The Positive Effects of Nature-Based Tourism

The Positive Effects of Nature-Based Tourism

  • In southern and eastern Africa, the benefits of well-managed nature-based tourism to conservation have long been known. It helps makes protecting vast areas of wilderness financially viable; to governments and landowners from fees, and local people in the form of jobs. It can also incentivise looking after wildlife that traditionally would have been hunted - take Maasai pastoralists now acting as guardians for lions or former poachers becoming celebrated safari guides. At a wider scale, tourism has driven the transformation of entire landscapes, whether rewilding former ranches or being central to the successful restoration of vast national parks.

  • In Europe, the trend has been late to take hold but the timing could not be better. Tourism has shifted from the luxury of ‘things’ to experience-seeking, while increasingly people are avoiding long haul flights, opting instead to explore more sustainably closer to home. Many are looking to travel with purpose and support causes close to their heart with their trips. At the same time, the interest in and inspiring examples of rewilding in Europe have turned from a trickle to a torrent in the last decade. This crowded continent may be the last place that springs to mind when it comes to reconnecting with nature, but things are changing and the wider effects on conservation are already being felt.

  • Take the Central Apennines not far from bustling Rome. Here, ecotourism has been quietly booming over the last few years, with many visitors drawn by nature-based activities such as tracking wolves and the endemic Marsican brown bear through the mountains. Once seen as pests and damaging to livelihoods, new pride and value in these iconic species have led to farmers working with NGOs to mitigate human-wildlife conflict and reverse their decline.

  • In Europe, the trend has been late to take hold but the timing could not be better. Tourism has shifted from the luxury of ‘things’ to experience-seeking, while increasingly people are avoiding long haul flights, opting instead to explore more sustainably closer to home. Many are looking to travel with purpose and support causes close to their heart with their trips. At the same time, the interest in and inspiring examples of rewilding in Europe have turned from a trickle to a torrent in the last decade. This crowded continent may be the last place that springs to mind when it comes to reconnecting with nature, but things are changing and the wider effects on conservation are already being felt.
  •  
  • Take the Central Apennines not far from bustling Rome. Here, ecotourism has been quietly booming over the last few years, with many visitors drawn by nature-based activities such as tracking wolves and the endemic Marsican brown bear through the mountains. Once seen as pests and damaging to livelihoods, new pride and value in these iconic species have led to farmers working with NGOs to mitigate human-wildlife conflict and reverse their decline.
    1. With an ever more urbanised Europe, attracting tourists to remote rural areas brings money and often needed new sources of employment. On the Isle of Mull, the reintroduction of white-tailed eagles is estimated to bring in £5 million of tourist income annually and supports over 100 jobs. As with a lion to a pastoralist on the Maasai Mara, or eagle to a shepherd in Scotland, thanks to tourism predators can now be worth more to communities alive, offsetting the damage they can cause. The potential of ecotourism may be what directly leads to future UK reintroductions, as it’s hoped lynx and beavers will have a similar economic impact as white-tailed eagles.

In Portugal’s Faia Brava Reserve, an area where Mossy Earth has planted trees, sustainable tourism businesses have been set up not only to actively support rewilding efforts but also to immerse visitors in the local culture in a meaningful way. While the main draw is important vulture conservation, unique accommodation, wine and great food certainly help sell the whole experience in a way that involves all manner of local stakeholders.

  1. With an ever more urbanised Europe, attracting tourists to remote rural areas brings money and often needed new sources of employment. On the Isle of Mull, the reintroduction of white-tailed eagles is estimated to bring in £5 million of tourist income annually and supports over 100 jobs. As with a lion to a pastoralist on the Maasai Mara, or eagle to a shepherd in Scotland, thanks to tourism predators can now be worth more to communities alive, offsetting the damage they can cause. The potential of ecotourism may be what directly leads to future UK reintroductions, as it’s hoped lynx and beavers will have a similar economic impact as white-tailed eagles.
  1. In Portugal’s Faia Brava Reserve, an area where Mossy Earth has planted trees, sustainable tourism businesses have been set up not only to actively support rewilding efforts but also to immerse visitors in the local culture in a meaningful way. While the main draw is important vulture conservation, unique accommodation, wine and great food certainly help sell the whole experience in a way that involves all manner of local stakeholders.
    1. And in another area where Mossy Earth works, Alladale Wilderness Reserve, a former hunting estate is pioneering an alternative conservation-focused way for the Highlands to be managed that’s attracting visitors from around the world, and other landowners are paying attention. Part of a wider Scottish rewilding movement, the potential for wildlife such as the critically endangered Scottish wildcat, carbon sequestering and climate resilience is enormous.

      This doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the personal benefits of engaging with a more abundant, biodiverse landscape in active and sustainable ways. But as more people want to get back in touch with nature and give something back with their travels, the future is looking wilder.

  1. And in another area where Mossy Earth works, Alladale Wilderness Reserve, a former hunting estate is pioneering an alternative conservation-focused way for the Highlands to be managed that’s attracting visitors from around the world, and other landowners are paying attention. Part of a wider Scottish rewilding movement, the potential for wildlife such as the critically endangered Scottish wildcat, carbon sequestering and climate resilience is enormous.

    This doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the personal benefits of engaging with a more abundant, biodiverse landscape in active and sustainable ways. But as more people want to get back in touch with nature and give something back with their travels, the future is looking wilder.

Sources & further reading

  1. 1. “How a former poacher became one of South Africa's most celebrated safari guides” – The telegraph 2019 – telegraph.co.uk
  2.  
  3. 2. "Wildlife at work – the economic impact of white-tailed eagles on the Isle of Mull" – RSPB 2011 – rspb.org.uk
  4.  
  5. 3. Lion guardians - lionguardians.org
  6.  
  7. 4. Akagera National Parkafricanparks.org
  8.  
  9. 5. European Safari Companyeuropeansafaricompany.com
  10.  
  11. 5. Wildlife Adventureswildlifeadventures.it
  1. 1. “How a former poacher became one of South Africa's most celebrated safari guides” – The telegraph 2019 – telegraph.co.uk
  2.  
  3. 2. "Wildlife at work – the economic impact of white-tailed eagles on the Isle of Mull" – RSPB 2011 – rspb.org.uk
  4.  
  5. 3. Lion guardians - lionguardians.org
  6.  
  7. 4. Akagera National Parkafricanparks.org
  8.  
  9. 5. European Safari Companyeuropeansafaricompany.com
  10.  
  11. 5. Wildlife Adventureswildlifeadventures.it