Tools and Resources

There are many guidance tools that have been developed by academics, development agencies, and non-governmental organizations on tourism in protected and natural areas that can be used to guide project design and implementation. This section of the report provides an overview of tools that can be used broadly for planning nature-based tourism initiatives, and then highlights tools on specific topics.

Comprehensive guidance for nature-based tourism

Best practice guidance on nature-based tourism

There are several resources that introduce key concepts that underpin sustainable NBT, and highlight best practices that provide a good basis for any planning and design process.

The World Bank’s Supporting sustainable livelihoods through wildlife tourism explores innovative tourism partnership and investment opportunities to help countries unlock smart investment and grow tourism sustainably. It provides an overview of sustainable wildlife tourism experiences, the types of social, economic and environmental impacts, community participation and partnership models, and also considerations for the enabling environment and management. A briefing document on NBT issues and an overview of relevant WBG projects can also be found in Ramping up nature-based tourism to protect biodiversity and boost livelihoods.


The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Best Practice Guidelines on Tourism and visitation in protected areas : Guidelines for sustainability recognise that managing protected area tourism is a complex technical task requiring high levels of skill and knowledge. These comprehensive guidelines provide information on the impacts of protected area tourism on the environment, society, and economy; they highlight key 10 principles for planning and management; address capacity building; and provide guidance on the generation and management of tourism revenues. These guidelines expand and update a previous IUCN Best Practice Guideline on Sustainable tourism in protected areas: Guidelines for planning and management . The guidelines are also the basis for an IUCN Massive Online Open Course on Valorisation of protected area resources , which contains three modules dedicated to the best practice guidelines. The associated Online resources directory provides access to the materials used within the guidelines, additional readings and invites users to share new resources on this topic.


From the CBD and United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) comes A good practice guide: tourism for nature and development , which aims to provide stakeholders with the tools to make the tourism sector more biodiversity friendly, and more socially just. It introduces public decision-makers to the available toolbox of techniques, technologies and procedures that optimize the social and environmental contributions of tourism and minimize negative impact. The guide covers policy and strategy tools, legal and normative tools, monitoring and evaluation, market-based instruments, capacity building and promotion. The Compendium of Best Practices in Sustainable Tourism also shares best practice case studies in sustainable ecotourism gathered from 17 countries, which have potential for replication elsewhere. These best practices include destination management organisations, tour operators, accommodation, NGOs and also an airline. A report from an Expert group meeting on sustainable tourism: Ecotourism, poverty reduction and environmental protection is a further compendium of meeting reports and presentation papers from a United Nations meeting on the topic. Themes covered included financing ecotourism investments and their markets; planning, marketing and destination management; assessing socio-economic impacts and poverty reduction; enhancing environmental protection, and partnerships for international cooperation.

Some best practice guidelines have been developed for specific regionals and countries, including the following resources:

  • Sub-saharan Africa: Tourism product development interventions and best practices in sub-Saharan Africa: Part 1: Synthesis and Part 2: Case studies describes innovative and successful interventions that are making the most effective progress in terms of sustainable tourism. The case studies include the wildlife conservancy program in Namibia, hiking tourism on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and the safari operators &Beyond and Wilderness Safaris. The report presents the methods, models and mechanisms used to leverage tourism for poverty alleviation, employment generation and enterprise development in conjunction with the conservation of the environment and cultural heritage.


Several textbooks provide a good underlying understanding of NBT best practices, and in particular in on ecotourism. The book Nature tourism describes the benefits and pitfalls in recent developments of NBT, tracing the history in development, highlighting the ecological impacts and showcasing the current practices. The publication includes discussions on specific tourist markets from holistic viewpoints embracing lessons learned from various destination nations and continents across the globe. The International handbook on ecotourism provides an overview of ecotourism issues, concepts and challenges, behavior and visitor experiences, and how to practice it. For example, it includes chapters relating to the planning and certification of ecotourism. Ecotourism is a broad based textbook that provides a basis for studies on NBT, with topics such as policy and planning, business, products, marketing, guiding and interpretation, and impacts on conservation, communities and the economy. Ecotourism: Transitioning to the 22 nd centur y is another broad textbook on the topic, it addresses sustainability, the enabling environment, natural resource management, professionalization of the sector, interpretation, communities, marketing and education. Ecotourism: principles, practices and policies for sustainability explains the components for successful ecotourism illustrated with a series of practical case studies.


Books focusing particularly on protected areas include Tourism and national parks , which examines how and why national parks have spread and evolved, how they have been fashioned and used, and the integral role of tourism within national parks. Case study chapters from around the world including insights from across the world, including form the United States of America (USA), Canada, Australia, United Kingdom (UK), Spain, France, Sweden, Indonesia, China and Southern Africa.  Tourism in national parks and protected areas describes state of the art of tourism planning and management in national parks and protected areas, and provides guidelines for best practice in tourism operations. Based on a journal special edition of the same name, Protected areas, sustainable tourism and neo-liberal governance policies is an international collection of papers that explores neo-liberal politics, performance metrics the values that protected areas have for economies, peoples and environments. Also, the book Tourism and protected areas provides a record of the tourism issues discussed at the 2003 World Parks Congress and prospective important issues for the following decade.


On wildlife tourism specifically, the book Wilderness of wildlife tourism is a collected volume of papers that addresses its implications for management, local communities, marketing, technology, education, corporations, and policymaking. Wildlife tourism: Impacts, management, and planning is a volume of papers on wildlife tourism issues, including zoos, wildlife watching, hunting and fishing. The book considers social, economic and environmental impacts of wildlife tourism, and also managing the business side of the sector.


As a form of wildlife tourism, trophy hunting is often a contentious activity, with people supporting or opposing it on a variety of biological, economic, ideological or cultural bases. The book Tourism and the consumption of wildlife addresses a range of contentious issues facing the consumptive wildlife tourism sector across a number of destinations in Europe, North America, Africa, India, Arabia and Oceania. Issues debated include trophy hunting of threatened species, and hunting for conservation, along with the impact of hunting tourism on indigenous communities and on wider societies. The IUCN Species Survival Commission Guiding Principles on trophy hunting as a tool for creating conservation incentives provides guiding principles on the use of “trophy hunting” as a tool for conserving species and their habitats, and for the equitable sharing of the benefits. Two case studies on hunting in Pakistan and Namibia are included within the report. Best practices in sustainable hunting: A guide to best practices from around the world provides a collation of research and papers on trophy hunting from researchers and NGOs drawn from across Asia, Africa and Latin America. The other side of the ecotourism coin: Consumptive tourism in southern Africa also discusses aspects of perception, consumption and conservation of wildlife in relation to the north-south divide relating to sport and trophy hunting in Namibia and Botswana.

Some books and resources focus on best practice NBT in particular ecosystems and habitats. These include:


  • Marine areas : Best practices for marine wildlife watching during ecotourism activities is designed to help coastal tourism operators who wish to walk the talk of responsible tourism and environmental stewardship. Global best practices for responsible whale and dolphin watching aims to assist wild whale and dolphin watching tour operators and destination managers wishing to achieve best practice standards. It also outlines what scientific evidence tells us about the impacts and benefits of whale and dolphin watching. Marine ecotourism examines the wide range of marine ecotourism resources, and considers the vital role of marine ecotourism in raising awareness of the significance of the seas and oceans to sustainable coastal livelihoods. The book considers the role of stakeholders and for regulation and collaboration. Marine wildlife and tourism management aims to demonstrate that through scientific approaches to understanding and managing tourist interactions with marine wildlife, sustainable marine tourism can be achieved. The book has section on the demand for marine wildlife tourism, the impacts of interactions with marine wildlife, ethical and legislative context, and tourism management. Encyclopedia of tourism and recreation in marine environments brings together the terms, concepts and theories related to recreational and tourism activities in marine settings as a reference guide. Coral reefs: Tourism, conservation and management takes a multidisciplinary approach including coral reef science, management, conservation and tourism perspectives and takes a global perspective of coral reef tourism issues covering many of the world’s most significant coral reef destinations. Specific issues addressed include climate change, pollution threats, fishing, island tourism, scuba diving, marine wildlife, governance, sustainability, conservation and community resilience.
  • Forest areas: Rainforest tourism, conservation and management includes four sections on rainforest ecology and management; people; tourism opportunities for tourism development and threats to rainforests. Forest tourism and recreation presents case studies from National Parks, peri-urban forestry and wilderness management, as well as practitioner-oriented contributions. These illustrate key issues and challenges and potential strategies and solutions.

Box 1 : Best practice guidance for snorkelling

  • The Comision Nacionale Para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad (CONABIO) produces produces guidance on good snorkeling practices within its protected area guides for Huatulco and Cabo Pulmo national parks in Mexico.

Further books on NBT that focus on specific regions and countries regions include:


  • Africa: Private Sector Tourism in Conservation Areas in Africa uses 32 comprehensive case studies from 11 countries to provide guidelines for optimal benefits and sustainable NBT. The book includes descriptions of the various models for the private sector to engage in tourism in conservation areas in Africa, and guidance on identifying the most suitable private sector tourism options to promote the long-term sustainability. Responsible tourism: Critical issues for conservation and development contains case studies and analyses from across Africa, including papers on policies and institutional activities, market demand, the economics of wildlife tourism, and tourism in transfrontier conservation areas.

Toolkits for Nature-based Tourism planning

There are a number of diagnostic tools that can be used as a basis for planning NBT destinations globally. Linking communities, tourism and conservation: A tourism assessment process is a toolkit that provides a planning framework to help conduct inventories of attractions, analyze market demand and competitiveness, and investigate associated socio-cultural and natural resource use issues. It provides a series of helpful templates, including checklists and questionnaires.

Figure 1 UNESCO’s World Heritage Sustainable Tourism Toolkit Picture 7

UNESCO’s World Heritage Sustainable Tourism Toolkit contains a series of ‘How to’ guides that can be use by World Heritage Site (WHS) managers and others to make positive changes to the way they manage tourism. The guides are structured as a step-by-step process for site managers (see Figure 1). These help to establish the basic foundations for sustainable tourism (in yellow), and then address more specific issues (in orange). As part of the toolkit, the Visitor Management Assessment Tool (VMAT) is an online tool that enables WHS managers to evaluate their progress in sustainable tourism management, and diagnose areas where more attention is needed ( insert link when ready – requested)

A toolkit to develop and promote sustainable tourism in Latin America describes process that can help tourism entrepreneurs improve their sustainability, by developing new sustainable products and services or improving existing ones. Through three modules, it provides a background for the identification of sustainability issues faced by enterprises and destinations, and recommends actions to overcome them. It also offers marketing recommendations to position those products in the market. The toolkit provides as well inspirational examples, sources of information and contacts as well.

Box 2 : Case study example: Assessment of natural resources for nature-based tourism: the case of the Central Coast Region of Western Australia


Resources for development of a nature-based tourism industry were identified and assessed in the Central Coast Region of Western Australia. An assessment framework was developed that used checklists, matrices and indicators to establish levels of attraction, accessibility, presence of infrastructure and the level of environmental degradation. Data were gathered using a checklist approach to quantify characteristics of sites. The assessment revealed that the attraction diversity in the Region was high, but there was poor accessibility, low levels of tourism infrastructure and moderate levels of environmental degradation.

Country-specific planning resources are also available. These include:


  • South Africa: The South African tourism planning toolkit for local government , which supports tourism planning at a local level. The toolkit for local government outlines a framework for doing basic tourism planning at local governmental level with a series of practical tools to evaluate market demand, economic impact and community involvement in order to guide decision-making.
  • Jordan: The Experiential tourism toolkit is intended to be functional and usable for any tourism-related party interested in identifying and marketing local and remote experiences. It provides a series of practical tools from identification, phone interview, training content, initial visit assessment, testing experiences, photography guide and lessons learned.

Enabling Policy Environment and Planning

Governments, and their enabling policy and planning frameworks, provide the context for NBT to take place. These frameworks are critically important in establishing the conditions for tourism, including zoning, infrastructure and the involvement of local communities. Laws and regulations can be used to regulate the sector, provide direction on benefit sharing, and safeguard natural resources, and also to fund biodiversity conservation and the management of protected areas. Planning for NBT needs to address elements of rural development and local economic development within destinations. When done well, it can provide a road map for local employment creation, opportunities for local producers and service providers, and for the local ownership and management of enterprises. Such planning needs to be embedded within any broader process of planning of a destination where this exists.

The strategic value of tourism for parks and protected areas – management responses to planning cycles and growing demands was the subject of the World Protected Areas Leaders’ Forum in Australia in 2019. Almost all agencies present reported managing increased visitation at popular sites and during peak periods, with many reporting overcrowding (or overtourism) as a significant challenge. This appears to be, in part related to the rise of social media. Due to the pressures of large numbers of visitors on natural areas and visitor sites, many agencies are now looking to better balance their primary role of protected area land managers - conservation - with the demands and challenges of tourism and increased visitation.

They have a need to stronger legal and institutional frameworks to establish more coherent and coordinated approaches.

Resources on the policy environment for NBT include the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Tourism concessions in protected natural areas: Guidelines for managers which provides useful guidance on the enabling environment, including templates for policies, laws and regulations. Books that include chapters relating to policy include Ecotourism , The Routledge Handbook of Tourism and the Environment and also Nature tourism, conservation, and development in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa . To illustrate, Namibia’s National policy on tourism and wildlife concessions on state land provides a practical example of a national policy for outsourcing tourism to non-state actors in the country (e.g. conservancies and the private sector). As another example, New Zealand’s Department of Conservation has a Visitor strategy , which aims to support goals of protection, fostering visits, managing tourism concessions on protected lands, informing and educating visitors, and visitor safety. For an overview of policy tools, the Baseline report on the integration of sustainable consumption and production patterns into tourism policies describes the types of policy instrument that can be applied during different phases of tourism development, and which are applicable to NBT (see Table 5 ).

Table 5: Examples of policy instruments in use in tourism destination at different stages of the tourism life cycle 19

Types of policy instrument Phases of life-cycle
Extraction of natural resources Manufacturing and production processes Provision of sustainable products, services and works Use and consumption
Regulatory and legal instruments Regulation of access and activities in vulnerable areas, cultural and natural heritage sites Regulations
on water and energy efficient technologies, reuse and recycling of water, use of renewable energy
Regulations regarding construction materials and environmental standards of products Regulations on visitor management and capacity
Economic and fiscal instruments Fees for national parks and natural reserves, and protected areas for nature conservation as well as
for other attractions
Grants, soft loans or tax credits for investments
in eco- technologies (water, energy, etc.) and the reduction of emissions
Funding schemes for sustainable business development Tourism tax earmarked for environmental action (beach cleaning, waste infrastructure, awareness raising)
Communication and voluntary instruments Public-private partnerships for sustainable tourism and networks involving local communities Corporate social responsibility in the tourism sector Certification schemes and guidelines for responsible operations Available information on sustainability issues and codes of conduct

There are a number of resources that provide guidance on planning for NBT. For example:

  • The International Handbook on Ecotourism includes the chapter Ecotourism: planning for rural development in developing nations, 20 which outlines sustainable tourism planning processes for NBT. On destination level planning, it provides guidance on participatory planning approaches, establishing the right conditions for ecotourism, and using criteria for sustainability. For enterprise planning, the paper describes option for local economic benefits through partnerships, employment and training, procurement, and corporate social responsibility.
  • Ecotourism programme planning is a book that describes the relationship between tour operators and tourists and how service providers can effectively plan and implement their ideas. The book includes guidance on integrated ecotourism programme planning including: design, implementation and evaluation.

There are several examples of analyses of policy and planning contexts for NBT. To illustrate, Tourism planning in natural World Heritage Sites is a research report that analyses the level of tourism planning at 229 natural and mixed World Heritage Sites. The recommendations arising from the analysis included that tourism planning in these sites needs to be extended; ideally under a unified framework that allows some consistency across areas in terms of indicators and methods. For a country-level example, Tanzania’s tourism futures: harnessing natural assets is a World Bank analysis of a national tourism sector. It presents challenges and opportunities for linking tourism and rural economies, and the economic consequences of concentrated tourism. Recommendations to government are provided to maintain and enhance high-value low-density tourism are provided, including diversification of the tourism product. Case study examples of tourism in the Serengeti ecosystem and Ruaha National Park are used as illustrations. This provides a good example of a diagnostic study of NBT, making the case for future interventions. For a regional analysis example, Transboundary ecotourism guidelines for the Sava River Basin address transboundary tourism master planning and the management of wetlands, sustainable economic development, stakeholder involvement and participation, and conserving and enhancing biodiversity. The guidelines incorporate three considerations for ecotourism development: 1) a shared goal for protecting the environment and encouraging sustainable development, 2) a desire to create a green economy offering green jobs to generate economic growth, and 3) transboundary cooperation. A series of transboundary tourism case studies are also shared. Also, the Impact of tourism on wildlife conservation aims to support Supreme Audit Institutions, who can influence governments to make management decisions for protecting and conserving wildlife environment. The report provides information on wildlife tourism, regulations and international agreements, good practices and audits related to tourism and wildlife.

With respect to tools to guide the planning process, Ecotourism development: A manual for conservation planners and managers; Volume II: The business of ecotourism development and management outlines the business planning process for ecotourism in order to promote viable business partnerships with communities or private tourism operators. It includes sections on zoning protected areas for visitor use, site planning, sustainable infrastructure design, revenue generating mechanisms, and visitor impact monitoring. It also includes strategies including business considerations, the role of conservation managers, developing partnerships with tour operators, feasibility analysis and business planning. Also, the Conservation Travel Readiness Scorecard is a spreadsheet-based model that can help in the analysis of supporting policies for NBT. The scorecard helps countries to rate their existing capacity to harness tourism as an incentive for community-based conservation (see illustration in Figure 2 ).

Figure 2: Conservation Travel Readiness Scorecard

Picture 1

Concessioning and Institutional Models

Nature-based tourism often takes place in protected areas. The authorities need to consider the level of NBT services that are provided, the method of delivery of the service, the financing for each service, and whether they are insourced, or outsourced. With insourcing, protected area authority staff both deliver and finance the service, functioning like a business to provide visitor services. For outsourcing, the protected area contracts a third party to deliver a service. Transferring rights to use land to other organizations can relieve public agencies from resource constraints of budget, capability, or expertise. Methods of outsourcing can include concessions, public-private-partnerships, leases, licenses and permits. Deciding whether to insource or outsource depends upon current government policy and the capabilities of the protected area authority in regards to business operation (see Figure 3).

Forging links between protected areas and the tourism sector: How tourism can benefit conservation , is a manual to provide practical guidance to managers of World Heritage sites and other protected areas on better ways of understanding the tourism industry. It also shares effective step-by-step methods that can be used by protected area managers to develop links with tourism to promote conservation and site protection. The manual also describes what can be realistically expected from the tourism industry in terms of support for conservation.

The World Bank Group’s An introduction to tourism concessioning: 14 Characteristics of successful programs can be used during the conceptualisation of an outsourcing program to provide the right condition for effectiveness. It describes the importance of key elements including conservation of the natural resource base and sustainability, community participation and stakeholder engagement, the enabling policy environment and concession models, procurement procedures, market viability and management of risk. Other World Bank tools that are not currently available for use include a more detailed step-by-step guide for WBG staff, which is in draft form, 22 and the IFC Anchor Investment Generation Manual 23 . The manual was developed following investment facilitation work by the IFC in Mozambique and Sierra Leone and Mozambique. Furthermore, there is spreadsheet-based model that has been developed for authorities and investors to predict commercial viability and the Internal Rate of Return of investments over concession periods. During the development of the CBD concession guidelines, training was provided to protected area managers on how to use this tool, and it was clear that it would be valuable to others, if made more widely available. 24


The CBD’s Guidelines for tourism partnerships and concessions for protected areas were developed through a consultative process with protected area managers and tourism stakeholders. Guidance is provided on partnership types, sources of finance, the legal framework and sustainability are followed by a step-by-step guide through scoping, design and feasibility, procurement and contracting, and contract management. A series of links to other resources are also shared, including country-specific tools used in Africa, such as concession policies, manuals, and training resources. These guidelines are currently available in English , French , Portuguese and Spanish .


UNDP’s Tourism concessions in protected natural areas: Guidelines for managers provides useful materials for the design and operation of concession programs. These include templates (e.g. for policies, laws and regulations); checklists (e.g. for human resource requirements) and case study examples from across the world (e.g. revenues generated and fees charged). The guideline makes clear linkages with safeguarding conservation interests and forging clear business linkages with local communities through concessions.


Concessioning tools developed for applications in specific regions or countries for use by protected area authorities and the private sector include the following:


  • Europe: Sustainable tourism in protected areas: Guide for tourism companies is targeted at companies operating in protected areas managed by Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland. It aims to ensure that there are uniform practices supporting sustainable tourism, mutually beneficial and consistent interactions, high quality marketing and communication.

Tools for evaluating the financial viability of concessioning programs are particularly important for both the public and private sector. The South African National Treasury’s Public private partnership manual includes a module on managing the tourism PPP agreement , with tools for value assessment and economic valuation. This has been applied to tourism concession processes in the country’s national parks and reserves.


A number of case study examples of concessioning are embedded within the World Bank Group, CBD and UNDP guidelines, while further examples can be found for Latin America , (see box below) Mozambique , and New Zealand . For example, the paper Rethinking tourism and its contribution to conservation in New Zealand reviews the impacts of tourism concessions on the country’s natural capital. It reviews the challenge of saving threatened species, protected area budgets, regulatory options for sustainable tourism, and best practices, with recommendations for improvement.


Box 3 : Case study : Best practices on tourism concessions in protected areas from Latin America : Chile

Chile launched a concession program in Patagonian parks in 2003 and the Atacama region in 2007. Seven parks were opened to concession operations in Patagonia in 2003/2004. Bidders were provided with a list of permitted ecotourism activities, including fishing, skiing, skating, hiking or trekking, photographic safaris, cycling, caving, scuba diving, canoeing, canyoning, and river kayaking, hotels and lodges of all classes, and restaurants including small kiosks. The criteria for judging the suitability of the proposals were as follows: 

  • Compatibility with the management plan 
  • Capability to satisfy the demand for ecotourism activities with environmental education, while meeting the norms in the Management Plan 
  • Presentation of a variety of distinct ecotourism options that meet different niche market needs and also serve those who have reduced mobility or are of an older age 
  • Development of a project with the highest possible involvement of local communities, including indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, via direct employment and associated services via contract, including providers of local art and craft.
  • The environmental viability of the project after the completion of an Environmental Impact Statement


Several of the concessioning tools address options to maximize the level of local benefits from tourism concessions. In southern Africa in particular, joint-venture agreements between private operators and community entities have been used as a tool to provide equity in tourism businesses to local people (see Box 4). Getting financed: 9 tips for community joint ventures in tourism aims to help community-based tourism enterprises move away from donor and grant-funded resources towards more commercially options. The guide provides suggestions to reduce risks and improve joint-ventures accessing commercial finance.


Box 4 : Case studies on joint ventures and partnerships in conservation areas

Private Sector Tourism in Conservation Areas in Africa includes a series of case studies including on Anvil Bay and Ndzou camp in Mozambique, Damaraland Camp and Doro Nawas Camp in Namibia, Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge and !Xaus Lodge in South Africa

Joint ventures between communities and tourism investors: experience in southern Africa reviews experience from eight joint-venture processes in Namibia, within the wider regional context, to identify some key principles and challenges (such as their high transaction costs).

Damaraland Camp in Namibia is a joint-venture partnership between the Torra Conservancy and the safari company Wilderness Safaris. The camp is the subject of a case study that explores the venture from an inclusive business approach: Creating luxury ecotourism with the local community .

Phinda Private Game reserve represents a transitional partnership model in which the private-sector partner continues to operate, manage and market the reserve and its lodges, although a portion of the land and asset ownership has been transferred to the community. The arrangements are described in the paper Strong community partnership through long term leasing.

Destination management


A tourism destination is a geographical area consisting of all the services and infrastructure necessary for the stay of a tourist or for a tourism segment, 25 such as NBT. The ability of a destination to manage tourism depends on the implementation of effective management strategies, the scale of demand for visits to the site, the staff and resources available for management of tourism, and the legal and political environment covering nature protection in the countries in which they are located 26 . An example of a destination approach in Mozambique under a series of World Bank projects is described in Box 5 .


Box 5 : Case study: Conservation and Development in Mozambique: Lessons from the Transfrontier conservation areas program and new perspectives for MozBio Program

This case study provides an overview of process of sequential World Bank projects on conservation and tourism that have taken place over 15 years in 18 protected areas in Mozambique. The case study includes a description of the context, pillars of activities, impacts and lessons learned.

Picture 1


Tourism destination management: Achieving sustainable and competitive results is a resource that helps destinations put in place strategies and programs that will best tell their unique story and become an inviting host for visitors no matter the purpose of their journey. The tool includes guidance on creating tourism inventories, creating clusters, development destination management organizations, visitor information and online presence. The guide provides a series of NBT destinations as examples, in addition to other types of destination. Destinations at risk: The invisible burden of tourism describes how destinations need to identify and account for tourism’s hidden costs. It identifies the types of destinations that are most vulnerable (see Box 6 ). Although not specific to NBT, it provides guidance on how to protect our ecosystems from the environmental impacts of tourism.


Box 6 : Typology of vulnerable destinations

Picture 3


Destination management resources that relate to types of destination, and to specific include:


  • Protected areas: The paper Tourism and protected areas p resents a synthesis of the body of work shared at the IUCN’s World Parks Congresses in 2003 and 2014, including some of the cutting-edge issues, best practices, and inspiring initiatives relating to sustainable tourism. Looking forward to the following decade, the paper reflects on specific challenges, gaps in knowledge, and areas for further research and outreach. World Heritage sites: T ourism, local communities and conservation activities reviews provides global case studies relating to economic, sociocultural and environmental impacts of 1,000 cultural and natural heritage sites. The Geoheritage toolkit is a method, or series of steps, that has been developed to enable geoheritage practitioners to systematically identify and categorise geological features significance at all scales, and assess their level of significance for science and education. The Geopark tourism tookit for geopark managers is designed to help audit the tourist offering, and to help compilation of information to support informed dialogue with other tourism providers and develop marketing information.
  • Wetlands: Destination wetlands: supporting sustainable tourism provides guidance on the associated opportunities and challenges, managing tourism in and around wetlands, working with the tourism sector, and planning and policies for wetlands and tourism. The report also shares 14 case studies of wetland tourism across the world.
  • Mountains: For alpine areas in Europe, the Background paper on sustainable mountain tourism compiles relevant policies and responsibilities of institutions; the concept of sustainable tourism in mountains, results of a survey on the topic in 10 countries, and key issues to guide discussion in the future.
  • Africa: The Uganda ecotourism assessment is a technical report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCATD). It describes ecotourism products and services in the country; value chain actors; an analysis of economic and market aspects; technical and infrastructure aspects; environmental and biodiversity aspects; social aspects; general necessities and solutions; and concludes with general recommendations for the country. The success of tourism in Rwanda: Gorillas and more , published within the World Bank’s “ Yes Africa Can ” is a case study that illustrates how Rwanda has established and managed gorilla tourism in the Volcanoes National Park to provide benefits for communities and for conservation, within the broader context of the country as a whole.
  • Antarctica and the Arctic: Tourism in the polar regions: The sustainability challenge, explains the trends and impacts, proposes an agenda for sustainable tourism development and outlines principles, guidelines and selected good practices to conserve these unique wilderness areas through the regulation and management of tourism. Arctic tourism experiences focuses on tourist experiences (e.g. marine adventures, fishing, whale watching, trails, viewing the northern lights) and industry provision of those experiences.

Infrastructure and Facilities

Infrastructure to support NBT can be used to provide accommodation (e.g. lodges, campsites, cabins), support access (e.g. roads, hiking trails, boardwalks, bridges, signage), enhance the experience (e.g. cliff and treetop walks, mooring points, viewpoints, visitor centres) and provide support services (e.g. retail and catering facilities). 27

There is a great deal of practical guidance available for planners and investors on sustainable NBT accommodation (or ecolodges). These include:

  • Biodiversity-friendly development: Ecolodges: exploring opportunities for sustainable business provides background on the ecolodge marketplace (including what tourists are looking for), the business case and financial viability issues, and an overview of the potential positive and negative impacts on the environment and local communities. The book also provides baseline indicators for biodiversity impact, and also a series of case studies from Kenya, Costa Rica, Fiji, and Peru. The International ecolodge guidelines , which contains guidance on site selection, planning and design of ecolodges, including site evaluations and selection, physical analysis, master site planning, site design and planting design. Building and operating biodiversity-friendly hotels provides guidance around 5 key principles for siting and design, and suggestions for how to integrate biodiversity into hotel and resort operations. The principles relate to an ecosystem approach to development planning; managing impacts of hotel developments, designing with nature, respect and support local communities, and collaborating with stakeholders. The guide also provides a series of case studies from across the world to illustrate the principles.
  • Accommodation in forests: Guide to best practice for sustainable tourism in tropical forests provides information on lodging infrastructure construction, including on planning and design. It provides information to help manage energy, water use, wastewater, solid waste, chemical waste, transport, product supplies and the conservation of tropical forests and biodiversity.
  • Accommodation in deserts: Planning, design and construction guidelines for desert ecolodges is a manual designed for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Intended for investors, developers, design professionals, and engineers, it contains illustrative guidelines that help provide deeper insights into the planning, design and construction processes.


Guidance is also available to help natural destination to develop supporting visitor infrastructure and facilities. This includes:


  • Active transportation: The National Park Service active transportation guidebook , aims to help develop opportunities that enhance active transportation in parks. The guidebook includes topics including planning and developing infrastructure, such as pedestrian pathways and bike lanes, to evaluating and improving safety for active transportation modes, to offering activities and programs that provide park visitors the opportunity explore national parks by foot, bicycle, or other non-motorized means.


Figure 4:Active transportation in US national parks 28

Picture 2

Visitor Managment

Visitor management is the process of tracking visitor use in a destination. There are a number of tools and techniques for aligning the objectives of NBT destination values (such as protected areas) with planning and management responses to avoid or mitigate negative impacts from tourism. An overview of 10 principles for tourism and visitor management in protected areas and actions are outlined in Table 6 .

Table 6: Ten principles of tourism and visitor management in protected areas 29

Principles Actions

1. Appropriate management depends on objectives and protected area values

  • Ensure management plans include clear appropriate objectives, with conservation primary above all.
  • Establish and agree to objectives through public participation.

2. Proactive planning for tourism and visitor management enhances effectiveness

  • Provide opportunities for visitors to learn about protected area values through information and programming.
  • Be cognizant of emerging visitor activity or use pattern that may have management implications

3. Changing visitor use conditions are inevitable and may be desirable

  • Use zoning explicitly to manage for diverse recreation opportunities.
  • Use knowledge of diversity to make decisions on desirability of tourism in specific locations

4. Impacts on resource and social conditions are inevitable consequences of human use

  • Managers must ask: “How much impact is acceptable based on protected area values and objectives?”
  • Managers must act appropriately to manage the accept- able level of impact.

5. Management is directed at influencing human behaviour and minimising tourism-induced change

  • Management actions determine what actions are most effective in influencing amount, type and location of changes.

6. Impacts can be influenced by many factors so limiting the amount of use is but one of many management options

  • Education and information programmes, as well as regulations aimed at restricting visitor behaviour, may be necessary.

7. Monitoring is essential to professional management

  • Enhance public engagement and visitor education by encouraging their involvement in monitoring.

8. The decision-making process should separate technical description from value judgements

  • Decision processes should separate questions of ‘existing conditions’ from ‘preferred conditions’.

9. Affected groups should be engaged since consensus and partnership is needed for implementation

  • Rights-holders and stake- holders of protected area should be involved in identifying values of protected areas and developing indicators

10. Communication is key to increased knowledge of and support for sustainability

  • A communication strategy is needed to support a proactive or adaptive management process.


Visitor management is a chapter in the book Protected Area Governance and Management that provides a comprehensive introduction to visitor management supplemented with case study examples. This resources addresses types of visitors in different types of protected areas (see figure below), management considerations; sustainable tourism; types of tourism operators; numbers and types of tourists; working with the tourism industry; tourism revenue and charges; marketing; and also visitor impact management tools (e.g. Limits of Acceptable Change, Visitor Impact Management, Recreation Opportunity Spectrum, and challenges concept of Carrying Capacity) and responses. Tourism and protected area management : sustaining resources is a collection of technical reports from Australia on visitor management. The papers provide an understanding of changing trends and visitor preference, the role of communication in shaping and enhancing visitor satisfaction, as well as the potential of commercial partnerships in achieving park management goals and satisfying visitor experiences. Also, Determinants of tourism attractiveness in the national parks of Brazil explores the relative importance of park characteristics on visitor numbers.


Figure 5: Indicative visitor uses in protected areas 30

Picture 2

Picture 3


Visitor management tools that can be used by destination managers (including protected area managers) to plan NBT sustainably include:


  • The Visitor use management framework is a planning tool that can be incorporated into protected area authority planning and decision-making processes. The key components relate to the development of the approach, describe visitor conditions that aim to be achieved management strategies to achieve the objectives, and monitoring and evaluation. This is complemented with the Visitor capacity guideline, which helps protected area managers to with processes and tools to collaboratively develop long-term strategies to manage the amounts and types of visitor use to achieve desired conditions and improve access, connect visitors to key experiences, and protect resources. The Visitor experience and resource protection (VERP) framework: A handbook for planners and managers is designed to provide sufficient guidance so that someone assigned to undertake VERP planning can do so with confidence.
  • A guideline on Maximising the value of birds and wildlife for tourism focuses on tourism businesses in the Rift Valley/Red sea Flyway. After an introduction on the relationship between tourism and conservation, the resource provides information on enhancing the visitor experience, increasing revenues by offering new experiences, and also by attracting new types of tourists. The guideline also includes information on bird-friendly practices (including certification) and protecting the destination from the impact of tourism.
  • The Congestion management toolkit provides a list of congestion mitigation solutions or tools that can be applied to address specific congestion problems and issues in protected areas, focusing on the USA’s national parks. It includes categories of tools and their evaluation, implementation considerations, cost and financial information, and discusses how to manage expectations. The Toolkit also includes examples of where the tools have been used, and discusses expected outcomes based on previous applications.


NBT can provide ample opportunities for education and interpretation, which can provide enormous value to help people can learn about nature and cultures, and develop positive attitudes towards conservation. The Interpretation handbook and standard is a procedural manual designed for New Zealand’s Department of Conservation staff, and also their concessionaires and volunteers. It provides best practice guidance about communicating clearly, planning interpretation, and guided and self-guided techniques. Wildlife interpretation guidelines developed in Scotland aim to help tour guides, countryside rangers, wildlife conservation staff and volunteers with examples of good practices. There are also interpretation guidelines for specific types of wildlife tourism, such as Best practice and interpretation in tourism/wildlife encounters: A wild dolphin swim tour example .

Nature-based Enterprise Development

There are a considerable number of resources available to entrepreneurs and businesses that wish to develop commercial NBT enterprises. These include broad range of tools specifically designed for developers and investors to help establish or strengthen their NBT businesses. These include the following examples:


  • The Practical guide for the development of biodiversity based tourism products provides a collection of tools and methodologies paired with step-by-step systems for local product developers and tour operators. The guide considers tourism products initiated within destinations (e.g. design, timing, pricing, marketing, monitoring and evaluation), and outside destinations, by international tour operators (e.g. contracting local partners, supply chains, product lifecycle) and gives examples of good practice in developing NBT products and associated tour packages.
    • Ecolodges: Exploring opportunities for sustainable business summarizes the findings of two studies that the International Finance Corporation commissioned in 2004. The first study examined the environmental footprint of ecolodges, while the second study, evaluated the current and projected market demand for ecolodges and assessed their financial viability. With these studies, IFC sought to determine whether the environmental impacts and financial performance of ecolodges are sufficiently positive to justify IFC’s investing in them as part of its sustainable development mission.
    • The Conservation marketing equation is a step-by-step decision support tool with accompanying worksheets that can be used to assist conservation and development professionals in choosing business opportunities (products or services) that conserve biodiversity while reducing poverty for marginalized rural people – such as NBT (see Figure 6 ).


    Figure 6: The conservation marketing equation 31

    Picture 1

    Guidance developed for different types of tourism include:

    • Community-based NBT operations: Guidelines for community-based ecotourism development including consideration as to whether ecotourism is an appropriate option for a community; participatory ecotourism planning; developing viable ecotourism, and strengthening benefits to the community and the environment. Community nature-based tourism development which provides a 5-step process for development, including assessing raw materials, envisaging the finished product, planning, implementing and evaluating success.
    • Adventure tourism : Adventure tourism is an introductory text that looks at commercial adventure tourism products based on nature, including expeditions, rafting, kayaking, diving, surfing, skiing and snowboarding, ice climbing, horse riding, hiking, mountain biking, safaris and wildlife. Adventure tourism and outdoor activities management is a book that provides case studies from successful professionals in the adventure tourism industry, and guidance on managing products and customers and sustainable tourism. The book also explores changing markets, technology, corporate social responsibility and climate change. Adventure tourism: The new Frontier also uses case studies to examines the product, the adventure tourist profile, and issues such as supply, geography and sustainability. International case studies include gorilla watching holidays, trekking on Mount Everest, diving holidays, and Outward Bound packages.
    • Geotourism: Volcano and geothermal tourism provides a global review and assessment of the sustainable use of active and dormant volcanic and geothermal environments for geotourism. There are over 1300 active volcanoes worldwide, and some are developed as tourist destinations. For example, Mount Fuji in Japan attracts over 100 million visitors per year and has immense cultural and spiritual significance, while some volcanic areas in national parks (e.g. Teide in Spain, Yellowstone in the US, Vesuvius in Italy and Tongariro in New Zealand) attract between one to four million tourists each year.
    • Marine and water-based tourism: A practical guide to good practice: Managing environmental impacts in the marine recreation sector is a handbook covering practical elements of marine tourism, such as anchoring, boat operation and maintenance, waste disposal, snorkeling and diving, seafood consumption and souvenirs, recreation fishing and marine wildlife viewing. The book Marine tourism examines both successful and unsuccessful tourism in coastal and marine environments with a series of case studies. The book includes overview of the history, development and growth of marine tourism and describes the characteristics of 'marine tourists' and the 'vendors' of these tourist activities, and also management techniques to reduce negative impacts and maximize benefits. Waterbased tourism, sport, leisure and recreation experiences describes a diverse range of waterbased activities, such as sailing, motorized water sports, fishing, diving and snorkeling, rafting and kayaking, and the sustainability of these ventures.
    • Forest tourism: A practical guide to good practice for tropical forest-based tours includes information on conservation issues for tropical forests, good business practices (e.g. visitor education and messaging, infrastructure, engaging with local communities, good environmental practices, vehicles and vessels, contributing to conservation and issues around climate changes). The handbook also includes good practices for specific tour activities in tropical forests and sources of further information.
    • Mountain tourism: Tourism and mountains: A practical guide to managing social and environmental impacts of mountain tours was created to help mountain-based tour operators and other mountain recreation professionals improve their environmental and social performance. The handbook provides an overview of mountain ecosystems and communities and a discussion of the nature and potential impacts of mountain tourism and tour activities. It also includes good practices for a range of key issues related to mountain tourism, and a self-assessment checklist for operators.


    Box 7 : Case study on assessing tourism potential : Assessment of nature-based tourism in South Kelantan, Malaysia

    Nature-based tourism is an important part of the global tourism industry, and its components and features vary considerably from one destination to another. In Malaysia, location, quality and quantity of natural resources, and their infrastructure have not been well documented in the past. An assessment was made of the potential of natural tourism destinations in South Kelantan, by selecting fifteen destinations such as waterfalls and caves as case studies. Based on geographical information systems (GIS) application, 23 indicators for tourism destination assessment were investigated using observation and checklist techniques. The destinations were further classified based on physical features, infrastructure and accessibility. The results showed that 3 destinations were in the first category, 11 in the second category and only one destination in the third category. The assessment found that GIS application is effective in providing higher quality of information for natural tourism destination, which is an essential tool for decision making process.


    Regional and country-specific guidance for NBT product development is also available, including for the following places:


    • USA: Making nature your business is a guide designed for farmers and ranchers in Texas, USA. It provides a step-by-step guideline to help them start NBT enterprises. Nature-based tourism enterprises: Guidelines for success also aims to help in the design and development of NBT enterprises in the USA. Nature tourism: A guidebook for evaluating ecotourism opportunities is a handbook to help landowners that considering establishing a tourism/recreation enterprise. Topics include options for tourism and recreation businesses, product development, financial plans, marketing plans, legal and regulatory issues, safety procedures. Planning and Managing Agritourism and Nature Tourism Enterprises: A Handbook is a how-to manual for farmers, ranchers, and the professionals who work with them. The handbook can also be used as a train-the-trainer tool. Green marketing trends provides an overview green market trends using the language, research findings, and market segmentation of US based markets to help people understand wildlife friendly products, and also the role of certification in branding. As a complementary tool, New and evolving web-based marketing helps enterprises to find market outlets for their wildlife-friendly products. Nature-based tourism marketing provides a step-by-step guide for businesses to develop their product/service mix, people market identification, price, partnerships, packaging and promotion.
    • Ireland: The Teagasc rural tourism booklet is a guideline for farmers in Ireland, providing information on a range of commercial accommodation activity and attraction options. It provides guidance for business planning and SWOT analyses and on how to market enterprises and case studies. Ecotourism handbook for Ireland also provides information on the ecotourism market, business planning and funding, certification and marketing.
    • Australia: The Queensland ecotourism development toolkit helps developers to navigate the planning and regulatory process in Queensland, Australia, streamline assessment processes, and to ensure that any impacts on sensitive environments are mitigated. The toolkit is complemented by Best practice ecotourism development guidelines , which provide information for the private sector on the development of ecotourism facilities and experiences in Queenslands’ national parks. The guidelines includes best practice criteria; guidance on how to take a site suitability assessment, requirements for certification from an accredited certification scheme and also 6 case studies of ecotourism operation in Australia, Costa Rica and Namibia.
    • Southern Africa: The Southern Africa Development Community Guideline for cross-border tourism products (awaiting weblink) provides information to guide the step-by-step development of tourism activities that take place within transfrontier conservation areas, and across international borders in southern Africa.


    Box 8 : Examples of good practices in nature-based tourism operations


    Case studies in ecotourism is a book with 170 examples of ecotourism, ecolodges, private reserve and public parks. The case studies range from the world’s best models to test cases, small and large, unique to representative. The book shows what ecotourism can achieve and what constraints it faces.

    Indigenous ecotourism, a book that examines the key principles from a diverse range of case studies drawn different regions of the world. The book and analyses the key factors for sustainable development and the management of indigenous ecotourism.

    Private Sector Tourism in Conservation Areas in Africa uses 32 comprehensive case studies of accommodation facilities in 11 African countries to provide guidelines for optimal benefits and sustainable NBT. The book includes descriptions of the various models for the private sector to engage in tourism in conservation areas in Africa, and guidance on identifying the most suitable private sector tourism options to promote the long-term sustainability.

    Tourism for development is a compilation of 23 international good practice case studies that highlight tourism’s contribution to sustainable development. Among these are nature-based tourism cases, including Sabyino Community Livelihood Association in Rwanda, El Carlos Ecotourism and Archaeological Centre in Columbia, and Chumbe Island Coral Park in Tanzania.

    Tourism product development interventions and best practices in sub-Saharan Africa: Part 2: Case studies describes case studies including the wildlife conservancy program in Namibia, hiking tourism on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and safari operators &Beyond and Wilderness Safaris. A synthesis report based on the case studies is also available.

    Ecotourism and conservation in the Americas shares 16 case studies and regional overviews from the US and Latin America.

    Tourism, local livelihoods and the private sector in South Africa: case studies on the growing role of the private sector in natural resources management examines how changing institutional arrangements and policies affect poor people's livelihoods and access to natural resources. Six different scenarios are analysed to demonstrate how government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the private sector and rural communities have influenced rural livelihoods through tourism practices in South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.


    Wilderness Safaris: Ecotourism entrepreneurship is a case study from Harvard Business School that explores whether the African company can find a sustainable growth path that will allow it to profitably expand its business and meet its shareholders’ interests while still achieving its objectives to protect and invest in the ecosystems and communities.

    Impacts of Nature-based Tourism

    Nature based tourism can have a variety of positive and negative impacts. The types of impacts are broad in their range, and affect natural resources, local economies, culture and society, and also tourists themselves. Sometimes it is difficult to establish the balance between the positive and negative impacts of tourism. This section reviews examples of tools, guidance materials and illustrations of NBT impacts.

    Environment Impacts

    All forms of tourism have impacts on the natural environment. The impacts of ecotourism tend to be concentrated in areas of highest conservation value, hence the need to manage and minimize these. The Routledge handbook of tourism and the environment explores and critically evaluates the debates and controversies inherent to tourism’s relationship with nature. Its five sections include the philosophical basis of the ‘environment’; different types of ecosystems and the negative and positive impacts upon them; environmental policy and management mechanisms the changing tourism-environment relationship; and also contemporary and future issues. Environmental impacts of ecotourism is a book that reviews the environmental impacts and management of particular NBT activities, such as hiking and camping, off-road vehicles, and recreational boats, and impacts specific to certain ecosystems (e.g. marine environments, polar coasts, mountain environments.) Conservation tourism is a book that focuses on case studies from tourism companies that have made positive contributions to the conservation of global biodiversity. These case studies range from private marine reserves to bird watching lodges in different regions across the world. Tourism, recreation and sustainability presents a discussion from leading contributors on the impacts of tourism on local culture and the environment. These are presented in sections on frameworks and approaches, tourism and destinations, and culture. Tourism development and the environment: Beyond sustainability? explores the tourism–development– environment nexus, by recognizing tourism as a valuable and powerful sector of the global economy and for destinations, that can catalyse development. Nature-based tourism, environment and land management looks at the economic, social and environmental consequences of nature-based tourism, and its effects on land managers. It discusses the importance of links and partnerships, as well as the conflicts, between commercial tourism interests and land management agencies.


    As guidance for NBT businesses, Green your business: Toolkit for tourism operators is a Canadian handbook that provides user-friendly, accessible and practical tips for operators in protected areas in becoming more environmentally sustainable. It provides tools for different business processes (e.g. product development, marketing, purchasing etc.) and by need (e.g. energy, waste, water, outdoor environment, carbon neutral, socio-cultural).


    Nature-based tourism can generate important positive impacts on natural habitats and wildlife, but if not properly managed, it can damage the natural resources on which it is based. Not only can it undermine the quality and integrity of biodiversity, but it can also lead to a deterioration of the visitor experience itself. There are a number of background papers that describe and illustrate the key issues between tourism and biodiversity. These include the following:

    • UNWTO’s Tourism and biodiversity: Achieving common goals towards sustainability illustrates the high value of biodiversity for tourism, outlines current policies, guidelines and global initiatives in which the interrelationship between tourism and biodiversity is addressed, as well as identifies risks and challenges for the tourism sector from the global loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. The report includes ten recommendations for actions on biodiversity and tourism for governments (at national and destination level), the tourism private sector, international organizations and NGOs.
    • Wildlife-based ecotourism as sustainable conservation strategy is a research report that includes an analysis of 208 wildlife-based ecotourism enterprises. The study reviews ecological, socio-political and economic management contexts of the enterprises, and describes extensive and varied impacts on wildlife. These include indirect impacts related to the reduction of threats, and also direct impacts resulting from the tourism activities themselves. 
    • The paper Net effects of ecotourism on threatened species survival explores the net effects of tourism on threatened species (which may rely on NBT for conservation funding). It uses population viability analyses to calculate the net effects of ecotourism on expected time to extinction, in the presence of other anthropogenic threats such as poaching, primary industries and habitat loss.

    Resources that can help to enhance the positive impacts of NBT on nature include the following:

    • Biodiversity: My hotel in action is a guide to the sustainable use of biological resources in accommodation. The guidance included aims to support positive impacts of biodiversity through hotel restaurants, guest rooms and public spaces, souvenir shops, hotel gardens and also in the broader destination. The guide includes information from TRAFFIC on sustainable use of specific types of biological resources, such as fish and seafood, wood and aromatic plants.
    • Guidance for a quality nature tourism industry provides practical advice to tourism businesses on how to reduce the environmental impact of a nature-based business, ensuring local communities are integrated into the business models and visitors respect the surrounding nature and cultural heritage.

    There has been increasing interest in animal welfare issues in tourism and, particularly in relation to the treatment of wildlife interactions. Concerns relate mainly to situations where wildlife is where are in captivity, petted, fed or visitors can swim with marine wildlife or ride elephants. There are concerns that social media, and the desire for travellers to have pictures of themselves petting animals, is fueling captive animal interactions that live in poor conditions. 32 Also, research suggests that travellers are not good at establishing whether animals are being well treated or not. 33 The book Tourism and animal welfare explores the diversity of tourism experiences with animals (including shark and elephant tourism, sport hunting, zoos and aquariums), and ethics, animal rights, and human obligations to animals. The Global welfare guidelines for animals in tourism , with six associated manuals including on animals in captive environments (e.g. dolphins and elephants), wildlife viewing and working animals. Aimed to support travel businesses and suppliers of animal experiences, they aim to encourage good practice in animal protection and welfare. These are freely available to Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) members, while non-members and partners can purchase them. TripAdvisor has an online portal on Improving animal welfare in tourism which provides articles on animal rights, and tourism, conservation and sustainability. To guide the tourism sector to purchasing decisions that support wildlife, the US Wildlife Trafficking Alliance has published Protecting wildlife by buying informed: A corporate toolkit . The guide helps companies to play a role by closing off supply chains, helping educate the public, and raising awareness of the need to shut down the markets for illegal wildlife products. The book Wild animals and leisure is a collection of papers that provides an in-depth analysis of the rights and welfare of humans and wild animals a forum for future considerations of wild animals and leisure. It provides a voice for animal welfare agendas that seek to improve the conditions under which wild animals interact with and are engaged with by humans.

    There are a series of guidelines developed for tourism for specific types of wildlife or habitats. These include:

    • Primates : Best practice guidelines for great ape tourism provides information on for existing and potential great ape tourism sites that want to improve the contribution of conservation, rather than exploitation of great apes. It includes lessons learned from great ape tourism programs and their impacts; and guidance for the planning, development and implementation and monitoring of visits. There is also specific species-specific information for gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans.
    • Rivers & waterbodies: Environmental sustainability for river cruising is a best practice guideline designed to support this sector around the world. It offers principles for environmentally sustainable river cruising and specific guidance relating to energy, water, wastewater, solid waste, communications, environmental management systems, in addition to partnerships and cooperation. River tourism uses cases studies from across the world to explore a range of perspectives, including heritage, management, environmental concerns, and marketing.


    Box 9 : Visitor engagement in species identification & research

    iNaturalist is a nature app that helps people to identify plants and animals, that aims to help people connect to nature. It is a crowdsourced species identification system and occurrence recording tool. People can use it to record their own sightings, get help to identify species, and collaborate with others to collect information.

    Economic and Financial Impacts

    Nature-based tourism can generate a range of economic and financial impacts. At the national level, protected area tourism revenue can contribute to foreign exchange earnings and the balance of payments, and these can be used to justify expenditures on conservation, or can provide revenue directly to protected area authorities for conservation. The financial benefits generated from tourism services can also incentivize local people to care for nature, and encourage the private sector to conserve biodiversity. 34 These benefits may include ownership and equity in businesses, benefit sharing from tourism revues, money earned from jobs or the sale of products and services to tourists or operators, or corporate social responsibility initiatives.

    There are resources that quantify and illustrate the range of economic and financial impacts from NBT. These include the following:


    • Walk on the wild side is a research article that estimates the global magnitude of visits to protected areas. The analysis found that in 2015 visits generate approximately USD 600 billion/y in direct in-country expenditure and USD 250 billion/y in consumer surplus. Notably, these values dwarf current (and typically inadequate) protected area conservation expenditure for protected areas. Benefits from ecotourism to local communities has have been found to include a reductions in hunting, and also increases in wildlife sightings, for example in Lao PDR .
    • The book Economics for the wilds: Wildlife, diversity and development , provides a theoretical and practical basis for understanding the value of wild resources as well as the strategies for conserving them. The book explores specific uses of wildlife and their habitats (both sustainable and unsustainable), and topics including community-based development, tourism, poaching, and the impact of conservation on wildlife use.
    • Nature tourism, conservation, and development in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa provides an evaluation and policy advice relating to NBT in this destination. The contributors explore three key issues: (1) the creation of a true nature tourism economy that supports biodiversity conservation; (2) the role of the private sector in contributing to equitable development, job creation and conservation finance; and (3) alternative pricing, and other market mechanisms that can help make nature tourism more viable, and growth-oriented.

    Box 10 : Key findings from Towards measuring the economic value of wildlife watching tourism in Africa


    • A sample of 14 countries are generate an estimated USD 142 million in entrance fees from their protected areas
    • About 50% of the tour operators surveyed fund antipoaching initiatives and/or engaging in nature conservation projects.
    • The average number of participants in a wildlife watching tour in Africa is 6 persons, though the number of participants can range from 1 to 30 persons.
    • The average length of stay for a typical wildlife watching tour from the overall sample is 10 days.
    • The average tour price per day is USD 433 per person.
    • The average out of pocket spending per day is USD 44 per person.

    The World Bank’s Biodiversity, nature-based tourism and jobs is a review of literature on NBT the magnitude and range of economic benefits for conservation and local community incomes. Similarly, Towards measuring the economic value of wildlife watching tourism in Africa looks at the wildlife watching market segment within the tourism sector in Africa. Based on a survey with government institution and tour operators, the briefing paper considers a range of economic benefits, including employment and contributions to nature conservation. The next two sections describe further examples of resources on the contributions of NBT to conservation finance, and also the financial benefits to local communities and economies. conservation finance


    Revenue raised from tourism can directly contribute to management of natural resources and protected areas. Entrance fees and other fees paid for the use of natural and protected areas can be used to finance conservation. However, in some areas funds generated from tourism go to central government treasuries, and conservation budgets do not necessarily relate to the level of this income. 35 For example, Estimating tourism’s conservation area financing in Mozambique demonstrated that 93 protected areas in the country contributed generated USD 24.4 m in 2013 from tourism-related activities, which contributed around 10% of the tourism’s total contribution to the national economy.

    Resources that provide information on the financial benefits that NBT can have for financing conservation include:


    • The Contribution of tourism revenue to financing protected area management in southern Africa is a paper that assesses the extent to which tourism contributes towards biodiversity financing for protected area management in southern African countries. Using country reports to the CBD, it highlights that although tourism is a significant revenue source for protected area authorities in southern Africa, how it is retained and reinvested back into conservation management remains ambiguous.
    • Tourism revenue as a conservation tool for threatened birds in protected areas is a paper that quantifies the contribution of tourism revenue for bird species in the IUCN Red List, using a simple accounting method. The paper highlights that critically endangered bird species rely on tourism more heavily than endangered species, and many protected areas could enhance their management budgets by promoting birdwatching tourism specifically.
    • Finance tools for coral reef conservation: A Guide highlights that public and private capital - both philanthropic and return-seeking - must be leveraged to develop diversified and sustainable self-generated revenue flows that can drive conservation impact. Tourism fees, including entrance fees, permits and concessions, are among the tools considered.


    Box 11 : Studies on tourist’s willingness to pay for nature-based tourism


    A number of papers explore visitor’s willingness to pay (WTP) for NBT, and to visit natural attractions. These research studies ask respondents are asked to specify how much they are willing to pay to visit an area under different conditions. Often the WTP studies have found travellers are (1) willing to pay to visit PAs and (2) are willing to pay more than the established fee. For example:


    • Tourists’ willingness to pay for wildlife viewing and conservation in Namibia uses a contingent valuation approach to explore WTP. The study found that e ach wildlife viewing tourist contributed an estimated N$907 to national income in the tourism sector at economic prices in 1995. The WTP analysis found that higher, daily park admission fees could result in the capture of some N$ 18.2 million new revenue per annum.

  Local financial and economic impacts


    Local people can benefit from economic linkages with NBT. This may include through employment, by selling products and services that tourism companies and tourists need, or by owning tourism businesses.

    Examples of destinations and protected area authorities that share information on their economic impacts include:

    • Scottish Natural Heritage published Assessing the economic impacts of nature based tourism in Scotland , based on a review of existing studies. The report found that the total visitor spending attributable to nature-based tourism per year (rounded and after displacement is deducted) is £1.4 billion with 39,000 associated full-time-employment jobs in 2010.
    • Socio-economic effects of concession-based tourism in New Zealand’s national parks used a tourism inventory and interviews to measure impacts from three national parks: Tongariro National Park (TNP), Abel Tasman National Park (ATNP) and Fiordland National Park (FNP). For every dollar of turnover generated by the concessions, the study found that a further 40 cents, 60 cents and 30 cents circulated in the economy in TNP, ATNP and FNP, respectively.

      Box 12 : Visitor spending effects from national parks in the USA in 2018


      U.S. National Park Service's (NPS) uses the Money Generation Model (MGM) 2 to calculate the economic impact of visitation. In 2018:


    • 318 million visitors spent USD 20.2 billion in communities within 60 miles of a park in the National Park System. Of the 329,000 jobs supported by visitor spending, more than 268,000 jobs exist in the park gateway communities.
    • Economic benefits from visitor spending increased by USD 2 billion and total output increased by USD 4.3 billion in comparison to 2017.
    • Lodging expenses account for the largest share of visitor spending totalling nearly USD 6.8 billion in 2018.
    • Food expenses are the second largest spending area with visitors spending USD 4 billion in restaurants and bars and another USD 1.4 billion at grocery and convenience stores.

    Picture 1

    In developing countries and rural areas, local people may not have adequate skills, knowledge or capital to open and operate such ventures. Therefore it is important to pay attention to the design of benefit-sharing mechanisms so that local communities can benefit but also so that economic benefits are maximized. There is a large body of case studies that illustrate the nature of local economic impacts from NBT, particularly in Africa. These include the following publications:

    • Revenue sharing from tourism in terrestrial African protected areas is a paper that reviews the challenges of revenue sharing as well as four key components of successful revenue-sharing systems, namely (1) clear identification of economic benefits, (2) ensuring that 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 (4) sufficient regulatory and institutional support.
    • Applying inclusive business approaches to nature-based tourism in Namibia and South Africa is a paper that quantifies the impacts of Damaraland Camp in Namibia, and Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa, through an inclusive business approach: focussing on the benefits to low-income populations.
    • Living outside the fence describes a supply-chain analysis undertaken in the South African Sabi Sand Game Reserve, to establish the range of commercial opportunities available to local entrepreneurs neighbouring the protected areas.

    Figure 7: Cost components of safari and mountain climbing packages in Tanzania 36

    A typical mountain-climbing holiday (USD1,376 in-country spend) A typical safari holiday (USD1,826 in-country spend)
    Picture 3 Picture 1


    Tools that are in development to support the assessment of financial and economic impacts of tourism in protected areas include:


    • The Tourism Economic Model in Protected Areas (TEMPA) is an assessment tool that aims to helps guide project managers and others to develop economic analyses through the collection, analysis and reporting of tourism spending data at local and national level. The tool is built on the foundations of the Money Generation Model (see box below), and is currently being reviewed by the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel. A case study applying the approach is described in Economic impacts of tourism in protected areas of Brazil .

    Box 13 provides some examples of the value of birding tourism in different countries, and option to maximize value.

    Box 13 : The value of birding tourism in different countries and maximising tourism potential

    • In 1999, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute estimated that 41% of its USD 1-billion dollar tourism revenues was from tourists who came primarily for the purpose of birdwatching.
    • In 1997 South Africa, received between 11,400 and 21,200 birdwatchers per year who contributed USD 12 to 26 million to the South African economy.
    • A study of villages in Poland that have established stork nesting colonies indicated that tourists spent an average of USD 60 per visit (excluding travel costs) and USD 120 per visit (including travel costs) as a result of viewing the storks.
    • A study by the RSPB in the UK estimated that each tourist spends £4.92 on a day trip and £55.96 on a visit to view birds.

    The figure below shows a range of options to maximise value from birding tourism

    Picture 1

    Social and Cultural Impacts

    Social and cultural impacts of tourism can include changes to the living standards and in the value and pride that people have for natural assets. Tourism can encourage the conservation of culture, crafts and arts, and promote aesthetic, spiritual, health and other values of well-being. Environmental education for visitors and local people can be used to foster better understanding of the cultural heritage value of natural resources. 37 Background papers on social and cultural impacts of tourism include :


    • Indigenous ecotourism, is a book that examines the key principles from a diverse range of case studies drawn different regions of the world with community involvement and ownership.
    • Tourism, health, wellbeing and protected areas is a book that shares a series of case studies discussing best practices for park and protected area tourism development and their contributions to the health and wellbeing of visitors and local communities.


    Tools developed for leaders in tourism destinations to maximize benefits to local communities from NBT include:


    • The Operational guidelines for community-based tourism in South Africa provide step-by-step guidance for the development of community-based tourism, and also the modification of private-sector structures to establish partnerships with community entities. The guidelines include a series of NBT case studies, and useful guidance on troubleshooting challenges that may arise.
    • The Rural tourism toolkit is toolkit designed to help community leadership in Colorado, USA, to take an objective look at their community and determine future directions. It provides information on the benefits of rural tourism, tools for community assessment and action planning, and also best practices and case studies.
    • A practical guide to good practice for marine-based tours is designed to help marine tour operators improve their environmental and social performance, as a way to both contribute to marine conservation and the economic development of coastal communities, and increase their attractiveness to increasingly discerning consumers.

    Risk Management

    Risk management is the forecasting and analysis of potential financial and non-financial risks, and identifying procedures to mitigate or eliminate their impact. Risks can arise at the local, national, or international levels and be either internal or external to a NBT initiative. 40

    Nature-based tourism in Peripheral areas: Development or disaster? examines problems of NBT development in peripheral areas, including sub-polar areas, alpine areas and forests, mountains, islands and coastal environments. The book considers the opportunities that nature-based tourism provide as the basis for peripheral region development. Similarly, Ecotourism’s promise and peril: A biological evaluation , considers the impacts that visitation can have on wildlife – including behavioral, physiological, ecological, and evolutionary impacts. The book also synthesizes the current state of knowledge regarding best practices for reducing human impacts on wildlife. Also Tourism in changing natural environments explores how the impacts of climate change, natural and man-made disasters, economic instability, and other macro-environmental factors can have profound implications for local and global economies, fragile ecosystems, and human cultures and livelihoods. From Africa, Wildlife-based Tourism and Climate: Potential Opportunities and Challenges for Botswana highlights the decline of wildlife due to human activities in southern Africa. It describes how fragmentation of wildlife habitats combined with increased climate variability due to climate change, poses a risk to the sustainability of a wildlife-based tourism product in Botswana. The publication calls for the need to consider adaptation measures in this sector, and to seek for other alternative tourism attractions and/or products.


    Figure 8 : Tourism related-threats in protected areas

    Picture 15

    Monitoring and Evaluation

    Effective monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of NBT allows managers of NBT destinations and enterprises to measure progress against selected variables to detect areas of success and failure. This information can be used to adapt management approaches to improve the level of performance overall.

    Box 14 : Case Study: Assessment of natural resources for nature-based tourism: the case of the Central Coast Region of Western Australia

    The journal paper provides a case study and developing and applying an evaluation framework to NBT activities at a destination level. The framework evaluates operations based on attractions, access, supporting infrastructure and level of environmental degradation. Finally, it highlights some of the difficulties associated with establishing objective resource evaluation techniques for nature-based tourism.

    There are many useful tools available to help design and implement M&E for NBT. The DestiMED project has compiled a Report on available monitoring tools , as a global review of current and past tourism monitoring and certification programs for tourism in protected areas. Some of the tools include:


    • Ecotourism tracking tool in monitoring and evaluation of ecotourism sites or projects in the Philippines is a tool for operational tourism enterprises. It aims to standardise sets of criteria and parameters to be checked in monitoring and evaluation of ecotourism sites and project to ensure environmental friendliness. The tool includes ratings checklists and questionnaire tools to help with the evaluation of policies; operational management; socio-cultural and biological features; ecotourism products and services; economic benefits; financing/enterprise building; and facilities.
    • A question of balance: Green is the new black is a self-audit workbook was developed by the Tourism Industry of Nova Scotia to provide tourism operators with helpful environmental information, best practices, and a method for conducting a self audit. While not specific to NBT, it addresses environmental management issues, and tools for energy and water conservation, waste management and enhancing socio-economic benefits.
    • A toolkit for monitoring and managing community-based tourism is designed to provide readers with the know-how to set up and run a monitoring programme for a community-based tourism project. It gives step-by-step guidelines, supported by a wide range of case studies, in order to enable readers to embark on their own monitoring project.


    Box 15 : Citizen science for monitoring of NBT


    Protected area managers can use citizen science to develop effective interventions for resource management issues. Citizen science is a form of protected area-based volunteerism that supports research
    efforts. Citizen scientists are sometimes tourists who have travelled to
    a protected area specifically for this purpose, and can also be local outdoor recreationists who enjoy leisure opportunities in protected areas while at the same time
    contributing their energy and skills to science. For example, in Australia, the Victoria Marine National Park and Sanctuary started the
    Sea Search citizen science project to gather information about the health of the network of Victoria’s marine parks and sanctuaries. Similarly, the University of York in the UK used volunteers to document sightings of over 250 species of invertebrates.


    For tourism in protected areas, the following specific monitoring tools are available:


    • Threshold of sustainability for tourism within protected areas: A quick guide for protected area practitioners , introduces a tourism management framework called the “threshold of sustainability.” It is designed to enable managers to take rapid action to mitigate the most critical threats, while beginning to lay a solid financial foundation for tourism within protected areas. It includes a series of steps, including assessment of threats (see figure below), identification of actions, assessing tourism finances and the broader enabling environment, developing a communications strategy and implementing and monitoring actions.
    • Visitor monitoring in nature areas is a manual based on experience from the Nordic and Baltic countries. It includes guidelines, recommendations and examples on visitor monitoring methodologies applicable to nature areas in Nordic and Baltic countries. This includes visitor counting, visitor surveys, and also reporting, interpreting and using visitor information.
    • The Sustainable nature-based tourism assessment toolkit 41 provides a mechanism for tangibly and transparently measuring management, environmental, social and economic characteristics of NBT in a reliable and comparable way. The toolkit was developed in South African protected areas.
    • The Global database protected areas visitors (GD-PAVIS) a ims to be a new tool to improve the reporting on sustainable tourism in protected and conserved areas. Information compiled in the database will help report on several global indicators (e.g. tourism use, tourism value, and tourism-related economic impacts of protected areas), generate knowledge on tourism and protected areas, support decision-making of governments in relation to sustainable tourism strategies in protected areas, and strengthen capacity of park managers to develop appropriate systems to store and manage information on sustainable tourism.


    Figure 9: Global database protected areas visitors (GD-PAVIS) 42

    Picture 3

    The general aim of certification is to foster responsible environmental, social and cultural behaviour and provide a quality product to consumers. Certification provides a mechanism through which enterprises can be recognised voluntary standards of performance that meet or exceed baseline standards or legislation, following independent third party verification. 43

    A simple user’s guide to certification for sustainable tourism and ecotourism is designed for those who have heard about certifying sustainable tourism and ecotourism and want to understand how it works or how to begin the process. Quality assurance and certification in ecotourism is a book that considers the topic of quality control and accreditation in ecotourism, with a broad range of examples and case studies. The book describes the mechanisms that can be implemented to ensure quality in all aspects of the industry, namely protected areas, businesses, products and tour guides. Similarly, Ecotourism and certification: Setting standards in practice explores the concepts underlying certification and highlights case studies of certification schemes around the world. The book Quality assurance and certification in tourism 44 is designed to provide a thorough review and application of certification and quality assurance schemes with perspectives on their application from the community, tour guide, protected area managers and tourism industry perspectives. The book includes examples of NBT and ecotourism certification programs, and their application in natural destinations. Tourism in protected areas: Developing meaningful standards is a paper that partnerships between conservation and tourism and how these partnerships could unfold through the work of the IUCN Green List and the work of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council .


    Box 16 : Case Study: Assessment of Nature-Based Tourism Business and Tourist Demand in Vlora Bay and Karaburun-Sazan National Marine Park, Albania.


    This study identifies and evaluates nature-based sustainable tourism-related certification schemes available in, or appropriate for Albania. The study evaluated tourist demand and tourist satisfaction in Vlora Bay, the level of information available on Karaburun-Sazan MPA and approaches to nature based initiatives. It provides lessons learned for other MPA evaluations and copies of applied questionnaires.


    There are hundreds of standards and certification programs globally, but there are particularly reputable examples for NBT. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) has recognised and accredited certification programs for NBT, including those aligned with the:



    Also, the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network ’s standards for gorilla friendly and sea turtle friendly tourism. Their gorilla friendly standard is currently being used by the International Gorilla Conservation Program to establish new training materials for guides, trackers and porters in Rwanda.


    Box 17 : Use of certification to ensure best practice NBT in protected areas in Australia


    The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has implemented a High Standard Tour Operator program for a number of years, so that the majority of visitors to the reef are led by certified operators. The park rewards and encourage tour operators to become certified by Earthcheck and Ecotourism Australia through longer licenses, exclusive access to sensitive sites, and promotional opportunities. Theses no-cost approaches demonstrate to operators that being sustainable, and independently certified as so, makes business sense.


    Some NBT companies that promote sustainable practices share their annual reports, demonstrating their impacts on conservation and local economies. These include the following:

    • &Beyond’s Impact review 2018 , with information on the companies impact on land, wildlife and local communities.