Tourism is one of the world’s largest industries, generating more than $4 trillion per year and providing employment for nearly 250 million people worldwide. Global tourism is projected to expand four-fold from its 1996 levels by 2010. While all segments of the industry are expanding, nature-based tourism in areas with significant biodiversity is increasing more rapidly than the industry as a whole.

Large-scale tourism involves major infrastructure development, increased demands for water, energy and waste disposal and an influx of new people, ideas and cultures. This increased activity can lead to habitat conversion, pollution and resource degradation. However, when planned and managed effectively, the tourism industry can enhance their operations while acting as a catalyst for social development and biodiversity conservation. Perhaps more than any other sector, the tourism industry has a vested interest in protecting the natural and cultural resources of the areas upon which its business depends. These resources are often what attracts travelers to a destination in the first place. In a high biodiversity area, it is even more likely that tourists are seeking natural and cultural attractions.

The Center’s Travel & Leisure program works with leading tourism companies to integrate conservation principles into their day-to-day operations and to influence the planning and management of key tourist destinations.