World Wetlands Day, February 2, 2012

Wetlands and Tourism

The World Wetlands Day theme for 2012 is Wetlands and Tourism and is linked to the theme for the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties, COP11: Wetlands, Tourism and Recreation, which will take place in July 2012, in Bucharest, Romania.

Mangrove Forest, Jozani Forest, Zanzibar

Wetland tourism has benefits both locally and nationally for people and wildlife – benefits such as stronger economies, sustainable livelihoods, healthy people and thriving ecosystems. At least 35% of Ramsar Sites around the world record some level of tourism activity and this percentage is consistent throughout all regions. Of course it is important to consider tourism in all wetlands – not just those designated as Ramsar Sites – since the Contracting Parties to the Convention are committed to managing all wetlands.

It is worth noting that tourism is one of the many services that wetlands deliver. Ensuring well-managed tourism practices in and around wetlands and educating tourists on the value of wetlands contributes to their health and the long-term benefits that wetlands provide to people, wildlife, economics, and biodiversity.

To date, the Ramsar Convention has not had a specific focus on wetlands, tourism and recreation.


For WWD 2012, we turn our attention to Wetlands and Tourism

World Wetlands Day 2012 will be the warm-up for the strong focus on tourism at COP11 – a chance for us to help all our WWD actors focus their attention on tourism in and around wetlands. WWD 2012 is an opportunity to use the campaign Wetlands and Tourism to look at the value of your local wetlands from the perspectives of tourists and local community members, and to examine the benefits of sustainable tourism on wetland ecosystems.

  • How can tourists contribute to local economies, conservation goals, education and raise awareness about the benefits of wetlands?
  • How can recreation encourage conservation?
  • How can local NGOs partner with wetlands managers for best practices to maintain or increase biodiversity and ecosystem health?
  • How many ways can wetlands managers and tourism planners integrate sustainable tourism and recreation into well-managed wetlands?


In preparing the WWD 2012 materials, we have worked with the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the leading international organization in the field of tourism. Tourism can play a very important role in conservation issues if environmental awareness and conservation messages are part of well-managed tourism activities. This is one reason why the formal agreement between Ramsar and UNWTO, the Memorandum of Cooperation, is important.


Expanding the WWD 2012 theme at COP11: Wetlands, Tourism and Recreation


At COP11, we will explore Wetlands, Tourism and Recreation. The Ramsar Secretariat expects to have a draft Resolution on this topic which will highlight the importance of the subject for the consideration and adoption at COP11 by the Contracting Parties and provide the framework to help countries develop sustainable tourism in wetlands and other ecosystems. It will propose measures that they can take in the short and long term to ensure sustainable wetland tourism. The first draft of this proposed Resolution will be considered by our Standing Committee at the end of October 2011 and will be available on our website at that time.

Ramsar, in partnership with UNWTO, will launch at COP11 a full-colour booklet of practical case studies on the direct and indirect impacts and benefits of tourism on Ramsar Sites and other wetlands, using selected sites from all of the Ramsar regions. The case studies will examine the opportunities and threats that wetland tourism brings and identify key messages to share with important target groups – land-use as well as wetland policy-makers, local governments, tourism developers, wetland site managers and others. It will highlight important lessons learned to help those considering the development of tourism in and around their wetlands or struggling to deal with issues from ongoing unsustainable tourism practices.

On World Wetlands Day, February 2, 2010, the Ramsar Secretariat and UNWTO formalised their relationship and signed a Memorandum of Cooperation to promote the wise use and sustainable tourism practices at wetlands; increase and improve the designation and management of wetlands of international importance; and enhance regional and international cooperation between ministries responsible for wetlands management and biodiversity conservation and those responsible for tourism development.

To be sustainable, tourism should:


  • Make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural resources and biodiversity.
  • Respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance.
  • Ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation.

We hope that you are inspired by the theme of Wetlands and Tourism for WWD 2012 and that you will share with us what you are planning in the coming months.

For more information:

World Wetlands Day Events: Here is a list of activities reported in 2011.

The files for WWD 2012 materials are posted here:  WWD 2012 Index page 

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Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
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