UNWTO Webinar QUO VADIS TOURISM: “Agenda 2030 and SDGs in times of COVID-19” – What kind of tourism meets the Future We Want?

May 27, UNWTO hosted a very relevant webinar if to find answers on some pressing questions about tourism after COVID-19. What kind of tourism meets the Future We Want, meaning the Agenda 2030, which all governments in the world had agreed to when in 2015 committing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? What kind of tourism has the chance to recover? Or what kind of tourism should actually recover and therefore should receive support from governments? If interested in some of the answers, the webinar can still be revisited on YouTube

LT&C in its presentation during the webinar had put the focus on the green and blue SDGs, 6, 13, 14 & 15, meaning Water, Climate, and Biodiversity on Sea and Land, as we believe they are most important if the Future We Want should be achieved. Tourism, besides Education, is in a unique position to potentially support all the 17 SDGs. LT&C’s mission is to showcase, where tourism is supporting biodiversity (SDGs 14&15), more specifically protected areas, and has so far published 40 such LT&C-Examples.

The tourism sector ranks presently as one of the hardest hitten by the Corona crisis and therefore receives a lot of attention. However, present debates on helping tourism businesses to survive or recover often neglect the question of what kind of tourism we really need to reach the Future We Want (as defined by the SDGs). On the other hand government representatives increasingly defend their extremely large financial help packages by emphasising that they will be distributed in a targeted manner. What could make Corona-help to tourism more targeted and in line with what all governments already in 2015 agreed to, then looking for tourism cases, which can proof SDG-support? LT&C highlighted at the webinar in this context the recently communicated EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 with its statement “Investing in nature protection and restoration will also be critical for Europe’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis”. Some initial suggestions for targeted financing of tourism where provided in the LT&C-presentation at the UNWTO webinar:

Not only a short term message for World Biodiversity Day (May 22): The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 brings Biodiversity very high on the international agenda for a whole decade.

Two days before World Biodiversity Day (May 22), the EU Commission communicated its Biodiversity Strategy for 2030: “Bringing nature back into our lives”. This is a very important and ambitios strategy, which hopefully motivates also governments in other parts of the world to follow or even compete with. It puts Biodiversity highest on governments agenda, and not without reason if we just read the introduction of the EU communication:

From the world’s great rainforests to small parks and gardens, from the blue whale to microscopic fungi, biodiversity is the extraordinary variety of life on Earth. We humans are part of, and fully dependent on, this web of life: it gives us the food we eat, filters the water we drink, and supplies the air we breathe. Nature is as important for our mental and physical wellbeing as it is for our society’s ability to cope with global change, health threats and disasters. We need nature in our lives.”

The strategy also responds to the present COVID-19 crisis: “Investing in nature protection and restoration will also be critical for Europe’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. When restarting the economy, it is crucial to avoid falling back and locking ourselves into damaging old habits. The European Green Deal – the EU’s growth strategy – will be the compass for our recovery, ensuring that the economy serves people and society and gives back to nature more than it takes away.” – This could also be related to LT&C’s position that governments, which put out enormous financial support to the tourism industry for surviving the Corona-crisis, may prioritize those businesses, which have a proven history of supporting the protection of biodiversity. LT&C-Examples should be of high relevance in this context.

The EU-Biodiversity Strategy also emphasizes the high importance of protected areas to safeguard nature: “Biodiversity fares better in protected areas. However, the current network of legally protected areas, including those under strict protection, is not sufficiently large to safeguard biodiversity. Evidence shows that the targets defined under the Convention on Biological Diversity are insufficient to adequately protect and restore nature. Global efforts are needed and the EU itself needs to do more and better for nature and build a truly coherent Trans-European Nature Network.” The EU is thereby joining or even leading the movement to safeguard global biodiversity (known as #30×30) by advocating for the 30% target for 2030: “For the good of our environment and our economy, and to support the EU’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, we need to protect more nature. In this spirit, at least 30% of the land and 30% of the sea should be protected in the EU.

And about financing The European Green Deal the EU Commission states: “To meet the needs of this strategy, including investment priorities for Natura 2000 and green infrastructure, at least €20 billion a year should be unlocked for spending on nature. This will require mobilising private and public funding at national and EUlevel71, including through a range of different programmes in the next long-term EU budget. Moreover, as nature restoration will make a major contribution to climate objectives, a significant proportion of the 25% of the EU budget dedicated to climate action will be invested in biodiversity and nature-based solutions.” 

Download and read the full text of this important biodiversity commitment of the EU:

COVID-19: Biodiversity and Biodiversity-supporting tourism need to come up much higher on the world’s agenda!

The present Corona-times imply significant challenges for the entire tourism sector, including our members, who stay behind our important 39 LT&C-Examples. On the other hand, times also provide prospects that the governments and others in the world will have to put much more emphasis focusing on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), they all had agreed already in 2015. That means much more focus on those types of tourism, which support SDGs. From our perspective, the highest priority should go to the biodiversity SDGs 14 & 15, respectively related forms of tourism. Therefore, LT&C has to play an even more critical role. We need to raise an increasing discussion with our LT&C-Example providers, how their essential work can be secured, upscaled and replicated.

Biodiversity-supporting tourism needs to come up much higher on the world’s agenda!

Read in this context also the guest article, which has been published yesterday by the three co-chairs of the IPBES Global Assessment Report, together with IPBES nexus assessment scoping expert Dr. Peter Daszak. Click here to read this article in  عربى / español / English / français / русский /中文 / Deutsch. The title and main message of this article are:

COVID-19 Stimulus Measures Must 
Save Lives, Protect Livelihoods, and Safeguard Nature
to Reduce the Risk of Future Pandemics

LT&C recently has approached all providers of LT&C-Examples to share information about their present situation, ideas and activities to overcome the present challenges. We like to republish herewith the emergency call of our member and LT&C-Example provider Basecamp Explorer

MARA NABOISHO CONSERVANCY URGENTLY NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT TO CONTINUE

Norway’s first LT&C-Example: Lista Landscape

Despite the fact that many visit Norway because of its nature and beautiful landscapes, it so far has been surprisingly difficult to identify a single Norwegian example, where tourism is clearly supporting the establishment or positive development of protected areas. And neither Innovation Norway’s or the tourism industries’ sustainability strategies contain clear references to the Sustainable Development Goals or specifically the SDGs 14 and 15 for protecting nature. When now South-Norway’s Lista Landscape became the first LT&C-Example in Norway, it may encourage others in the country to come up with more examples.

The Lista landscape has been protected as a result of dialogue processes facilitated by Farsund municipality. Tourism played an essential role in positive conservation outcomes. In 1987-88, ten vitally important lake and wetland areas became protected as nature reserves. These included shallow coves on the coast, dune landscapes, marsh and swamp areas, and shallow and nutrient-rich lakes. Specific plant and animal life are in the focus of this type of protection. In 1996 these areas were assigned joint status as a RAMSAR site due to their importance for migrating birds and their characteristics known as the Lista Wetland System. Lista is known for having many rare and threatened bird species and is the location in Norway where the highest number of different bird species are observed each year.

One of the only recently restored wetlands is Slevdalsvannet. The area is just aside or part of a former NATO-airbase. And where formerly depots of atomic weapons should be installed, today cattle are grazing and bird observation hides have been built (see the first picture below). It is a picture that nature comes back and takes over a formerly much more used and drained wetland. An area where cranes, lapwings, common snipes, garganeys and marsh harriers are nesting, and skylarks singing in the air.

Through continuous land-use planning and amendments of management plans, the municipality aims to preserve the Lista landscape in context with sustainable farming, local businesses and tourism. 

As a short term project, Farsund Municipality, Agder County Council and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration collaborate actively to establish a national touring bike trail along the entire Lista coast. The hiking trail is called Vita Velo and focuses on architecture and cultural heritage as well as unique experiences in the Lista landscape. As a first step, a 15-kilometre route with rest areas and bike racks with charging points for e-bikes have been established already in 2019 in the western part of Lista. 

The work on what is called “Selected Agricultural Landscapes” is also open to creativity and future planning. Such areas, established by voluntary agreements between the landowners/stakeholders and the Government on 540 hectares in 2009 and expanded to 1,100 hectares in 2018, combine advantages and benefits for agriculture, tourism, conservation, local culture and trade development. 

Recently, a management plan, including a visitor strategy, has been drawn up for the shores of Lista. A key focus of the policy is to enable sustainable economic growth and nature protection. Lista Fyr AS worked together with the Administration of Farsund municipality and the Agder County Governor in making the Visitor Strategy for Lista. A wide selection of local stakeholders contributed to the process. It is believed that the close connection between Tourism and Conservation in Lista Fyr AS will be fruitful for the future development of Lista and Farsund.

South-Norway’s Lista Landscape: protected as a result of dialogue processes facilitated by Farsund Municipality

South-Norway’s Lista Landscape: protected as a result of dialogue processes facilitated by Farsund Municipality

With its open agricultural landscape and wide horizons reaching out towards the sea, Lista has fascinated and attracted residents, tourists and artists for generations. The landscape is flat, the soil fertile, and the coast dramatic and beautiful. Lista has miles of sandy beaches. Visitors are today attracted by the sea, high sky, forces of nature, birds and the magnificent landscape. The local administration of the Farsund municipality was among the first to act according to the Norwegian adaptation of a new Nature Conservation Act with a mission statement based on the Council of Europe’s definition of nature conservation. In 1976 the municipality administration established the “Lista Committee”, whose primary goal was to coordinate the conservation interests in Lista with other land-use interests. The Lista Committee outlined an arrangement involving dialogue between the county governor and the affected parties, meetings and inspections. Before the final conservation proposal was prepared and submitted to the ministry, all of the bodies and individuals, who could be impacted by potential conservation measures, had the opportunity to provide statements. The local government would manage the conflicts of interest and weigh these up. The Lista Committee’s recommendation was the starting point for Farsund municipality’s unique partnership on the Lista landscape and a working method in line with what the European Landscape Convention later has recommended. Today we can report the implementation of all the conservation initiatives (protection orders) approved by the Lista Committee. A direct result of the local democracy in Farsund Municipality is the achievement of 29 areas, which are purchased from the landowners and established as government-protected outdoor recreation areas. They include different kinds of officially protected areas.

Lista Wetland System

  In the extensive democratic process, the interests of tourism were involved and played an essential role in the positive conservation outcomes: One of them is the landscape protected area “Lista Beaches”, established already in 1987. The objective of the protection was to preserve unique natural and cultural landscape with particular beach types and geological, botanical, zoological and cultural-historical characteristics of high conservation value. In 1987-88, ten vitally important lake and wetland areas followed by becoming protected as nature reserves. These included shallow coves on the coast, dune landscapes, marsh and swamp areas, and shallow and nutrient-rich lakes. Specific plant and animal life are in the focus of this type of protection. In 1996 these areas were assigned joint status as a RAMSAR site due to their importance for migrating birds and their characteristics known as the Lista Wetland System. Lista is known for having many rare and threatened bird species and is the location in Norway where the highest number of different bird species are observed each year.

Today the municipality is managing the visitors to the area by, among others, providing education services and marking hiking paths and bike trails. It includes a separate Coastal Trail of approximately 40 km. The roads in the wind farm established in 2012 in the northern heath areas are practical for hiking and cycling. The “Skjærgårdspark” can be accessed both from the mainland and from the sea. To preserve the specific cultural landscape and to prevent overgrowth, specific grazing management is in place. For example, the municipality has hired in “coastal goats” to keep the vegetation down along the Lista beaches.

The Visitor Centre Wetland Lista opened at Lista Lighthouse Station in 2015 as a nationally authorized visitor Centre. It is an outcome of the project “Sørnorsk kystnatur” (Southern Norwegian Coastal Nature) which is part of the development programme “Naturarven som verdiskaper” (Natural heritage as a creator of value). The purpose of the project was to provide education and nature experiences through nature conservation areas. The working hypothesis is that a greater understanding of natural assets by non-experts through the increased use, including commercial, of nature conservation areas, will strengthen this protection. Through this project, Slevdalsvannet and several other places in Lista have established various types of observation sites and provide universal access for people to experience the unique nature and birdlife in Lista. The objective of Visitor Centre Wetland Lista is to increase the visitors’ understanding of the wetlands nature, also as valuable to us as humans. The guides carefully organize the visits to this unique natural environment for any group or private person. Knowledge communication of how natural assets can be protected focuses on new generations. It should ensure that they “inherit” the pride of their own “everyday landscape” and the willingness to make extra efforts for its long-term protection. The conservation project of the Lista landscape is a case of preserving a living landscape with understanding and support of its visitors.

The activities of Visitor Centre Wetland Lista is today organized in the company Lista Fyr AS (Lista Lighthouse Inc), owned by Farsund municipality. From 2020 the company is in charge of local tourism, known as destination management office (DMO). Apart from education and information, the company’s primary objective is to link tourism and conservation in a sustainable way for the future.

 

Through continuous land-use planning and amendments of management plans, the municipality aims to preserve the Lista landscape in context with sustainable farming, local businesses and tourism. 

As a short term project, Farsund Municipality, Agder County Council and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration collaborate actively to establish a national touring bike trail along the entire Lista coast. The hiking trail is called Vita Velo and focuses on architecture and cultural heritage as well as unique experiences in the Lista landscape. As a first step, a 15-kilometre route with rest areas and bike racks with charging points for e-bikes have been established already in 2019 in the western part of Lista. 

The work on what is called “Selected Agricultural Landscapes” is also open to creativity and future planning. Such areas, established by voluntary agreements between the landowners/stakeholders and the Government on 540 hectares in 2009 and expanded to 1,100 hectares in 2018, combine advantages and benefits for agriculture, tourism, conservation, local culture and trade development. 

Recently, a management plan, including a visitor strategy, has been drawn up for the shores of Lista. A key focus of the policy is to enable sustainable economic growth and nature protection. Lista Fyr AS worked together with the Administration of Farsund municipality and the Agder County Governor in making the Visitor Strategy for Lista. A wide selection of local stakeholders contributed to the process. We believe that the close connection between Tourism and Conservation in Lista Fyr AS will be fruitful in the future development of Lista and Farsund.

The Lista landscape case of stakeholder involvement, dialogue and cooperation, resulting in a cluster of different types of protected areas, is an LT&C-Example, which could gain the attention of other municipalities or regions, particularly in Norway. It relates to both typical Norwegian policies and cultures as well as to international standards. Lista Fyr AS and Farsund municipality are open to sharing their model and partner with other destinations interested to learn from Lista’s experiences. 

COVID-19: More news and calls for help from our LT&C-Examples

The present Corona-times imply significant challenges for the entire tourism sector, including our members, who stay behind our important 39 LT&C-Examples. On the other hand, times also provide prospects that the governments and others in the world will have to put much more emphasis focusing on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), they all had agreed already in 2015. That means much more focus on those types of tourism, which support SDGs. From our perspective, the highest priority should go to the biodiversity SDGs 14 & 15, respectively related forms of tourism. Therefore, LT&C has to play an even more critical role. We need to raise an increasing discussion with our LT&C-Example providers, how their essential work can be secured, upscaled and replicated.

Nature is sending us a message, says UN’s environment chief, Inger Andersen. “There are too many pressures at the same time on our natural systems and something has to give,” she added. “We are intimately interconnected with nature, whether we like it or not. If we don’t take care of nature, we can’t take care of ourselves. And as we hurtle towards a population of 10 billion people on this planet, we need to go into this future armed with nature as our strongest ally.”

The providers of LT&C-Examples have shown in all corners of the world how tourism can support nature conservation. Now they are themselves challenged, and the crisis is putting at risk effective protected area management. However, it is also a time to take a step back and rethink tourism on a more strategic level and to strengthen the case for sustainable tourism, which supports conservation of nature (SDGs 14 & 15).

As LT&C recently reached out to all their LT&C-Example providers, we increasingly receive responses with urgency for help. Here is the message from the LT&C-Example Chumbe Island Coral Park.

Chumbe Island Coral Park is the LT&C-Example of ecotourism supporting conservation, research and environmental education at the world’s first Private Marine Park

From the North of the United States, we are receiving the message from the ongoing battle to safe the LT&C-Example Boundary Waters: Protecting the Boundary Waters during the COVID-19 Pandemic

From the LT&C-Example Jackson Hole & Yellowstone Sustainable Destination Program, Timothy O’Donoghue has sent us a slightly more optimistic message: “ In short, similar to the rest of the world, our destination is shutdown.  The central attraction here is our two national parks:  Yellowstone and Grand Teton.  They are projected to reopen on May 22 which is to say that is when people, primarily from within the U.S., will start to arrive.  This is normally the time of year when the parks and surrounding national forest are closed anyway, primarily to give wildlife and their habitat a rest and for the snow to be cleared from the roads.
The primary concern is how the restrictions will be eased and over what time.  The state of Wyoming is in a much better position than other states since the impact of coronavirus has been less so far.

Yellowstone National Park. Photo: Paul Racko

And for our German-speaking audience, we like to forward the latest Newsletter of the Schutzstation Wattenmeer, the most important conservation-education organisation for the LT&C-Example Wadden Sea. They urgently need help!

https://archive.newsletter2go.com/?n2g=rdpntdvb-tvjc8pkg-oxy
Photo: Martin Stock: “Meerlandschaften

LT&C Annual General Meeting will still take place May 20, but remotely by using Zoom

Due to the circumstances with COVID-19, LT&C had to change its original plans to have the 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM) together with a workshop on ecotourism in Slovakia. As we have informed earlier, the ecotourism workshop has been preliminarily postponed to September 17/18, 2020.

The AGM is still planned to take place May 20, 2020, but members interested to take part can do this only remotely by Zoom. 

Only the Board members Ottar Nakken and Peter Prokosch, and possibly very few members from Arendal, will meet physically in the LT&C offices at Torgata 7 in Arendal, Norway, and will conduct the meeting from there. The Meeting Agenda you find here: LT&C AGM 2020 Draft Agenda.

LT&C-Members, which are interested to participate, need to register by using the below contact form, by May 10.  Those registered participants will then receive further documents and the Zoom-link for the meeting. Particularly invited are our members with voting rights (King- and Emperor Penguins). Those will also get information on how to use during the meeting a voting tool called Menti – https://www.menti.com. They will receive a code with which they can connect to the presentation where they can vote. The tool visualises all responses in real-time and makes it easy for us to make decisions remotely.

If you are interested to participate at the AGM by Zoom, register here and

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Can 2020 still become the year where the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity culminates? – Putting in Corona times a priority on biodiversity-supporting tourism can be one way

Three major biodiversity congresses were on plan for 2020, and now all have to be postponed due to COVID-19: the World Wilderness Congress (in March in India), the IUCN World Conservation Congress (in June in France) and COP15 of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD; in October in China). They all aimed to look at conclusions of the UN Decade on Biodiversity. What did we achieve during the decade of 2010-2020, meant to reduce biodiversity loss and to support and promote the implementation of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets? – LT&C aims to make tourism an increasing supporter of the Aichi target 11, meaning getting at least 17% of the land and 10% of the oceans protected. We were, therefore, looking at the 195 governments, the Parties of the CBD, which planned to meet for their COP15 in Kunming, China, in October 2020. What did they achieve in the past decade? Which are the leading countries doing best? Which new goals will be decided for the protection of the global biodiversity to be reached by 2030 and beyond? What about the #30×30 campaign to protect 30% of the world on land and sea? And what about, if 30% in some cases may not even be enough?

Governments, which put out enormous financial support to the tourism industry for surviving the Corona-crisis, may prioritise those businesses, which have a proven history of supporting the protection of biodiversity.

If 2020 should still become the “Super Year for Biodiversity”, despite being the year of the Corona-crisis, a new focus is essential on those sectors of society, which play a supportive role in the Global Goals on biodiversity. Tourism has a significant potential to play that role as much of the business is based on nature and depends on biological diversity. And as shown by the LT&C-Examples, there are increasing cases to be detected, where that works. Our global network of members with expertise in both realms, tourism and conservation, aims to identify, promote, analyse, support, replicate and upscale LT&C-Examples of tourism supporting protected areas and conservation of biodiversity, and call for commitments of tourism networks and business associations towards this goal. We are thereby working with CBD Parties, its Secretariat and business networks to make tourism an implementing force for protected area-related goals.

The tourism industry is not only one of the biggest economies of the world, but at present also one of the most hard-hit by the Corona-crisis. It is, therefore, a question, when Governments provide stimulus packages, to ask which kinds of tourism benefit the future we want and therefore deserves help. Regarding biodiversity protection and the related Global Goals, we are, of course, most concerned upfront about the survival of the LT&C-Example providers and our members involved in tour operations in support of LT&C-Examples. They, from the perspective of protecting an essential asset for the Global Goals, deserve help from governments and others first in the sector.

Seychelles: 30% Ocean Protection Goal reached – Interview with Helena Sims from The Nature Conservancy

What the governments of the world as parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) may soon decide as a goal for 2030, to protect 30% of their marine and terrestrial territories, Seychelles has already met this target, and implementation starts in 2021. As The Nature Conservancy reports, the Government of Seychelles has announced the final details of Marine Protection Areas to reach its goal to protect 30% or 410,000 sq. km (158,000 sq. miles) of its ocean. 

Diana Körner, our Board member and author of the LT&C-Example “Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Foundation (SSTF)” had the opportunity to interview Helena Sims, Project Manager from The Nature Conservancy for the Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan Initiative, about this great success story. The SSTF has been following the marine spatial planning process over the years, with its chair Daniella Payet-Alis being part of the MSP Steering Committee and of the MSP Technical Working Group for Tourism, and sees this as a fundamental milestone for sustainable tourism and conservation in Seychelles, achieved through a multi-stakeholder consultation approach. 

Helena, congratulations on this big achievement. Please tell us more about the significance of designating 30% of your EEZ as a MPA for Seychelles?

The Marine Protection Areas are a key part of the new Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan that covers the second-largest area of ocean in the world (after one in Norway) and is the largest plan for tropical waters to account for both conservation and climate change. Designating 30% of its marine area by 2020 means Seychelles has tripled the UN Convention of Biological Diversity target for 10% by 2020 in marine protected areas, and the UN Sustainable Development Goal SDG-14 for 10% coastal and marine protection.

Beyond the Marine Protection Areas, the Marine Spatial Plan as a whole also covers how Seychelles’ remaining 70% of the ocean is addressed in terms of increasing management of all marine resources, regulatory attention, and unified government oversight of all activities that take place to support the country’s Blue Economy.

The announcement of the protection areas delivers on a ‘debt-for-conservation’ deal that Seychelles signed with The Nature Conservancy in February 2016, the first such deal for marine conservation in the world.

Could you explain to us the process involved in reaching this major milestone?

Designation of the Marine Protection Areas and the drafting of ‘allowable activities’ followed perhaps the most comprehensive process of consultation of its kind in Seychelles, to ensure the largest number and diversity of people, businesses, and institutions provided information and input, and ultimately their support, to the planning. More than 200 consultations with Seychelles’ citizens, scientists, and key businesses guided the process which started in 2014.

What is the importance of tourism in relation to existing and new MPAs in Seychelles?

With fisheries and marine-based tourism being the two pillars of the country’s economy, the ocean is central to Seychelles’ development and for the future generations to come.  A Marine Spatial Plan is needed to manage conservation and direct sustainable development and climate change adaptation in Seychelles. By taking account of scientific studies that show how well-designed and effectively-managed marine reserves are more resilient to climate change because the pressure is reduced on each ecosystem component, Seychelles is taking precautionary measures to best position its environment and economy for the long term.

The MSP Core team worked in consultation with tourism representatives of Seychelles, such as the chair of the SSTF, to seek input on existing tourism activities, priority areas, and potential future directives to inform the zoning design. Over the last six years over 250 stakeholder consultation meetings were held to propose and discuss new marine protected areas and allowable activities in and management considerations for these areas.

Photo: Jason Houston

Do you have any words of advice for other countries, wanting to replicate this step of protecting large parts of their (ocean) territory?

The Nature Conservancy is proud to have partnered with Seychelles to facilitate this work and is committed to supporting 20 countries over the next 5 years to help complete their conservation, sustainability, and climate change goals.  Jointly, there are many lessons we can share with other ocean states.

Photos: Left to right: Camerapix, Hagai Svulun, Jason Houston

LT&C is a Nature Conservation Organisation – not a tourism business. What does this mean in times of Corona crisis?

Linking Tourism & Conservation (LT&C) is our name; it describes well our mission and what we do. However, some may think we are a group of travel agencies or other tourism businesses. LT&C is a nature conservation organization, an NGO helping making tourism an effective force for the protection of the world’s biodiversity. We know it can work: for this, we have published 39 LT&C-Examples, where tourism is supporting the establishment or management of national parks and other types of protected natural areas. We find that providers of such examples deserve more recognition and attention. They are champions and forerunners demonstrating how tourism can be a more concrete and crucial force to reach the global goal of a complete, representative and a well-managed worldwide network of connected protected areas for safeguarding our biodiversity.

Protecting Life below Water (SDG 14) and Life on Land (SDG 15), linked to addressing climate change, rank as the most important of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) all countries of the world have decided to go for. In global society, on top of increased awareness about the climate crisis, people everywhere have become significantly mobilized on the urgency to protect the world’s biodiversity.

When talking about tourism, most people have all of its negative impacts in mind. And certainly, too many tourists still influence nature in a bad way, not to speak about the effect of their travel on climate. Tourism is a very resilient global economic sector, yet the current crisis is affecting it more than others, in ways that are still being assessed. Let us take the opportunity of this crisis to come up with transformative solutions to deal with the problems it contributes to produce. Tourism has in fact, besides education, the potential to support all the 17 SDGs. That is described in the following joint publication of UNWTO and UNDP, which we recommend to download (click on the picture) and read:

For our German readers: here is also a German version of the publication:

LT&C has been established to focus on SDGs 14 & 15, on Aichi Target 11 of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and in corresponding targets in the post-2020 global biodiversity framework currently being developed. Our global network of members with expertise in both realms, tourism and conservation, aims to identify, promote, analyse, support, replicate and upscale LT&C-Examples of tourism supporting protected areas and conservation of biodiversity, and call for commitments of tourism networks and business associations towards this goal. We are thereby working with CBD Parties, its Secretariat and business networks to make tourism an implementing force for protected area-related goals. When the 195 governments, the Parties of the CBD, meet for their COP15 in Kunming, China in October 2020, new goals will have to be decided for the protection of the global biodiversity to be reached by 2030 and beyond. It will be crucial to go for ambitious goals for safeguarding the world’s ecosystems and species. Promising messages are already sent out by some countries, such as Costa Rica and Canada, to strive for that at least 30% of the world on land and sea gets protected; yet in some cases, 30% is not enough. Many players have been proposing that “nature needs half”.

In any case, the tourism sector, which depends on and benefits so much from intact nature, needs to mobilize, voluntarily and through regulation where necessary, to play a role here proportionate to being responsible for up to 10% of the global economy, and much more in many megadiverse countries. The sector needs to actively help convince their governments to decide on the most progressive goals, and then offer themselves to be on the implementing side. 

But how will the present Corona crisis affect all this?

As tourism, also the present Corona pandemic can be seen from two or more sides. At least it is causing us all to re-think and re-evaluate how we interact with our world.  With the far-reaching shut-down of travel and other economic activities, the pressure on nature is certainly decreasing, which is a good thing. Nature can breathe and recover for a while. And also the climate benefits. However, the crisis in the sector will affect the world as well: jobs have been lost, revenues across the sector have fallen by up to 80%, and there is no perspective of improvement nor a clear strategy on how to address the crisis. What can we learn in this new period, where so much is changing, for the time the health crisis is over?

Presently, for tackling the health crisis, it is most important that everybody is following their government’s decisions and rules. And when it comes to the economic side, governments have to take very difficult and serious decisions, whom to help first and which businesses to save from bankruptcy. Impacts are felt at the upper level in the supply chain but will need to be distributed fairly. This provides also enormous steering power to governments. As all the governments of the world, in regard to the future we want, had subscribed since 2015 to the Sustainable Development Goals, it would be logic to use the SGSs now even more than ever as the road map for everybody for leading us out of both the present health and economic crisis, as well as of since longer existing humanitarian, climate and also biodiversity crises. This could mean that financial survival help should not be spread evenly but clearly be concentrated on people and businesses engaged and contributing to the future we want, described by the 169 targets of the 17 SDGs.

The tourism industry is not only one of the biggest economies of the world, but at present also one of the most hard-hit by the Corona crisis. It is, therefore, a question, when we provide stimulus packages, to ask ourselves which kinds of tourism benefit the future we want and therefore deserves help. In regard to biodiversity protection and the related Global Goals, we are of course most concerned upfront about the survival of the LT&C-Example providers and our members involved in tour operations in support of LT&C-Examples. They, from the perspective of protecting a basic asset for the SDGs, deserve help from governments and others first in the sector.

To just give one example, where tourism plays an important positive role, although needs to be clearly regulated: The national parks of Rwanda, DRC and Uganda, which are the home of the endangered mountain gorilla population. As readable in the “Good Tourism” blog, “Mountain gorillas are highly susceptible to human-borne diseases and might be threatened by COVID-19. The good news is that the International Gorilla Conservation Programme is using the COVID-19 moment to tighten the “Certified Gorilla Friendly” tourism standards it wants to see implemented in Rwanda, Uganda and the DR Congo.” It can be seen as an advantage that those rules presently can be easier implemented in times of heavily decreasing numbers or lack of tourists wanting to have their life experience of watching gorillas in the wild.

At the same time, as the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP), which is supported by Conservation International, WWF and Fauna and Flora International, states: “Responsible tourism is a cornerstone of mountain gorilla conservation and crucial to their survival. It is the lifeblood of the national parks and generates vital revenue to support the human needs and aspirations of nearby communities.” This statement we can only underline with the LT&C-Examples, our member Greg Bakunzi is been involved in. With his Amahoro Tours, he is a direct supporter of the Virunga national park and therefore listed at the website of the Virunga Foundation as a credible tour operator. He is also the provider of the Kahuzi-Biéga national park LT&C Example. And with his non-profit organisation Red Rocks he is setting an example of supporting national parks in Rwanda, DRC and Uganda as being a direct supporter of local societies. Green Destinations awarded him therefore in 2018 as the “Best of Africa” among the world’s Top 10 Sustainable Destinations.

There are these kinds of tour operators and LT&C-Examples, which should be seen and supported first, whether in the present time of the Corona crisis or also afterwards and in general. LT&C just at its recent Future Workshop had decided to bring all LT&C-Example providers more closely together and supporting each other. And if we want to see those positive cases growing, where tourism is supporting protected areas, we encourage our LT&C-Example providers to couple with a potential replicator of their example. If they can agree on and design a concrete project and proposal of how their LT&C-Example will be replicated, financial institutions or other donors should be interested to support such efforts.

Future workshop: LT&C responsible for making tourism a convincing force for nature conservation

March 1-2, LT&C members from six countries met on the German islands Rügen and Vilm for looking into the future of linking tourism and conservation. As 2020 will be a pivotal year for the global biodiversity, where the nations of the world have to decide on new goals for the protection of the global biodiversity to be reached by 2030, the positive potential of tourism should not be underestimated. A clear conclusion of the meeting: The global nature conservation network Linking Tourism & Conservation (LT&C) has a responsibility to take an increasing role in making tourism a convincing force for the protection of the world’s biodiversity.

LT&C Future Meeting 2020 Germany – Rügen – Island of Vilm. Photo: Giorgio Scala/ Deepbluemedia


Tourism, which benefits so much from pristine nature, national parks and other protected areas, must at least triple its economic contribution to the maintenance and development of protected areas and local livelihoods. Also, the political and educational support from tourism for a major extension of the global network of protected areas needs to raise significantly to safeguard the biodiversity, human society and also tourism itself depends on.

That this is possible, LT&C has demonstrated through its meanwhile 39 LT&C-Examples. It was obvious for the participants of the future workshop that those examples must grow. Therefore, it is seen as essential to make the LT&C-Example providers much more visible, bring them in more contact and cooperation with each other, and find ways that they liaise with LT&C-Example replicators. LT&C in the future will engage much more in projects, where learning from or replication of LT&C-Examples takes place. Such projects should be of interest to financial institutions or other donors focusing on biodiversity protection. They could be based on the valuable and high diverse skills, professions and experiences, which the members of LT&C from both realms, conservation and sustainable tourism, can provide.

In this context regional chapters of LT&C are in planning, first in Africa and in German-speaking countries. That this would be welcomed in Germany was recently expressed in an interview with the Schutzstation Wattenmeer. In Africa, the Red Rock center of our member and LT&C-Example provider Greg Bakunzi in Musanze, Rwanda could be the ideal focal point for a chapter in Africa. He said at the workshop: “LT&C is a global organization that has been working hard with its committed members to link tourism and conservation around the world. To drive the organization further, it is important to have chapters on every continent as branches of the main office. That way the regional members and LT&C-Example providers will work on a day by day basis more closely together, recruit more members and make the concrete work they do on the ground more visible and understandable.”

Our Board member Diana Körner, who speaks for the LT&C-Example Chumbe Island Coral Park, summarized at the workshop: “The LT&C Africa chapter is an exciting new step, as it will allow LT&C-Examples and members from Africa to create more impact, synergies and partnerships at local level through joint study tours, events, education, and outreach formats and the exchange of best practice. Together we can share ideas and solutions to specific issues related to protected area management and ecotourism in the African context.” This was echoed by our King Penguin member Philippe Moreau, who is active with PM Hospitality on São Tomé and Príncipe in West Africa: “Spreading the message of possibilities that can arise from ecotourism is in our key interest! We look forward to welcoming fellow LT&C colleagues on the island and building closer links with the continent under the guidance of Greg from Rwanda.”

Philippe Moreau presented at the workshop his innovative App “Greener Act” – see his presentation:

LT&C is entering a partnership with Greener Act and will soon inform more about this opportunity to bring direct financial support to LT&C-Examples. By using Greener Act as a sustainable digital experience, travellers will be able to participate in local projects and support local causes; at the same time contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. To join and kick-start Greener Act is recommended to all LT&C members and their friends.

Another product, which will support LT&C-Examples, has been announced at the workshop by our Emperor Penguin member Giorgio Scala: together with our Board- member Sergio Chiarandini he plans to launch at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in June a photo-book and photo-library with brilliant images from a series of LT&C-Examples he visited.

The workshop participants took also the advantage of visiting and studying the two LT&C-Examples on the island of Rügen: the Jasmund National Park Center “Königsstuhl” and the Treetop Walk of the Naturerbe Zentrum Rügen (see also interview with Bernd Bayerköhler from the Erlebnis Akademie AG). The Naturerbe Zentrum, as well as the International Academy for Nature Conservation (INA) on the Island of Vilm, were the hosts of the two-days future workshop. Many thanks go also to our member and former director of INA, Prof. Hans-Dieter Knapp, for his inspiring guiding through the LT&C-Examples and the regional history of nature conservation.

Our Board member, Anne Franze-Jordanov, facilitated a highly creative and productive workshop, which outlined in great spirit the future development of LT&C as a nature conservation NGO with major potential, ability but also responsibility for making tourism a convincing force for nature conservation. The future work plan covers a wide range of activities and topics from specific projects, capacity building to the development of a biodiversity and climate fund. To the later spoke the representative of our member South Pole, Hans-Peter Egler. High expectations were expressed by our Board colleague, Oliver Hillel, that tourism must and will play an important role, also as an influencer for decisions, to safeguard and protect the world’s biodiversity.


“We would appreciate a German-speaking Chapter of LT&C” – Interview with Harald Förster, Schutzstation Wattenmeer

The Wadden Sea nature conservation NGO Schutzstation Wattenmeer is a founding member of LT&C, and the International Wadden Sea is one of our largest LT&C-Examples regarding its geographical size. We are interested in how this example gains further improvement and whether other regions could learn or do replicate experiences from it. What role in that plays the Schutzstation? We, therefore, approached the CEO of the organization, Harald Förster, with a few questions to this point:

From top left to the right: Harald Förster (CEO of the Schutzstation Wattenmeer), Daniel Günther (Primeminister of Schleswig-Holstein), Johnny Waller (Chairman of the Board of the SW) together with staff and volunteers.

Harald, what was the historical contribution of the Schutzstation Wattenmeer that the Wadden Sea today can be ranked as LT&C-Example, where tourism is supporting the protection of the area?

The Schutzstation Wattenmeer was founded in 1962. At that time she was the first NGO in the Wadden sea region which combines the traditional idea of nature conservation with interests of the people living in the Wadden sea region and tourists using the environment for recreation. Today this is worldwide a common concept of nature conservation, e.g. well described in the Man and Biosphere Programme of UNESCO.
The vision of the Schutzstation Wattenmeer of the 1960s was quite progressive but received at that time harsh criticism of politicians, other NGOs and the public.

Today the Schutzstation is the leading NGO in the Wadden Sea with more than 8.000 public events per year and more than 350.000 people per year reached through events, educative excursions, exhibitions and other activities. We believe, that the fact that we over the years educated millions of visitors to the Wadden Sea about the values and protection needs of the area, had a major impact for achieving its status of national parks and World Heritage site.

In what way has the support from tourism increased in recent years, and how much of that you relate to the work of the Schutzstation Wattenmeer?

The Wadden Sea at the German North Sea coast is the most popular holiday destination in Germany with an increase of 2-5% per year. Local and regional tourism agencies use the status of the area as a World Heritage as a prominent marketing tool, and the Schutzstation Wattenmeer quite often is mentioned as a best practice example in their marketing strategies.

Which other regions could learn from the Wadden Sea example? Is there already a process to replicate the experiences you made?

Today many initiatives in the world aiming to create or develop protected areas are facing similar challenges as the Schutzstation Wattenmeer 50 years ago. Combining nature conservation and tourism can be a solution and successful strategy, which in many cases has the potential to produce win-win results. Important is to find and keep a balance of avoiding overtourism with all its negative impacts on the environment but achieving positive impacts by promoting conservation supporting forms of tourism.

The Schutzstation is very keen to assist other NGOs and tourism enterprises in their way to combine nature conservation, local people’s and tourism interests.

The annual brent goose festival is an example of local communities, NGOs and national park administration cooperating

During recent years, different people and institutions have build up partnerships and exchanges with another region with extensive tidal flats internationally important for Arctic shorebirds: the Yellow Sea of China and the Koreas. Many experiences from the Wadden Sea could probably be “exported” to the Yellow Sea when it comes to achieving also World Heritage status there. Also along the East Atlantic Flyway of coastal birds, more cooperation and exchange of experiences could be reached with other important tidal flat areas such as those on the African West coast.

Where do you see the value of being a member of LT&C and could that value be increased if we would establish a German-speaking chapter?

LT&C provides for us a very important outreach and link to the international scene of like-minded governmental and non-governmental conservation and tourism-related organisations, institutions and companies around the world. It opens up additional channels for exchanging experiences of both positive examples or coping with common problems, such as overtourism, digitalization, adapting to climate change. We are proud to be a founding member of LT&C and like to offer our experience to others in the world.

A German-speaking chapter would help to build up a growing network of LT&C members and partners in German-speaking countries for creating more communication, exchange of experiences and finally more LT&C-Examples. Another very important point could be to increase cooperation with other German-based organisations and institutions such as the Nationale Naturlandschaften (former EUROPARC Germany) and other Tourist Associations in Germany. Locally and regionally valuable cooperation examples already exist. They could be extended to national and international scales.

Therefore we would support the establishment of a German chapter of LT&C.