'Wetlands, poverty reduction, and sustainable tourism development'

24/07/2007

Press release: 19-7-2007

Wetland tourism vital for poor countries

Today Wetlands International is launching the brochure ‘Wetlands, poverty reduction and sustainable tourism development’. Tourism is a principal source of income for 83% of the developing countries; wetlands like coasts, rivers and lakes play a vital part in this success. The development of tourism is increasingly considered as a solution to poverty in wetland areas, but the brochure shows there are threats as well as opportunities.

Coasts, lakes, rivers, mangroves and other wetland areas are an important resource for tourism. Tourists enjoy swimming and diving, watching birds and other wildlife or just enjoying the scenery. Less is known about the extent to which tourism in these wetlands contributes to poverty reduction in developing countries. One good example is a project in Uganda where a development organisation and a travel agency support bird watching tours for which local people are trained as guides. Previous ly local people were forced to over-exploit their local environment through hunting and burning. Now the income and their improved knowledge of their natural surroundings have really decreased their impact on the environment and enhanced their livelihood.

The relationship between tourism and wetlands is however complex and sometimes adversarial. Tourism can impact wetlands in a number of ways such as by causing habitat loss, pollution, noise or over-consumption of water. Often the economic development of an area is promoted at the cost of its natural beauty, thus destroying its tourism opportunities. For instance, in many countries large hotels are built in vulnerable areas and water resources are overexploited, which is damaging to the scenery the tourist came for in the first place. As many poor depend on wetlands for their survival and income, they have nothing to fall back on when their wetlands are degraded. But with proper planning tourism can also be an innovati ve mechanism for funding nature conservation and development of local livelihoods.

The challenge is to target a substantial part of the income earned through tourism at poverty reduction. Tourists need many things: a place to stay, things to do and see, food, service and souvenirs. If these are provided by local people, tourism can create many jobs. Pro-poor tourism does however need to survive within a competitive market, which makes linkage and cooperation with the private sector essential, involving travel agents, tour operators and hoteliers.

In many countries domestic tourism is bigger than international tourism. Whereas international tourism can play a crucial role in providing economic incentives for maintaining important nature areas, it can also be volatile in reaction to international political crises, natural disasters or diseases. This calls for a balanced development of both markets.

Wetlands International advocates the importance of wetlands fo r the economy of countries. Our organisation also stresses that guidelines should be applied to make the success of tourism sustainable. An approach that focuses on existing flows of tourism and involves community based development that teams up with the private sector (or vice versa). Pro-poor and sustainable tourism should not be developed as a niche market, but should become an integral part of mainstream tourism.

The brochure ‘Wetlands, Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Tourism Development’ is released in English, French and Spanish and has been developed through cooperation between Wetlands International, IUCN Netherlands Committee (IUCN NL), the Dutch development organisation Cordaid, the travel organisation TUI Nederland, the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention, and the Tourism & Environment Group of the Wageningen University and Research Centre. Together these organisations, along with many others, support the wise use and conservation of wetland s and the alleviation of poverty, through – among other means – the development of tourism.

For more information contact:
Alex Kaat
+31 317 478856
+31 6 50601917

To download a PDF file in English, French, or Spanish: http://www.wetlands.org/publication.aspx?ID=8d31d63c-edef-4daa-b309-9674d6af52fa

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