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The Process

Tourism development and biodiversity are intrinsically linked. Although the relationship is complex, it is guided today by two trends, both of particular interest to the CBD:

Tourism’s footprint can be significantly reduced by cleaner production and sustainable consumption patterns. If planned and managed properly, tourism development can be one of the least impacting economic activities associated with the use of biological resources and related ecosystem services, while directly benefiting the people and communities who become stewards and custodians of biodiversity.

Travelers, tourism operators, investors and professionals all have an inherent interest in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity resources; it is, after all, one of the industry’s main assets. Sustainable planning and management are in the industry’s long-term interest. In fact, not only can tourism directly help finance the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, but it has also proven to be one of the most effective public awareness raising tools for environmental protection.

This is why the Convention addresses Tourism as an important issue. At its fourth meeting in 1999 the Conference of the Parties decided to consider "Sustainable use including tourism" as one of the three themes for in-depth consideration at its fifth meeting (Annex II of decision IV/16). Accordingly, a note was prepared by the Executive Secretary for the fourth meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA 4), in order to assist SBSTTA in its consideration of the development of approaches and practices for the sustainable use of biological resources, including tourism.

In adopting decision IV/16, the Conference of the Parties took note of the Programme for the further implementation of Agenda 21, adopted at the nineteenth special session of the United Nations General Assembly, held in June 1997. With regard to sustainable tourism, the General Assembly specifically directed the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) to develop an action-oriented international programme of work to be defined in cooperation with the Conference of the Parties together with other relevant organizations, including the World Tourism Organization (WTO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Accordingly, the seventh session of the CSD considered tourism and sustainable development and adopted an international work programme on sustainable tourism development. In its decision, the CSD invited the Conference of the Parties to further consider existing knowledge and best practice on sustainable tourism development and biological diversity with a view to contributing to international guidelines for activities related to sustainable tourism development in vulnerable ecosystems and habitats.

At its fourth meeting, in June 1999, SBSTTA focused on tourism as one example of sustainable use and developed and recommended for adoption by the Conference of the Parties an assessment of the interlinkages between tourism and biological diversity (SBSTTA Recommendation IV/7, annex and Final Report).

In decision V/25, the Conference of the Parties accepted the invitation to participate in the international work programme on sustainable tourism development under the Commission on Sustainable Development process with regard to biological diversity, in particular, with a view to contributing to 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, bearing in mind the need for such guidelines to apply to activities both within and outside protected areas, and taking into account existing guidelines".

The Conference of the Parties further requested the Executive Secretary "to prepare a proposal for the contribution on guidelines, for example by convening an international workshop".

A workshop on tourism and biodiversity was subsequently held in Santo Domingo in June 2001. The workshop resulted in the "International Guidelines on Sustainable Tourism in Vulnerable Ecosystems", which have been forwarded to the tenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development serving as the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, as requested by SBSTTA Recommendation VII/5. With the same recommendation SBSTTA also requested the Secretariat to submit the draft guidelines to the preparatory process for the World Summit on Eco-tourism (WES) to be held in Quebec City, in May 2002 and to open an electronic consultation inviting further reactions to the guidelines. Comments received have been compiled and made available to the sixth conference of the Parties. They are contained in document UNEP/CBD/COP/6/12/Add 2.

As requested by decision VI/14 of the Conference of the Parties, the draft guidelines were revised by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity taking into account comments submitted to the Secretariat by Parties and Organizations through two rounds of electronic consultations as well as the outcome of the World Ecotourism Summit, which took place in Quebec City in May 2002.

The revised version of the guidelines was submitted to the eighth session of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice in March 2003 for its consideration. SBSTTA 8 forwarded it to the seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties for final adoption. The seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties adopted the CBD Guidelines for Biodiversity and Tourism Development (Decision VII/14)

The Conference of the Parties also requested the Executive Secretary, in order to increase clarity and facilitate the detailed understanding of the guidelines and the implementation by Parties and to identify and address specific stakeholders, to:

  1. Develop a user’s manual, checklists and, on the basis of experience gained , including the contribution of indigenous and local communities, produce and make available a streamlined and user-friendly core set of improved voluntary guidelines;
  2. Prepare a glossary and definitions of terms used in the Guidelines;
  3. Promote the use of the clearing-house mechanism to collect and disseminate information on:

    1. Specific case-studies on the implementation of the Guidelines that make clearer reference to the use and application of specific analytical management tools; and
    2. Best practices, lessons learned and case-studies on the involvement of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles in sustainable-tourism and ecotourism activities and projects.

Further to the request, the Secretariat, with the financial support from the Government of Germany, brought together a number of experts to assist the Secretariat in drafting a Users' Manual on the CBD Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development in the Bahamas from 24 to 28 January 2005. The Secretariat subsequently prepared a draft version of the manual and, by notification 2005-072, invited Parties, Governments and relevant stakeholders to submit their comments by 30 September 2005.

In the months following, the Secretariat prepared a glossary and definitions of technical terms used in the Guidelines and, through notification 2005-072 and notification 2006-055, invited relevant stakeholders to a second round of comments on the Draft Users' Manual.

The final version of the Users' Manual on the CBD Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development as well as a technical glossary was submitted to the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Bonn in 2008.

At COP 10 in Nagoya, Japan, in paragraph 20 of Decision X/20 on Cooperation with other conventions and international organizations and initiatives, the Conference of the Parties requested the Executive Secretary to continue collaboration with the World Tourism Organization, including on a review of the application of the Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development.

Click on the thumbnail below to access the Users' Manual:

Users' Manual on the Biodiversity and Tourism Development Guidelines

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme