'Wildlife worth more alive than dead': Game reserve tourism is a money spinner
Global wildlife tourism generates five times more revenue than the illegal wildlife trade annually, according to a study by the World Travel & Tourism Council.
In 2018, wildlife tourism directly contributed $120.1bn (approximately R1.8tn) to global GDP, versus the $23bn (approximately R353bn) in revenue attributed to the illegal trade in wildlife, or 5.2 times more, according to research by the council.
This includes viewing and experiencing animals in their natural habitat, which accounted for 4.4% of all direct tourism GDP last year and directly provided 9.1 million jobs worldwide.
The research shows that the total economic contribution of wildlife tourism totals $343.6bn (approximately R5.2tn).
Asia-Pacific forms the largest regional market, worth $53.3bn (approximately R821bn) in direct GDP and responsible for 4.5 million jobs. In second place is Africa, where 3.6 million people are employed through wildlife tourism, which was worth $29.3bn (approximately R449bn) last year.
Gloria Guevara, the council's president and CEO, said in a statement: "Our message to tourism businesses, employees and visitors across the globe is that wildlife is worth far more alive than dead.
"Wildlife tourism is a rich segment of the industry, showing how our precious species can legitimately enrich tourism businesses without being harmed. In fact, the wildlife tourism market is so strong – worth five times more than the illegal trade – that it provides a strong incentive for communities to protect and display animals to the world rather than killing them for a one-off cash bonus."
Highlights from the report include:
• More than one-third of all direct tourism GDP across Africa in 2018 attributed to wildlife (36.3%)
• North America is the third-largest wildlife tourism economy after Asia-Pacific and Africa, directly contributing $13.5bn (approximately R207bn) to GDP last year
• 21.8 million jobs globally are supported by wildlife tourism, equivalent to the population of Sri Lanka.
The study ties in with a report released earlier this year, which found that nature-based tourism is growing worldwide, and that Africa is uniquely poised to benefit, with potential for massive growth in tourism earnings in 10 years.
"Nowhere on the planet is tourism growing faster than in sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of hotels has doubled in just four years," the report stated.
Four of every five tourists to sub-Saharan Africa visits to view wildlife, the paper’s authors said, while forecasting that the number of tourists is set to double to 134 million by 2030.
"This rate of growth is potentially transformative, because already tourism comprises 8.5% of the continent’s economy and supports 24 million jobs," it added.
Warning bells were also rung, however.
"The natural assets that give Africa its global competitive advantage – its wildlife and landscapes – are under acute threat and could be lost forever unless they urgently prove their economic as well as ecological value...
"Some protected areas receive only one in every $10 (approximately R153) they need, as governments grapple with financial shortfalls amid competing priorities like health, education, and infrastructure development."
The Space for Giants team stated that bringing new private-sector investment to underfunded protected areas to capitalise on surging interest in nature-based tourism would help fund conservation without draining state finances, while driving sustainable local and national development.
It has also produced a toolkit offering advice on Building a Wildlife Economy.