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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

6. Impact management and mitigation

44. Impact management is essential to avoid or minimize any potential damage to biodiversity conservation and sustainable use that tourism development or activities might cause. Proposals for tourism development or activities may incorporate proposals for impact management, but these may not necessarily be judged sufficient to deal with potential impacts on biodiversity. Therefore all stakeholders, and especially Governments that exercise overall control over tourism development and activities, will need to consider the various impact management approaches that may be necessary in any given situation. In particular, Governments should be aware that the tourism industry could provide a direct impetus for conservation of vulnerable ecosystems by supporting sustainable tourism activities that have a direct commercial interest in maintaining the vulnerable ecosystem in a good condition.

45. Tourism should be planned and managed using the internationally accepted planning methodologies (such as the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum and the Limits of Acceptable Change). In vulnerable ecosystems, based on these methodologies and relevant background information, tourism should be restricted and where necessary prevented.

46. Impact management can include, inter alia, measures for the siting of tourism development and activities, including establishing appropriate activities in different designated zones, differentiation between the impacts of different types of tourism, and measures to control tourist flows in and around tourist destinations and key sites, to promote appropriate behaviour by tourists so as to minimize their impacts, and to establish limits to numbers of visitors and their impacts within Limits of Acceptable Change at any site.

47. Impact management in relation to transboundary ecosystems and migratory species requires regional cooperation.

48. There is a need to identify those who will be responsible for implementing impact management and the resources that will be required for impact management.

49. Impact management for tourism development and activities can include the adoption and effective implementation of policies, good practices and lessons learned that cover, inter alia:

  1. Controlling impacts of major tourist flows including excursions, cruise ships, etc., which can cause serious effects on destinations even though they are visited for only short periods;
  2. Reducing impacts of activities outside tourism areas on adjacent and other ecosystems of importance for tourism (e.g., pollution from nearby farming activities or extractive industries may affect areas of tourism development);
  3. Responsible use of natural resources (e.g., land, soil, energy, water);
  4. Reducing, minimizing and preventing pollution and waste (e.g. solid and liquid waste, emissions to air, transport);
  5. Promoting the design of facilities that are more eco-efficient, which adopt the cleaner production approach, and use environmentally sound technologies, in particular to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting substances, as set out in international agreements;
  6. Conserving flora, fauna and ecosystems;
  7. Preventing the introduction of alien species as a result of the construction, landscaping and operating of tourism activities, including for example from shipping associated with tourism;
  8. Conserving landscapes, cultural and natural heritage;
  9. Respecting the integrity of local cultures and avoiding negative effects on social structures, involving, and cooperating with, indigenous and local communities, including measures to ensure respect for sacred sites and customary users of these sites, and to prevent negative impacts on them and on lands and waters traditionally occupied or used by them, as well as on their subsistence resources;
  10. Using local products and skills, and providing local employment;
  11. Promoting appropriate behaviour by tourists so as to minimize their adverse impacts, and to promote positive effects through education, interpretation, extension, and other means of awareness raising;
  12. Alignment of marketing strategies and messages with the principles of sustainable tourism;
  13. Contingency plans for handling accidents, emergencies or bankruptcies that may occur during construction and use of facilities and which may threaten the environment and the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity;
  14. Environmental and cultural sustainability audits and review of existing tourism activities and developments and of the effectiveness with which impact management is being applied to existing tourism activities and developments;
  15. Mitigation measures for existing impacts, and appropriate funding to support them. Such measures should include development and implementation of compensation measures in cases when tourism has resulted in negative environmental, cultural, and socio-economic effects, taking into consideration the range of redress and compensation measures.

50. Governments, in cooperation with biodiversity managers, those communities that would be affected by the proposals, and other stakeholders, would normally assess the need for impact management in addition to any management measures included in the proposals under consideration. All stakeholders should understand the importance of such impact management.

51. The tourism industry can assist in promoting corporate policies on sustainable tourism and biodiversity, with defined goals, monitoring and reporting their progress publicly on a regular basis.


  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