Tag: national parks

Conservation in national parks

The allure of travel is undeniable; trying new foods, sightseeing, and experiencing new cultures are all unique, irreplaceable experiences for newer travelers and experienced adventurers alike. Now more than ever, everyone wants to travel, but high tourist volumes are having a disruptive effect on wildlife and the environment. Economics, climate change, and overtourism are quickly coming to a head, making the darker aspects of travel steadily more obvious. With the continued endangerment of global ecosystems and tourism making a huge bounce back in 2023, it becomes increasingly important for travelers to consider how their journeys can help the planet. Tourism has a reputation for being a leading factor in the destruction of habitats. However, a world can exist where travel actually has a net positive impact on global conservation efforts. 

What is Conservation Travel?

Conservation travel utilizes travel as a way for people to support and get involved in conservation work during their trip. This has become an increasingly popular idea among tourist destinations that seek to develop more sustainable tourism models. For example, Solimar International has developed strategies such as Regenerative Tourism and Tourism & Conservation Planning in order to help destinations use tourism as a tool for conservation work. By understanding our role in conservation efforts when we travel, we make a difference in the planet’s ability to support future generations. Tourism, though often seen as one of the many ways humans are hurting the planet, can be immensely beneficial to conservation if done responsibly. 

Here we introduce some of the many ways your journey can support conservation.

1. Supporting the Conservation of Our Land and Oceans

National Parks

Travelers are an important aspect of conservation in national parks because their presence promotes education, conservation funding, and economic growth. For instance, tourism at national parks creates job opportunities, such as park rangers and tour guides. In addition, tourism encourages the development of businesses surrounding the parks. Entrance fees and park activities contribute to revenue, incentivizing government bodies to invest in the development and maintenance of the parks. National parks are extremely popular and work to preserve natural ecosystems, making the simultaneous support of local economic growth and conservation efforts possible.

Blue Parks

As of July 2023, the World Database of Protected Areas (WDPA) reported that a mere 8% of the world’s oceans are currently protected. In order for marine conservation work to thrive, accredited marine reserves need the support of travelers just as much as their land counterparts do. To contribute to the conservation of marine life, environmentally 

Conservation Travel at a Protected Blue Park
Anacapa Island, a part of the protected Channel Islands off the Coast of California. Photo by Priya Karkare on Unsplash

conscious travelers can visit accredited marine reserves like Blue Parks. The Blue Parks initiative, backed by marine scientists, aims to protect at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 and create a clear standard for protected marine areas. Tourism is crucial in generating revenue for protected marine reserves and incentivizes leaders to invest in protecting our oceans. 

Examples of Current Blue Parks:

2. Benefitting Conservation Through Citizen Science

Travelers today are fortunate to live in an era where most people exploring the world are connected through the internet, opening up exciting possibilities for conservation travel through citizen science. According to a survey done by BankMyCell in 2019, 92.5% of travelers bring a smartphone with them during their trip. This means that the majority of travelers have the resources to contribute to data collection. For example, documenting sightings of unfamiliar plants and uploading these findings provides valuable information to scientists. By doing so, we help them better understand the distribution and behavior of various species. 

Travelers can utilize mobile apps to engage in citizen science projects all over the world: 

Beach clean ups
Picking up trash on our beaches fosters community and support of marine life.
Photo by Emi Chongsiriwatana

1. Clean Swell

Clean Swell is an app allowing anyone participating in beach clean-ups to contribute information to the Ocean Conservancy’s global ocean trash database. Millions of tons of trash continually pollute the ocean each year, posing a significant threat to marine wildlife. Participating in beach clean-ups and recording the debris collected from waterways, beaches, and lakes provides essential data that aids researchers and policymakers in understanding the sources and impact of marine debris more effectively.

2. iNaturalist 

iNaturalist is a popular digital platform for nature enthusiasts to share their discoveries, connect with a like-minded community, and contribute essential data for scientists. As you travel, simply document the organisms you encounter by capturing photos and videos. Your contributions then become integral to biodiversity research, encompassing everything from rare animal sightings to identifying invasive species. Observations of travelers can advance our understanding of the natural world. These findings aid the conservation efforts that safeguard our planet’s delicate ecosystems.

3. Other resources

Conservation through Citizen Science
Technology can be used as a tool in conservation travel through apps like eBird. Photo by Walter “CheToba” De Boever on Unsplash
  • Nature’s Notebook, where data is collected on nature’s seasonal events.
  •  Ebird, for bird lovers and outdoor adventurers alike.
  • Zooniverse, which boasts conservation projects over a wide range of topics, including climate, biology, and nature.





3. Supporting Endangered Species Through Conservation-based Travel

1. Visiting Accredited Sanctuaries

When travelers visit animal sanctuaries worldwide, they contribute to the welfare of animals requiring refuge while also promoting public awareness and education. Moreover, wildlife sanctuaries play a vital role in protecting the natural habitats of endangered species, creating a space for them to breed and thrive. 

Wildlife conservation
Responsible wildlife watching is a positive form of wildlife interaction.
Photo by Og Mpango from Pexels

Since government regulation is not guaranteed at every sanctuary, travelers must be cautious while planning their visit. Sanctuaries should be backed by an accrediting body such as the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. Accrediting bodies keep sanctuaries accountable by creating a clear definition of what an animal sanctuary should be. One model of an accredited, ethical sanctuary is the Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center, which is a non-profit sanctuary located in Alajuela, Costa Rica, that specializes in the rehabilitation and rerelease of animals in need. 

2. Participation in Responsible Wildlife Tourism: 

Tourism has made wildlife watching, such as tiger and whale watching, profitable. The economic incentive of wildlife watching creates an opportunity for conservation. We can replace harmful practices with sustainable and ethical ones by shifting focus from animal poaching to responsible wildlife tours. As more travelers opt for responsible wildlife observations, authorities will recognize wildlife watching as a more sustainable revenue source than poaching.

Wildlife tourism has three primary forms: observations, interactions, and performances. Among these, observation is the safest and least disruptive option, allowing visitors to admire animals from a distance without disrupting them. On the other hand, interactions and performances, such as dolphins performing tricks or allowing visitors to pet tigers, come in an artificial setting that creates more room for mistreatment. By choosing observation-only encounters with wildlife, visitors can contribute positively to the cause of helping future generations of wildlife to thrive.

4.  Driving Renewable Energy Solutions 

Tourism plays a vital role in the economic growth of many island nations that bear the brunt of significant environmental challenges such as sea-level rise, coral reef bleaching, and rising temperatures. These nations, heavily reliant on tourism, understand the urgency of combatting climate change and the necessity for sustainable energy solutions in the travel sector. 

Fortunately, renewable energy sources such as geothermal heat, solar power, and wind are often readily available in popular tourist destinations. Thus, investments in renewables are a sensible choice for these areas. Zion National Park in Utah is known for its innovative, energy-efficient visitor center with facilities designed to maximize natural sunlight and ventilation. In addition, geothermal heat pumps and solar power are used to power operations. By using both passive and active sustainable design, the Emergency Operations Center in the Park reduces energy consumption by 70% without costing more than a regular building to construct.

While there is still progress to be made for clean energy in the tourism industry, there is also an incentive to invest in innovative energy solutions due to the sheer amount of energy the travel sector consumes. Renewable energy solutions are now becoming more important than ever, and tourist-driven economies are at the forefront of this development. 

Renewable energy solutions
Geothermal heat provides a source of renewable energy and serves as an attraction for travelers from all over the world.
Photo by Francesco Ungaro from Pexels

5. Creating Awareness about Conservation Through Education and Academics

The academic community, including students, professors, and scientists, can embrace travel to share ideas and knowledge. Scientific discoveries, new data, and technological advancements hold immense value when spread to communities worldwide. Traveling to diverse places, where individuals possess different educational backgrounds and thinking approaches, is a powerful catalyst for inspiring our creativity and problem-solving abilities. This exposure pushes us to think outside the box and develop creative solutions.

Study abroad programs and fellowships are an opportunity for university students to immerse themselves in new environments, broadening their perspectives and horizons. Through travel, youth become more conscious of environmental issues they might not have empathized with or cared about before. In essence, travel not only enriches the academic community but also cultivates a generation of environmentally conscious and proactive individuals.

Moving Towards a Sustainable Future

Travelers who make responsible choices have a great influence over the future of the tourism industry. However, this only becomes possible if the industry is willing to take determined steps toward sustainability and if travelers embark on their journeys with conservation in mind. There are many areas within the travel sector, such as the transportation and hospitality sectors, where progress can still be made. Even so, by viewing travel as an opportunity to support global conservation and learn about the world we live in, our journeys become far more impactful both on the planet and in our own lives. 

Interested in learning more about what Solimar is doing to support conservation in the travel sector? Click here to keep up with Solimar’s projects and partnerships in 500+ destinations!

We humans have always had a special relationship with wildlife. Just as we’ve relied on nature for shelter, protection, and comfort in all parts of the world, these delicate ecosystems rely on us to help support and maintain them. Today, global concern for the degradation of forest ecosystems is at an all-time high, along with a growing public interest in nature and natural landscapes. The best opportunity to address both concerns is to invest in sustainable management for natural parks with especially vulnerable ecosystems.

According to the World Commission on Protected Areas, the management of protected areas is central to legal, political, institutional, and practical conservation efforts worldwide. As such, maintaining these protected areas for future generations should be our top priority by ensuring they are managed with sustainability in mind. This is especially important for natural parks, which are prized ecological hotspots and some of the world’s most valuable tourism destinations.

What is Sustainable Destination Management?

Sustainable destination management is the planning, coordinating, and implementing tourism solution strategies to ensure long-term destination sustainability. These strategies help travelers and locals get the most out of a destination while minimizing damage to its natural resources.

The tourism sector has grown significantly over the past 50 years, with international arrivals increasing from 200 million to nearly 1.6 billion. With this growth comes many economic and societal benefits; however, protecting destinations and their resources from depletion makes it all the more important. To do this, strategic planning solutions must be developed for travel destinations at risk of ecological depletion. When implemented successfully, these plans can help the tourism industry flourish while benefiting local communities and protecting natural resources.

At Solimar, we develop tourism master plans that identify destinations’ assets, opportunities, and challenges. Our strategies are coordinated by in-depth research and engagement with local communities. This helps to ensure that locals and tourists get the most out of what a destination offers. Solimar’s most recent efforts involve applying these tourism master plans to national parks. These attractions have an inherent connection to nature that defines its value and greatest vulnerabilities, hence the importance of sustainable management for national parks.

Key Elements Of Sustainable Tourism and Management

When it comes to national parks, sustainable management plans should strike a balance between conservation and public access while addressing the needs of local communities. To practice sustainable management in national parks, conservation efforts have many moving parts that help consider all of these needs.

1. Visitor Management 

National parks attract a significant number of visitors every day. The constant foot traffic and the threat of human interference put them at an especially high risk of ecological degradation. Sustainable management plans for national parks address this problem by managing the impacts of tourism on the environment. These efforts are highly visitor-centric, including implementing measures such as visitor education programs, infrastructure in environmentally sensitive locations, and technology for managing the number of visitors entering the park daily.

Another way visitor management can enhance the traveler’s experience is by providing information through visitor centers. Solimar has developed several visitor centers in destinations around the world. These visitor centers provide travel and accommodation information while supporting local businesses and communities.

2. Collaboration with Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities

Indigenous peoples and local communities play a unique role in the sustainable management of national parks. Their deep understanding of the local ecosystems, wildlife, and natural heritage, as they have inhabited these lands for generations, is fundamental for understanding and managing biodiversity and developing relevant conservation strategies. Their traditional sustainable knowledge, love, and respect for their lands make them invaluable partners in the sustainable management of national parks.

Approximately 476 million indigenous peoples live across 90 countries around the planet. According to the United Nations, indigenous people are ‘inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment.’ Indeed, nowadays, these communities manage 17% of forest carbon around the world, significantly contributing to climate change mitigation.

Hence, involving these communities in the planning and decision-making process is vital for building trust, inclusion, and meaningful conservation efforts.  The Conservation Wor Activity is an example of an inclusive and multi-sectoral project that highlights the importance of engaging local communities in the management and preservation of protected areas and enhancing their economic growth in the long term.

3. Conservation Of Biodiversity in Protected Areas

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash 

Despite international efforts, biodiversity across the globe continues to decline. The Living Planet Report 2022 reported a 69% average loss in mammal, bird, reptile, fish, and amphibian species since 1970. The designation of national parks as protected areas can help mitigate the loss of local plant and animal species, especially those that are endangered or on the brink of extinction.

Currently, Solimar is collaborating with USAID Conservation Works Activities (CWA). This project, centered in Liberia, is about developing a sustainable management plan that engages communities in conserving protected areas. Liberia, home to the Upper Guinean Forest and a renowned biodiversity hotspot continues to face threats such as deforestation and habitat destruction. It is essential to involve local communities in creating innovative protected areas through sustainable tourism management.

4. Resource Management

Resource management is key to sustainable tourism for natural parks. A thriving yet unregulated tourism industry creates a large demand for resources such as water and wood. Consequently, destinations that face this demand may find themselves especially vulnerable to ecological depletion. This threat can be mitigated by sustainable tourism infrastructure that consumes minimal resources while contributing to the visitor experience.

Solimar is proud to provide its own example of sustainable tourism infrastructure with the Sapo Eco-Lodge in Sapo National Park, Liberia. The entire complex, complete with solar-powered energy, is built with sustainability in mind. It showcases Liberian natural heritage while providing visitors with accommodations in the heart of Sapo Natural Park, creating an unforgettable visitor experience. 

Sapo Eco-Lodge, Liberia

5. Destination Management Organizations

Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) are groups that play a large role in sustainable management. UNWTO defines a DMO as “the leading organizational entity which may encompass the various authorities, stakeholders, and professionals and facilitates partnerships towards a collective destination vision.” Solimar often works with DMOs to coordinate essential destination tourism management elements, including marketing, amenities, and public access to attractions. Most importantly, DMOs are often key players in implementing sustainable management strategies.

6. Measuring Impact for Sustainable Tourism

Measuring the impact of tourism in national parks is crucial for protecting its natural resources. Solimar proposes three main reasons behind its importance for sustainable tourism:

    1. Conservation: Assessing the ecological footprint of the local tourism industry allows for developing strategies that minimize habitat degradation, pollution, and disturbance to wildlife.
    2. Investment: Knowing the impact of tourism can provide important information on a destination’s overall economic value. If presented effectively, this information can attract potential investors and contribute to the destination’s socioeconomic well-being.
    3. Education: Understanding how visitors behave and impact a destination can foster educational initiatives to raise awareness about environmental issues, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable tourism practices.

How Can I Make a Difference?

Travelers are the heart of a tourism destination. The choices we make as travelers are crucial for preserving and protecting natural resources around the world. These are just some of the many ways travelers can support sustainable tourism in national parks:

    1. Educate Yourself: Before visiting national parks or other natural tourist attractions, research the unique ecology and the wildlife that calls it home. Knowledge of the local environment can only enhance your experience as a traveler, giving you insight into and appreciation of your destination.
    2. Leave No Trace: Practice the “Leave No Trace” principles to minimize the environmental impact of your visit. Remember to properly dispose of your trash, including food waste and other biodegradable items. Respect wildlife by observing from a distance, avoid damaging plants or natural formations, and minimize the usage of campfires.
    3. Choose Sustainable Transportation: Consider using eco-friendly transportation to reach your destination: for instance, public transit, carpooling, or cycling. If you’re driving, opt for fuel-efficient vehicles to decrease your carbon footprint.
    4. Support Local Communities: Opt for local, eco-friendly accommodations. Buy traditional gifts from local artisans around national parks. Not only will you contribute to the local economy, but you will also have a unique opportunity to engage with local culture and traditions.
    5. Volunteer and Support Conservation Efforts: Many national parks have volunteer programs and organized conservation projects. Consider participating in these initiatives, such as trail maintenance, habitat restoration, wildlife monitoring, and educational programs. You can also donate to park foundations and organizations that preserve and protect national parks.

Visit our website to learn more about sustainable destination management and what you can do for national parks.

Photo by Zoe Schaeffer on Unsplash 

Blog by: Kristina Algas and Marika Matarazzo

“We rely confidently on Solimar's deep technical experience and professionalism as tourism consultants. You always are exceeding our expectations.”
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