and what areas may be critical to conserve in order to preserve genetic diversity of the species.

Measuring the true cost of conservation
BU Professor created the first high-resolution map of land value in the United states.

Environmental groups moving beyond conservation
Although non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have become powerful voices in world environmental politics, little is known of the global picture of this sector.

Hunting for the next generation of conservation stewards
Wildlife ecology students become the professionals responsible for managing the biodiversity of natural systems for species conservation.

Conservation research on lynx
Scientists at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and the Leibniz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology (Leibniz-FMP) discovered that selected anti-oxidative enzymes, especially the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD2), may play an important role to maintain the unusual longevity of the corpus luteum in lynxes.

New 'umbrella' species would massively improve conservation
The protection of Australia's threatened species could be improved by a factor of seven, if more efficient 'umbrella' species were prioritised for protection, according to University of Queensland research.

Trashed farmland could be a conservation treasure
Low-productivity agricultural land could be transformed into millions of hectares of conservation reserve across the world, according to University of Queensland-led research.

Bats in attics might be necessary for conservation
Researchers investigate and describe the conservation importance of buildings relative to natural, alternative roosts for little brown bats in Yellowstone National Park.

Applying biodiversity conservation research in practice
One million species are threatened with extinction, many of them already in the coming decades.

Read More: Conservation News and Conservation Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.