The importance of nature
As tour operators, we already know the importance of nature and what it uniquely brings to many destinations across the world. It:
- Is integral to our prosperity and wellbeing
- Supports human development and equality
- Feeds our resilience to viral pandemics and climate change
- Provides the lives of thousands of other species
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In fact, The World Economic Forum estimated Nature’s economic value generation at US$44 trillion. That’s over half of the world’s total GDP! Yet, as highlighted in ANIMONDIAL’s May blog, “Save Nature; save ourselves”, biodiversity loss is rapidly causing its demise.
Tourism must act #ForNature
Last week, the JNCC (the UK Government’s advisor on nature conservation), issued a stark warning on how consumer choices are causing significant natural habitat loss across the world. Not only resulting in massive biodiversity loss, but also driving climate change.
Studies indicate there is still time to reverse our negative impact on the environment, save nature, and enjoy the benefits this brings. At the same time, it also evidences that we cannot just carry on where we left off – before COVID-19. This is why tourism must act now, to conserve nature.
Entering the planetary era
Encouragingly, there is growing interest and motivation to learn from our mistakes and build something better. Dr Robert Gilman, the sustainability pioneer, has acknowledged that humanity is entering the “Planetary Era”, whereby change agents are developing compassionate and sustainable cultures.
However, with a task so great, it’s often difficult to know where to start and what to do, or even whether our actions are doing enough.
“Sustainable tourism can no longer be regarded as an ‘aim to have’, but an integral component of all that we do”
We need to give back more than we take away. And do all we can to encourage the entire, mainstream tourism industry to do the same. A multifaceted, strategic approach is required to optimise output, involving all departments within your business as well as stakeholders across the supply chain.
Reconnecting humanity with nature
Anna Pollock, founder of Conscious Travel, has said regeneration of the travel industry (post-COVID), must begin in the community. Given the fact that domestic tourism is likely to return first. Efforts through tourism, should ensure the care of people and the environment. I share this sentiment, and further believe that tourism can be, and has to be the medium for reconnecting humanity with nature and its wildlife, as well as local people and their culture.
3 ways to contribute to nature conservation
So, what can you do as a tour operator? I’ve composed 3 ways, each with several tips, to practically contribute to nature conservation.
1. Reduce your company’s negative impact on nature
- Adopt animal welfare and protection principles. Only offer responsible tourism activities with animals and respectful wildlife viewing practices that uphold good welfare standards.
- Evaluate all your tourism experiences that involve animals to identify and measure risk, end inappropriate activity, and seek to improve standards in animal welfare.
- Discourage your suppliers from sourcing animals from the wild; unless there is a demonstrable and justifiable conservation need. If in doubt, contact the national CITES Management Authority.
- De-list tourism experiences that involve hunting of wild-born or captive-bred animals for the purposes of sport, trophy, or entertainment.
- Request that your suppliers to not commercially trade, breed or exploit their animals. This includes zoos, aquaria, animal sanctuaries, rescue centers and orphanages.
- Destination Management Companies (DMO’s) should inform all suppliers to ensure they do not sell or promote the sale of any of these unsustainable wildlife products. Refer to the European Commission’s Wildlife Souvenir’s Guide and use their tools to identify threatened species.
- Ask your customers to not pick up, collect or buy animals or parts of animals (including corals, sponges, shells) or protected plants (including orchids, seeds, seedlings) from the wild.
- Ask your airline partners not to transport live animals, trophies or products derived from animal or plant species that are classified as (critically) endangered by the IUCN red list of threatened species.
2. Invest in protecting and restoring nature
- Audit all your tourism experiences that involve animals or that take place in nature to mitigate risk and ensure compliance with your adopted animal welfare and protection principles. ANIMONDIAL partner, Preverisk , provides endorsed animal protection auditing.
- Adopt a fresh approach to managing associated risk and addressing persistent challenges through ANIMONDIAL’s Invest-in-Nature solutions – an alternative to the ‘stop sale’.
- Support financially or in-kind projects and organisations that genuinely protect animals and or Nature. You can contact ANIMONDIAL to access our list of trusted, community-based animal protection initiatives.
3. Collaborate with others to make a difference
- Sign up and contribute to the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce, the WTTC BA Declaration on Illegal Wildlife Trade, and the IWT Zero Tolerance Policy, and work with ROUTES’ support to implement your commitments.
- Sign up to the World Economic Forum’s Business for Nature initiative, working with governments to reverse nature loss by 2030.
Let’s take responsibility
Fellow members of the tourism sector; post-COVID tourism must do what it can to act #ForNature. We must all take responsibility, end destructive activity, and strive to return and value what we have lost. Tour operators (no matter the size) have a crucial role to play, by putting nature at the core of their activities and decision-making, assessing, mitigating, and managing animal and nature-related risk.