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Users' Manual on the Biodiversity and Tourism Development Guidelines

CBD Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development


International guidelines for activities related to sustainable tourism development in vulnerable terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems and habitats of major importance for biological diversity and protected areas, including fragile riparian and mountain ecosystems

A. Scope

B. The policy-making, development planning and management process

  1. Baseline information
  2. Vision and goals
  3. Objectives
  4. Legislation and control measures
  5. Impact assessment
  6. Impact management and mitigation
  7. Decision-making
  8. Implementation
  9. Monitoring and reporting
  10. Adaptive management

C. Notification process and information requirements

D. Education, capacity-building and awareness-raising

5. Impact assessment

34. Impact assessment for sustainable tourism development in ecosystems should be based on the “Guidelines for incorporating biodiversity-related issues into environmental impact assessment legislation and/or processes and in strategic environmental assessment” developed by the Convention on Biological Diversity and contained in the annex to decision VI/7 A (paras. 1 24) as well as on the Akwe: Kon voluntary guidelines for the conduct of cultural, environmental and social impact assessment regarding developments proposed to take place on, or which are likely to impact on, sacred sites and on lands and waters traditionally occupied or used by indigenous and local communities (as contained in Annex to Decision VII/14).

35. At national level, Governments should normally undertake assessment of impacts associated with the overall vision, goals and objectives for tourism and biodiversity. In addition, this process may also be undertaken at more local levels by local government, and by indigenous and local communities.

36. Proposers of tourism developments or activities should assess the potential impacts of their proposals and provide information on this through a notification process.

37. Governments will normally undertake evaluations of the adequacy of impact assessments submitted by proposers of tourism developments or activities. These evaluations will need to be undertaken by an appropriately qualified team, drawing on a range of expertise, including expertise in tourism and in biodiversity management, and also involving those indigenous and local communities that would be affected by the proposals. There should be public access to the documentation.

38. If the information provided is not sufficient, or the impact assessment inadequate, then further impact assessment studies may need to be undertaken. The proposer may be requested to undertake such studies, or the Government may decide to undertake these studies, and may request funds from the proposer for this purpose, as appropriate. Other stakeholders, including biodiversity managers and indigenous and local communities that may be affected by a proposed development, may also provide their assessments of impacts associated with specific proposals for tourism developments or activities, and provisions may be needed to ensure that any such assessments are taken into account by decision-makers.

39. Indigenous and local communities concerned should be involved in impact assessment. Their traditional knowledge should be acknowledged and considered for impact assessment in particular tourism projects that affect their sacred sites or lands and waters traditionally occupied or used by them.

40. Sufficient time should be allowed considering the different conditions and circumstances to ensure that all stakeholders are able to participate effectively in the decision-making process for any project using information provided by the impact assessment. Such information should be provided in forms that are accessible and comprehensible to all the various stakeholders involved.

41. Impacts of tourism in relation to the environment and biological diversity may include:

  1. Use of land and resources for accommodation, tourism facilities and other infrastructure provision, including road networks, airports and seaports;
  2. Extraction and use of building materials (e.g., use of sand from beaches, reef limestone and wood);
  3. Damage to or destruction of ecosystems and habitats, including deforestation, draining of wetlands, and intensified or unsustainable use of land;
  4. Increased risk of erosion;
  5. Disturbance of wild species, disrupting normal behaviour and potentially affecting mortality and reproductive success;
  6. Alterations to habitats and ecosystems;
  7. Increased risk of fires;
  8. Unsustainable consumption of flora and fauna by tourists (e.g., through picking of plants; or purchase of souvenirs manufactured from wildlife, in particular such endangered species as corals and turtle shells; or through unregulated hunting, shooting and fishing);
  9. Increased risk of introduction of alien species;
  10. Intensive water demand from tourism;
  11. Extraction of groundwater;
  12. Deterioration in water quality (freshwater, coastal waters) and sewage pollution;
  13. Eutrophication of aquatic habitats;
  14. Introduction of pathogens;
  15. Generation, handling and disposal of sewage and waste-water;
  16. Chemical wastes, toxic substances and pollutants;
  17. Solid waste (garbage or rubbish);
  18. Contamination of land, freshwater and seawater resources;
  19. Pollution and production of greenhouse gases, resulting from travel by air, road, rail, or sea, at local, national and global levels;
  20. Noise.

42. Socio-economic and cultural impacts related to tourism may include:

  1. Influx of people and social degradation (e.g. local prostitution, drug abuse, etc.);
  2. Impacts on children and youth;
  3. Vulnerability to the changes in the flow of tourist arrivals which may result in sudden loss of income and jobs in times of downturn;
  4. Impacts on indigenous and local communities and cultural values;
  5. Impacts on health and the integrity of local cultural systems;
  6. Intergenerational conflicts and changed gender relationships;
  7. Erosion of traditional practices and lifestyles;
  8. Loss of access by indigenous and local communities to their land and resources as well as sacred sites, which are integral to the maintenance of traditional knowledge systems and traditional lifestyles.

43. The potential benefits of tourism may include:

  1. Revenue creation for the maintenance of natural resources of the area;
  2. Contributions to economic and social development, for example:

    1. Funding the development of infrastructure and services;
    2. Providing jobs;
    3. Providing funds for development or maintenance of sustainable practices;
    4. Providing alternative and supplementary ways for communities to receive revenue from biological diversity;
    5. Generating incomes;
    6. Education and empowerment;
    7. An entry product that can have direct benefits for developing other related products at the site and regionally;
    8. Tourist satisfaction and experience gained at tourist destination.


  1. (1)For the purposes of the present Guidelines "indigenous and local communities" means "indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity"
  2. (2) Monitoring at World Heritage sites should be designed to also incorporate the World Heritage criteria upon which the site was inscribed. The monitoring system should be designed to contribute to the World Heritage periodic reporting structure, aimed at gathering information on the state of conservation of the site

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme