Tourism has increased by more than 100 percent between 1990 and 2000 in the world`s biodiversity hotspots, causing threat to the areas, the Conservation International (CI) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) said in a recent press release.
“With the growth of annual tourist arrivals worldwide expanding from 25 million in 1950 to more than 700 million today, tourism`s reach into the last pristine areas of the planet has brought the industry onto the agenda of conservation groups,” said the two parties in a joint release.
Tourism generates 11 percent of global gross domestic product, employs 200 million people and transports nearly 700 million international travelers every year, according to the release.
However, “with nature and adventure travel one of the fastest-growing segments within the tourism industry, the earth`s most fragile, high biodiversity areas are where most of that expansion will likely take place,” said the release.
It cited that poorly planned tourism development in the biodiversity hotspots has a range of negative impacts. These include removing pristine forests for infrastructure development, pollution, introduction of invasive species, water shortages and degradation of water supplies. In addition, tourism development is increasingly linked to the economies of the world`s developing countries, which are often home to high biodiversity areas, the release said.
While tourism has the potential to provide opportunities for conserving nature, tourism development, when done improperly, can be a major threat to biodiversity, the release said.
“We are at a crossroads in the earth`s last strongholds for biodiversity, where nature, struggling communities and the expanding world of tourism meet,” said Costas Christ, senior director for ecotourism of the CI.
“By linking tourism development with biodiversity conservation and the well being of local communities, we can develop strategies that both conserve Earth`s most endangered ecosystems and help make a significant contribution to alleviating poverty,” he said.
Meanwhile, Klaus Topfer, executive director of UNEP, said “tourism has huge potential for good or evil. It is in everyone`s interest, particularly industry, that the economic power of 21st century tourism is harnessed for the benefit of local people and wildlife. Tourism relies on stable and healthy communities and environments.”