German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Tourism Development in protected areas

Visitor attraction: Tree-top trail Hainich Nationalpark (Author: B. Engels)
Tree-top trail Hainich Nationalpark

National parks, nature parks and biosphere reserves especially are increasingly attractive tourist destinations. For 50 percent of the German population, the various kinds of protected areas play a “very important” or “fairly important” part in the selection of a holiday destination. The (increasing) tendency towards spending more leisure time in and around nature also means larger numbers of visitors in ecologically sensitive areas, with the associated intensification in land use and pressure on such areas. On the other hand, tourism has a major positive economic impact in protected areas.

BfN is involved in various projects addressing the issues of tourism and protected areas.

Economic effects of tourism in protected areas

The effects of tourism in national parks, nature parks and biosphere reserves on the regional economy are of particular importance to sustainable regional development and play an important part in socioeconomic monitoring. Uniform nationwide monitoring methods have been developed in the past for national parks and biosphere reserves. These are now to be integrated into protected area monitoring.

National parks as a kind of public good endow various benefits. On the one hand „unspoiled nature“ and untouched wilderness“ represent the intrinsic significance of nature. On the other hand national parks provide essential biological potentials, e.g. as gene pool for future generations. Furthermore they also offer a value as typical tourist attractions, in fact – if properly managed – the only non-consumptive form of various direct use-values. An empirical surveys were conducted in selected national park regions in 2007 to get information about the total number of visitors and their spending behaviour. Hence the so-called income equivalent can be derived for each region as a comparable variable. The results of seven out of fourteen German national parks permit to estimate the situation in the areas without separate empirical investigation. The findings are as follows: Almost 10,5 million national park tourists in a strict sense with a high national park orientation generate a turnover of roughly 431 million euro per year. This corresponds to an income equivalent of about 14.000 persons. Taking into account the wider group of all national park tourists, nearly 51 million visitors generate a turnover of 2,1 billion euro corresponding to income equivalent of nearly 69.000 persons.

Similar research has been carried out for the German Biosphere reserves.


Documentation of the International Expert Workshop "Economic Impacts of tourism in protected areas", 21th - 25th September 2015

Publication of the research project: "Regional Economic Effects of Tourism in German National Parks"

Summary of the research project "Regional Economic Effects of Tourism in German Biosphere Reserves"

U. Pröbstl & A. Prutsch (2009): Natura 2000, Outdoor Recreation and Tourism - A Guideline for the Application on the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive

Last Change: 03/08/2020