The connection of business and biodiversity is and increasingly becomes exceptionally apparent within the tourism sector, since intact nature and landscapes as well as richness in species are key business factors to tour operators, hotel business and all other industry stakeholders. So how will tourism be effected, if coral reefs increasingly degrade and may soon completely disappear due to climate change? What is the economic value of a clean beach or climbing walls surrounded by a beautiful landscape?
Paradoxically a huge part of the tourism sector depends on ecosystem services of functionally intact natural environments whilst driving the destruction of these invaluable habitats in favour of hotel complexes, beach promenades or ski lifts.
In the end, biodiversity conservation is always based locally. Therefore, especially hotels and tour operators can impact the development of tourism affected destinations. In cooperation with the authorities as well as local stakeholders of environmental organizations they are in a unique position to implement biodiversity conservation projects of all scales.
The Global Nature Fund and the Lake Constance Foundation have composed a number of Fact Sheets for diverse sections of tourism, which can be downloaded here:
Still landscape development in the course of a touristic exploitation is accountable for the degradation or even loss of precious ecosystems. The water consumption of hotels, amusement parks etc. is extremely high despite available more efficient technologies and although the overuse of water resources is well-known to destroys rivers, lakes and wetland areas as well as groundwater reserves.
Furthermore, connected touristic motorized travel activities supplement climate change, again leading to increased pressure on ecosystems. Alternated ecosystem and consequential changes like disappearing coral reefs and decreasing number of days of snow cover again will noticeably effect the tourism sector.
Also, a lot of of touristic activities, especially in the outdoor segment, e. g. hiking, climbing, cycling, canoeing etc., depend on intact ecosystems and therefore biodiversity. If natural and near-natural ecosystems are endangered, high risks of loss of income for the tourism industry are inevitable. A prominent example can be given in the case of the carribean coral reefs: shrinking by 80 percent within three decades, losses in the diving tourism accumulated to about 300 million US $ per year.
But even conventional tourism progressively needs to consider state of and impacts on the natural environment, since customer expectations increase, as e.g. a customer survey study by TUI in eight European country’s already in 2010 revealed: about 70 percent attached importance to the protection of natural resources and 67 percent explicitly to environment protection. 64 percent even expect providers of touristic offers to be active in biodiversity conservation.
There is a long list of examples proving that tourist reject misdeveloped landscapes and change destinations. This can also be proven by a growing amount of studys and surveys all highlighting a growing importance of the environmental quality as a decision factor to touristic customers. Not realizing these developments means risking the loss of costumers in this tight market.
Within the risks there also are versatile and economically sustainable business opportunities in the consideration of protected areas, cooperation with local tourism and environmental stakeholders or development of nature preserving touristic activity offers. A well-known positive example is the case of the eco-resort ‘Chumbe Island Coral Park Ltd.’, Tansania, which invested 1.2 million US $ into a marine protection area for coral reef conservation. Chumbe coral reef is one of the most pristine within the region and accompanied by coral limestone forests, inhabitated by IUCN red-list-species. The Chumbe Island Hotel is built after eco guidelines using native materials and techniques, using natural space ventilation, photovoltaics, rainwater reservoirs and compost toilets.
Due to these eco-tourism-opportunities the company generates about 500 000 US $ per year and employes a staff of 43, of whom 41 are local.