German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)

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Nature-sound tourism

Tourism: A major sector of the economy

Over the past 50 years, tourism has become the third biggest economic sector in the world, ranking only behind the oil and car industries. The volume of tourism is measured in international airport and border arrivals and totalled 940 million people in 2010.   UNWTO, the World Tourism Organisation, projects annual growth rates of four percent, making for some 1.6 billion arrivals in 2020 (  Tourism 2020 Vision). In the first half of 2011, international tourism grew by almost five percent. Tourism is a major factor in the economy in Germany as elsewhere, employing 2.8 million people in its various subsectors and contributing no less than eight percent to GDP ( Federal Government Report on Tourism Policy, BMWi 2008, in German only).

Tourism: A challenge for sustainable development

The tourism sector depends like hardly any other on the natural environment and the countryside being kept as unspoilt as possible. The ability to access and enjoy places of scenic beauty is a major factor in people’s choice of holiday destination. Preserving habitat diversity is fundamental to tourism. Yet tourism also exerts pressure on nature and the environment. The adverse effects associated with tourism are a result of resources being used in ways that are not sustainable – excessive consumption, for example, specific tourist activities, or transport and infrastructure construction. On the other hand, developments in tourism can have positive impacts on the natural environment. This comes about when tourism is made sustainable, with tourists showing greater respect for their surroundings and altering their conduct accordingly. Tourism thus plays a key part in putting sustainability into action at all levels. BfN works to foster sustainable tourism development with strategic funding for a wide range of different projects.

National parks, nature parks and biosphere reserves are not only attractive tourist destinations. They also present special challenges for tourism development. They can serve as model regions, providing a chance to try out ideas for the sustainable development of tourism, get local stakeholders on board and benefit the regional economy.

 Tourism and protected areas

Discount airlines offering ‘all you can fly’ deals perhaps epitomise the contributory role of tourism in climate change. Climate change, tourism and biodiversity are bound together in a complex web of cause and effect.

 Climate change, biodiversity and tourism

How best to reconcile biological diversity and tourism development around the world? The Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism formulated under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) offer one answer.

 CBD Guidelines

How can tourism offerings be made nature-friendly, what regional providers promote sustainable tourism, and what part do nature experience holidays play in tourism?

 Sustainable tourism offer 

Gentle tourism, environment-friendly tourism or ecotourism? And what does sustainable mean anyway? The various terms stand for different ways of organising tourism. 

 Brief overview of terms, definitions and concepts...

Last Change: 03/02/2017

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