Tag: Blue Economy

diver visiting for tourism participates in the blue economy

Tourism can positively impact the blue economy when properly planned, developed and managed. When this happens, nature heals, marine life returns, local communities are engaged and empowered, and culture thrives. In this piece, we explore the concept of the blue economy and the impact of sustainable and unsustainable tourism on blue growth.

What is the Blue Economy and how does it connect to tourism?

According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem”. 

The Center for the Blue Economy adds, “it is now a widely used term around the world with three related but distinct meanings- the overall contribution of the oceans to economies, the need to address environmental and ecological sustainability of the oceans, and the ocean economy as a growth opportunity for both developed and developing countries”.

Unsustainable Tourism: Pressure on Ecosystems

Tourism is the world’s largest economic industry. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), it accounts for 10% of global GDP. It introduces new jobs, promotes entrepreneurship, and drives investment in destinations. 

Unfortunately, many places have experienced more harm than good due to overtourism, pollution, resource depletion, and environmental degradation. For island and coastal communities, this means overfishing, coral bleaching, and disturbing the harmony and health of marine and aquatic life.

One example of tourism gone wrong is Thailand’s notorious Maya Bay in the Phi Phi Islands. Due to overtourism, corals died and marine life disappeared. Another example is from Central American islands Roatan and Bocas Del Toro in Honduras and Panama, respectively. The islands, where marine life once flourished, became at risk of habitat loss and environmental degradation due to mass tourism. 

crowded beach in portugal
Mass tourism on a beach in Lagos, in the Algarve region of Portugal

Sustainable Tourism: The Only Way Forward

When sustainably developed, tourism can be used as a force for good, where it sustains and regenerates rather than stresses and depletes. Similarly, when the damage has already been done, sustainable tourism can help restore and regenerate ecosystems. In either case, endless opportunities arise through circular and regenerative blue economy development. 

The Thai authorities decided on a three-year visitor closure in Thailand’s Maya Bay to regenerate the ecosystem. Over this period, they worked on construction and restoration to plant more corals, create a conducive environment for wild residents to return, and improve travelers’ experience. Today, the bay has reopened.

Similarly, Solimar’s Go Blue Central America Project worked on developing Central American islands’ tourism without compromising the natural environment. The project supported private sector businesses adhering to blue economy principles to protect and regenerate the islands’ coastal and marine habitats.

diving is the most famous way that tourism impacts the blue economy
Coral colony in Koh Chang island, Thailand

What Types of Tourism Benefit the Blue Economy?

Residents of water-surrounded countries can keep the economy afloat with day-to-day transactions of food and certain goods that come from the ocean. However, tourism can significantly boost production and income through product, service, and experience offerings. Here are five types of tourism that are benefiting the blue economy: 

  1. Dive Tourism

One of the main ways that tourists can contribute to a country’s blue economy is by booking a guided trip with a local dive master. In some countries, this type of trip turns out to be even more vital than guided fishing tours. People will book a trip to exclusively scuba dive, free dive, or snuba to explore reefs and exotic fish. 

While some tours include spear-fishing or lobstering, most dive tours are led in particular areas where wildlife is protected. In doing so, dive tours catalyze the protection and growth of surrounding reefs. When marine ecosystems are well preserved, locals can carry on producing and providing more of the products and services that tourists love. As a result, the underwater world will be richer and more attractive to explore, fish will be more abundant, and corals and shells will become more available for harvest to be made into collectables.

Divers exploring a reef in the Maldives as tourists contributing the blue economy
Divers exploring a reef in the Maldives
  1. Fishing Tours and Trips (Pescatourism)

Many places on the water offer guided fishing trips with town locals. Like dive tours, these trips foster blue economy development. Usually, travelers experience a day in the life of a local fisherman by joining them on a boat, helping them catch fish, visiting their local community, and cooking and eating the fresh catches using traditional recipes. 

By following fishing guidelines and regulations, fishermen keep fish populations at balanced levels for healthy ecosystems. As a result, marine environments and local economies both thrive. Fishermen have a strong incentive to protect marine life and avoid overfishing so that they can continue to sell their experiential travel products. This, in turn, increases and diversifies their income streams and makes them more resilient to external shocks.      

Fishing boats parked in Iraklio, Greece is a form of pescatourism

Fishing boats parked in Iraklio, Greece

  1. Local Artisan Markets

Local markets that showcase artisan work and crafts are vital to small countries’ economies. Sellers showcase their products to tourists, who are often eager to purchase them as souvenirs and collectable decorations. In island and coastal nations, many of these products are made of materials from the ocean. Often, craftsmen use dead coral, washed-up shells, or sand, which are natural, renewable resources.

shells from the ocean

  1. Marine Ecotourism for the Blue Economy

According to the UNWTO, ecotourism involves observation and appreciation of nature, education, environmental protection, and community engagement. It integrates ecological protection with the social and economic development of local communities. Marine ecotourism is that which corresponds explicitly to coastal and marine ecosystems. Such tourists usually visit natural, virgin areas with little to no development to observe wild species or scenic landscapes. This form of tourism highly regards nature and culture, where it focuses on protecting or improving the natural environment and preserving and respecting cultural heritage.

A sea turtle swims over top of a shallow-water reef, tourists love diving with turtles
A sea turtle swims over top of a shallow-water reef
  1. Scientific, Academic, Volunteer, and Educational (SAVE) Tourism

This type of tourism is fundamental to blue economy development. SAVE travelers view tourism as a way to learn, explore, help, and grow. Inherently, SAVE tourism focuses on safeguarding and improving destinations, including their resources, communities, sites, and organisms.

Group of volunteers picking up trash from a beach
A group of volunteers picking up trash from a beach

All five types of tourism contribute to blue growth, where economic and environmental benefits are not mutually exclusive. Through these models, incentives are correctly aligned, where tourism success depends on a balanced, healthy, and rich cultural and natural heritage. As a result, tourism acts as a bridge between economic, social, and environmental sustainability, directly feeding into blue economy development.

How does Tourism Positively Impact the Blue Economy?

After delving into the different types of tourism, let’s explore how tourism can have a positive outcome:

  1. Natural Conservation and Restoration

The blue economy is crucial for environmental conservation and restoration due to its focus on sustaining and regenerating marine ecosystems. This happens in two ways. First, sometimes conservation and restoration are inherent to the activity, such as cleanup dives. In this case, divers actively clean oceans and reefs out of genuine concern and demand for a fulfilling experience.

Other times, locals are incentivized by economic motives, as with pescatourism. Here, fishermen are cautious about maintaining healthy, balanced systems so they can carry on selling their experience. If they engage in overfishing, this leads to imbalance and loss. On the other hand, if there are no more fish, there is no more food or demand for fishing experiences. Hence, the blue economy properly aligns incentives and encourages fishermen to act responsibly.

Second, and in many cases, travelers who experience natural treasures such as pristine beaches or rich and colorful coral reefs recognize the importance of respecting and safeguarding our planet. Sometimes, conversations with locals about how they deal with food or freshwater shortages help visitors recognize the value of such resources. This encourages travelers to consume more responsibly, reduce waste, and urge others to follow suit.

 A flock of flamingos

2. Improvement in Income and Livelihoods 

Tourism helps local communities in improving their income and livelihoods in two ways. The first is job creation. Tourism development naturally requires more capacity to cater to visitor needs. As a result, many new businesses will seek labor to fill newly-created jobs.

The second way is in entrepreneurship and innovation. Tourism development is an opportunity for creative entrepreneurs to unleash their innovative potential. When there is a favorable enabling environment, local communities can build their own businesses and take ownership and sovereignty for their development and long-term vision.

A worker in traditional dress at a hotel in Zanzibar on the ocean

3. Cultural Preservation

Tourism also encourages communities to celebrate and preserve local cultures, many of which are at risk of disappearing altogether. Several recipes, dances, languages, craftsmanship techniques, and other traditions passed down from generations risk being forgotten. 

With the rising demand for immersive, community-based travel, communities recognize the value of their unique cultural heritage. As a result, this encourages them to protect their heritage, embrace it, and share it with the world.

4. Preventing Social Dislocation and Rapid Urbanization

Many major cities are located along coasts and waterfronts, and these places experience pressure from rapid urbanization in many countries. People flood to urban centers for better economic opportunities, which increases stress on existing infrastructure. It also creates congestion, pollution, resource depletion, inflation, and reduced quality of life overall.

Since community-based tourism introduces livelihood opportunities in rural underserved areas, it propels members to stay. This prevents threats of social dislocation, cultural dilution, and rapid, unsustainable urbanization.

Indigenous houses in the Amazon river basin near Iquitos, Peru

In conclusion, tourism has had adverse effects in some countries. Still, as this piece demonstrates, sustainable tourism can be a positive tool to strengthen economies and encourage ecological growth.

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Blog by Dalia Hammad and Miles Rieker

Written by Amélie Keller and Vincent Villeneuve

Today on June 8, Solimar International celebrates World Oceans Day to remind everyone that there is no life without the oceans. Oceans cover 71% of the earth’s surface and represent 97% of the water on the planet. They allow us to breathe by providing 50% of the atmospheric oxygen, nourish nearly 3 billion people, welcome 90% of internationally traded goods, constitute one of the most promising sources of clean renewable energy, and employ millions of people–including in marine and nature-based tourism. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credits: Dan Charity

Healthy oceans also ensure a protected climate. Marine biodiversity plays an essential role in climate change mitigation and adaptation and provides many ecosystem services essential for the well-being of human societies. Over the past decades, the ocean has mitigated climate change by absorbing between one-third and half of the human-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, constituting one of the largest natural reservoirs of carbon. Marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs and mangroves, also offer valuable adaptation solutions, protecting the coastline from storms, contributing to soil stabilization and water purification, and constituting important habitats for biodiversity. With US $36 billion in tourism revenue supplied to the global economy each year by coral reefs, Solimar recognizes the importance of protecting these critical and endangered habitats in our work with island and coastal economies around the world.

Credits: Jack McKee

World Oceans Day was first declared on 8 June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro at the Global Forum, a parallel event at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) Earth Summit. In 2008, led by Canada, the General Assembly resolved that 8 June would be designated by the United Nations as “World Oceans Day”. (General Assembly resolution 63/111). The purpose of this day is to celebrate the oceans and to raise awareness among the general public of the crucial role they play in our subsistence, as well as in the various means that exist to protect them. This year’s UN World Oceans Day annual virtual event is held virtually in partnership with non-profit Oceanic Global and highlights the theme “The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods”. As the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development has already started, World Oceans Day is a great opportunity to celebrate and appreciate all the benefits humans get from the ocean. It is also the perfect occasion to remind ourselves of our responsibility to use its resources sustainably and to recall that every day should be an ocean’s day if we want to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14 Life Below Water as well as all the other SDGs. 

Credits: Christian Vizl

Oceans are home to most of the earth’s biodiversity and there is no doubt that the ocean economy has always been an important contributor to growth and prosperity. However, human economic activities have put serious pressure on maritime and marine resources. There is now no doubt that we must do more to protect our most vibrant natural heritage. This is what the concept of the Blue Economy is all about – as well explained by the Ocean Foundation, it refers to ensuring sustainable marine economic activities and enhancing improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the ocean ecosystem health. For more detailed information about the potential of the Blue Economy, this comprehensive report from the World Bank and the United Nations is a great place to start.

 

What is the Blue Economy? An infographic from the World Bank Group (Credits: The World Bank Group)

As we are living in an era of climate emergency and biodiversity losses, and constantly exposed to environmental heart-wrenching truths through newspapers, blog articles, or popular documentaries (Seaspiracy, Chasing Coral, My Octopus Teacher) – you might now be wondering, as tourism professionals, is there anything we can do to safeguard biodiversity and preserve our marine and coastal areas?

While the impact of tourism on the ocean and the climate is considerable, tourism also represents a vital pillar of a sustainable blue economy and can help drive conservation and restoration efforts around the world. The linkages between healthy ecosystems and a thriving tourism industry is perhaps nowhere more apparent than atop a coral reef. While the vibrant colors of soft coral shallows and intricate reef structures that provide a home for countless creatures can be dulled and broken by careless visitors, they can also be revived by tourism: private protected areas, funded by eco-resorts as seen in places like Misool in Indonesia, can maintain critical no-take zones that allow ecosystems to regenerate and recover while providing employment opportunities for local people.

While the UN underlines that we are currently taking more from the ocean than can be replenished, with 90% of big fish populations currently depleted and 50% of coral reefs destroyed, the Ellen MacArthur’s foundation also reminds us that in a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish by weight.” Contributing to the good ecological state of the ocean and protecting the climate also means changing tourism practices and respecting some simple rules of conduct. By helping tourists adopt the right actions and learn from good practices, we can allow beaches, coastal paths, coral reefs, salt meadows, mangroves, and the ocean to continue to play their role as a climate regulator.

Coastal and ocean-related tourism come in many forms – diving, watersports, wildlife interactions, cruising, beach resorts – and, yes, the tourism industry must assume a major responsibility to take action in sustaining the management of the ocean economy. To do so, active leadership should be integrated at all levels of a destination. Solimar International is committed to helping Destination Management Organizations and tourism stakeholders to reduce large-scale impacts on the natural capital upon which the industry depends. Solimar International is part of the Tourism Action Coalition for a Sustainable Ocean, working together with other tourism leaders to achieve the vision of marine and coastal tourism that is collaborative and regenerative with social inclusion and sustainability at its core. In addition, Solimar International is implementing activities directly aimed at delivering on this vision. Check out some of our past projects to which we conducted sustainable marine-based activities in coastal destinations, such as Mauritius, Panama, and Timor-Leste.

 

Tourism Action Coalition for a Sustainable Ocean (Credits: The Ocean Foundation)

To give you some ideas, we have listed some general tourism best practices examples to follow for a sustainable tourism destination based on the Blue Economy:

  • Ban single-use plastic and reuse as much plastic as possible 
  • Implement guidelines and sustainable activities for wildlife interactions and reef exploration
  • Educate visitors and front-workers about social responsibility and best practices to reduce environmental footprints
  • Lessen the amount of pollution and waste produced by cruise operators, hospitality businesses, tourists, and local communities through awareness campaigns and community events
  • Assess tourism businesses sustainability levels
  • Work with other industries (such as fisheries, governments, maritime transportation, renewable energy, and aquaculture) to conduct holistic and sustainable approaches
  • Employ local people who are on the frontline in our battle to restore our ocean ecosystems, and who are the most knowledgeable about their coastal homes and resources

As summer arrives and the lucky ones are already starting to prepare their luggage for a seaside vacation, it is essential to have in mind some good practices and actions to apply to preserve the largest ecosystem on the planet. By reducing waste, following marked trails, avoiding disturbing marine species, tourists can help protect the oceans while allowing them to fully play their role in the climate system. You too, during your stay by the sea, can protect the ocean and thus contribute to the fight against climate change.

Sustainability is not only green – like the Earth we call home, it is truly blue. So celebrate World Oceans Day, and take this opportunity to remind yourself how beautiful our planet is, especially underwater. To share this world of wonder with future generations, we must ensure that tourism acts to protect these beautiful places and ecosystems–improving them for the many millions of people who have yet to witness their beauty, and the millions more who call these places home.

Feeling like diving now? Sign up to the World Ocean Day event here and take a virtual swim without any harm by discovering this wonderful campaign on Google Earth created by Underwater Earth and The Ocean Agency to raise awareness on the importance of our oceans!

2020 Photo Competition –  Winner of the Category ‘Underwater Life’ (Credits : Michael Gallagher) 

“We rely confidently on Solimar's deep technical experience and professionalism as tourism consultants. You always are exceeding our expectations.”
Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

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