Economic returns of investing in protected areas and nature-based tourism are significant says World Bank

For every dollar governments invest in protected areas and support for nature-based tourism, the economic rate of return is at least six-times the original investment Image credit: WhyAfrica

 21 June 2021 – A new World Bank report released last week shows that for every dollar governments invest in protected areas and support for nature-based tourism, the economic rate of return is at least six-times the original investment.

The report, Banking on Protected Areas: Promoting sustainable nature-based tourism to benefit local communities found that the original investment triggered a chain of benefits for local businesses and households – even for those not directly connected to the tourism sector.

Given these economic benefits, the report argues that the promotion of sustainable tourism in protected areas should be included in Covid-19 economic recovery plans, an investment that creates local jobs, improves incomes, and protects biodiversity.

“Prior to the pandemic, there were more than 8 billion visits a year to marine and terrestrial protected areas, providing a vital source of income for communities who rely on tourism. As countries emerge from the pandemic and rebuild their tourism sectors, investing in protected areas is a win for conservation and for development,” says Karin Kemper, World Bank Global Director for Environment, Natural Resources and Blue Economy.

When tourists visit protected areas, they pay park entry fees, which provide direct revenues to governments, and they also spend money on hotels, meals, transportation, souvenirs, and other tourism services that stimulate the local economy. When the sum of these direct and indirect economic benefits is calculated, it provides an estimate of the rate of return on public investment in protected areas and nature-based tourism.

The report looked at four countries – Brazil, Fiji, Nepal and Zambia – and found that the benefits of investing in protected areas far outweigh the costs of that original investment. The rates of return were impressive:

  • Six times the amount invested for Brazil’s Abrolhos Marine Park.
  • Eight times the amount invested for Nepal’s Chitwan National Park.
  • Sixteen times the amount invested for Zambia’s Lower Zambezi Park.
  • Twenty-eight times the amount invested in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park.

The report also looked at how the promotion of nature-based tourism in protected areas impacts economic development and create jobs. The findings show that for every additional dollar spent by a tourist, local incomes increase by more than a dollar. This means that the revenues from nature-based tourism mostly stayed and accrued additional benefits in local economies. Specifically, for every dollar spent in:

  • Brazil’s Abrolhos Marine Park, local incomes increase by USD 1.74.
  • Fiji’s Mamanuca Islands, local incomes increase by USD 1.83.
  • Nepal’s Chitwan National Park, local incomes increase by USD 1.78.
  • Zambia’s Lower Zambezi Park, local incomes increase by USD 1.82.

Nature-based tourism creates jobs, with people hired as hotel employees and tour operators, for example. It also boosts employment in other sectors as demand rises for tourism-related goods and services. The report finds that before the pandemic, protected areas annually provided:

  • 7463 new jobs in the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia;
  • 28 210 new jobs were generated in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia;
  • 6412 new jobs were generated in the Mamanuca Islands of Fiji; and
  • 4309 new jobs were generated in Chitwan National Park in Nepal.

The report includes a range of policy actions to promote more sustainable tourism in protected areas. These actions can be grouped into three interconnected categories:

  • Protecting natural assets
  • Growing and diversifying the tourism business and
  • Sharing benefits with local communities.

 

Within each category there are multiple policy recommendations, including increasing public investment in protected areas, enhancing the capacity of protected area managers, developing concession policies to promote tourism in protected areas, and formalising benefit sharing arrangements with local communities.

“Banking on Protected Areas: Promoting sustainable nature-based tourism to benefit local communities” is available for download here. It was made possible with financial support from Global Wildlife ProgramPROBLUEPROFOR, and WAVES.

Source: World bank Group www.worldbank.org/

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