The world’s national parks and nature reserves receive around eight billion visits every year, according to the first study into the global scale of nature-based tourism in protected areas. The paper, by researchers in Cambridge, UK, Princeton, New Jersey, and Washington, DC, published in the open access journal PLOS Biology, is the first global-scale attempt to answer the question of how many visits protected areas receive, and what they might be worth in terms of tourist dollars.
The authors of the study say that this number of visits could
generate as much as US$600 billion of tourism expenditure annually - a
huge economic benefit which vastly exceeds the less than US$10 billion
spent safeguarding these sites each year. Scientists and conservation experts describe current global
expenditure on protected areas as “grossly insufficient”, and have
called for greatly increased investment in the maintenance and expansion
of protected areas – a move which this study shows would yield
substantial economic return – as well as saving incalculably precious
natural landscapes and species from destruction.
“It’s fantastic that people visit protected areas so often, and are
getting so much from experiencing wild nature – it’s clearly important
to people and we should celebrate that,” said lead author Professor
Andrew Balmford, from Cambridge University’s Department of Zoology.
“These pieces of the world provide us with untold benefits: from
stabilising the global climate and regulating water flows to protecting
untold numbers of species. Now we’ve shown that through tourism nature
reserves contribute in a big way to the global economy – yet many are
being degraded through encroachment and illegal harvesting, and some are
being lost altogether.”
Read more: http://www.unep-wcmc.org/news/worlds-protected-natural-areas-receive-eight-billion-visits-a-year