Ronda J Green, PhD

Wildlife Tourism Australia’s interest in sustainable tourism

Tourism can impose many impacts on wildlife and local human communities, certainly not all good. On the other hand it can bring benefits to both. Wildlife Tourism Australia has held a number of discussions on this, for instance:

and compiled many references on same.

The Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism, from which WTA was born, also investigated the positive and negative impacts, not of tourism as a whole, but specifically wildlife tourism, not to deter anyone from running wildlife tours but to help operators to maximise the positive effects and minimise the negative:

Wildlife Tourism Australia’s involvement with IUCN

The World Parks Congress, run by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) happens only once every ten years. In 2014 it was held in Sydney, attended by over 10,000 delegates.

Wildlife Tourism Australia ran an official Parallel Event, Wildlife tourism and conservation of biodiversity in parks, in conjunction with Isabelle Wolf (Office of Environment and Heritage, NSW) in Sydney just prior to the Congress. during which we had some invigorating discussions, reported on here:

  • How can we ensure the conservation of biodiversity with increase in visitation?
  • How can we best use both old and new technologies for low-impact wildlife viewing?
  • Under what circumstances should interaction with wildlife be allowed?
  • What research is most urgently needed?

The chair of the TAPAS Group (Tourism And Protected AreaS) within WCPA (World Commission on Protected Areas) which in turn is part of IUCN, Dr Anna Spencely, asked if she could join our workshop to present a kind of road-map of where to find the various tourism-related presentations and displays within the week-long congress, as there was no tourism theme as such within the congress and of course we agreed with some enthusiasm. I met Anna again at a BestEN (Building Excellence in Sustainable Tourism) conference in South Africa the following year, and some time later I joined the TAPAS Group and the Biodiversity Working Group within that, on behalf of Wildlife Tourism Australia (which for me sometimes means Zoom meetings between midnight and dawn but the discussions are always interesting).

The Sustainable Tourism Motion at the IUCN Congress, France, September 2021.

Many of the groups and themes within IUCN have relevance to sustainable tourism, but there has been no over-lying coordinating theme of sustainable tourism to connect these within the organisation.

The IUCN Congress held in Marseilles in September 2021 was an excellent opportunity to present a motion to the IUCN to include sustainable tourism as one of its organisational themes. A group of us across the world, led especially by Shane Feyers, Anna, Yu-Fai Leung and Kelly Bricker, had many discussions on the preamble and the motion itself. To officially present the motion at the Congress, an organisation which is a financial member of IUCN had to be the primary sponsor, and there had to be at least 10 co-sponsors, also financial members, backing it. We had no trouble finding enough co-sponsors, but none wanted to be primary sponsor, and finally time was getting short. WTA member Angus Robinson (of Geotourism Australia) was in contact with the Minister, Matt Kean, of the New South Wales Department for Environment, Energy and Science, which is a member of IUCN, and and the Department began internal discussions. However we were by now very close to the deadline, and another primary sponsor was found just in time.  The Minister has expressed his interest however in working with TAPAS for the goals of sustainable tourism.

You can read the preamble and full motion here

So, the motion was presented, and was passed, being supported by over 95% of voters!

WTA is named as one of the motion supporters, and has agreed to

  • run additional workshops on sustainable wildlife tourism open to both WTA members and others throughout the world, focusing on maximising benefits to wildlife and local communities, quality nature interpretation, and online offerings during Covid lockdowns.
  • Ask WTA members within the tourism industry to contribute information and ideas based on their own experiences, and for academic members to assist in making relevant research findings more accessible to non-academics.