Tourism plays a vital role in many economies, and more people are packing their bags to explore the world. In 2016, the U.N. World Tourism Organization says the number of tourists crossing international borders surpassed the 1-billion-a-year mark for the first time ever. By 2030, international tourism visits are expected to reach 1.8 billion.
While tourism is great for the local economy, many people are concerned about the environmental impact. In addition to there being more pollution from travelers, there’s also the concern that tourists are damaging habitats and historical sites.
Of course, this is a valid and serious concern, but tourism can contribute to environmental conservation.
Tourism Can Provide Direct Financial Contribution to Environmental Initiatives
Tourism can provide direct financial contributions to environmental initiatives. Park-entrance fees, for example, can be put towards paying for the management and protection of environmentally-sensitive areas.
Organizations can also collect special fees from tourists and tour operators for conservation activities or park operations.
Contributions to government revenues can also help aid environmental initiatives. Income taxes, user fees, sales tax and license fees can all provide funds needed to manage natural resources. They may be used for conservation programs and activities, or they may be put towards park maintenance and park ranger salaries.
Tourist Companies Can Help Raise Environmental Awareness
Raising environmental awareness can also help contribute to environmental conservation. When tourists are brought closer to nature, they develop a heightened awareness of the value of nature, and they are encouraged to engage in environmentally conscious behavior and activities.
For example, Monument Valley Tours will take tourists through a one-of-a-kind landscape while explaining the history and traditions of the area. The tour helps visitors gain a new appreciation for the environment and brings them closer to nature.
In Honduras, school children are brought from the capital city to the La Tigra cloud forest visitor center. The trips, funded partly by eco-tourist dollars, allow children to learn about the intricacies of the rainforest.
The tourism industry can play a key role in raising awareness among tourists of the environmental impacts of their behavior.
Regulatory Measures Can Promote Tourism Without Damaging the Environment
Government regulations can help offset some of the negative impacts of tourism. In some countries, regulations limit the number of tourist activities and movement of visitors in protected areas. These regulations help limit the impact on local ecosystems while maintaining the integrity of the site.
In the Galapagos Islands, only a limited number of ships are allowed to cruise through and only certain islands can be visited. Putting limits on ships and visitors minimizes the impact on the environment and animal habitats.
Protection and Preservation Draws Nature-Loving Tourists
Tourism has actually had a positive impact on wildlife preservation and protection efforts in Africa, Asia, South America, the South Pacific and Australia. Through the designation of wildlife reserves and laws that protect animals, nature-loving tourists are drawn to these areas and the wildlife is able to flourish.
Protection and preservation efforts have helped several endangered species begin thriving again.