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Tourism is often described as the world’s “biggest industry” on the basis of its contribution to global GDP, the number of jobs it generates and the number of client it serves. The rate at which tourism continues to grow presents both opportunities and threats for biodiversity conservation.

Over the past three decades, major losses of virtually every kind of natural habitat and the decline and extinction of species have occurred. Many of the ecosystems in decline provide attractions for tourism development. These include coastal and marine areas, coral reefs, mountains, and rainforests, which support a wide range of activities, including beach tourism, skiing, trekking, and wildlife viewing.

Increased human activities, such as logging, clearing land for agriculture, hunting and gathering fuelwood, are degrading both protected areas and the land surrounding them. As a non-extractive activity, ecotourism offers a sustainable way of using these areas and an opportunity to promote sustainable social and economic development.

In many fragile ecosystems, tourism has been growing and increasingly linked to the unique natural environments and biodiversity found in these areas. Maintaining an un-spoilt and attractive destination contributes greatly to visitor satisfaction, conserves the area’s biodiversity and contributes to the well being of local people.

Ecotourism at CI
CI identified early in its history that ecotourism could form an important part of regional strategies to conserve biodiversity. In Africa, Latin America and Asia, CI and its partners have been leveraging tourism as part of larger conservation strategies for the past two decades. You can read more about CI's approach to ecotourism in the Ecotourism at CI section of this website.

Other CI programs promoting the principles of ecotourism include the following:

Center for Environmental Leadership in Business (CELB)
CI’s Center for Environmental Leadership in Business incorporates a Travel and Leisure program. The program supports companies to adopt sustainable business practices and destination management and encourages their investment in conservation. CELB has also engaged the International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL) in dialogue to seek science-based solutions to wastewater management and other conservation challenges facing the cruise industry. To learn more about the Center for Environmental Leadership and Business, click on the link.

Verde Ventures
Verde Ventures is a fund designed to strengthen small- and medium-sized enterprises that are strategically important to biodiversity conservation. The fund provides debt and equity financing to select businesses in CI’s priority areas. Verde Ventures has helped finance ecotourism projects including lodges and other ecotourism products that protect biodiversity and provide conservation-oriented employment for communities living near protected areas. To learn more about Verde Ventures, click on the link.

Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF)
CEPF provides strategic assistance to nongovernmental organizations, community groups and other civil society partners. CEPF brings together indigenous communities with tourism businesses and/or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to provide capital and technical support.

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© Wilderness Safari
Tourists on a boat observe a group of hippos (Hippopotamus amphibius)

© Costas Christ
A tourist learns to weave baskets with village women in Kenya

© Minden Pictures, Frans Lanting
School Children Walk Through Cloud Forest, Monteverde, Costa Rica

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Banner Photo: (Okavango Delta, Botswana) © Frans Lanting/Minden Pictures

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