Marine-based tourism: Better practices and policies

We believe that the guiding principle for all tourism activities is that they should not lead to any degradation of nature and the environment, or worsen the social conditions for local people.

Instead, they should contribute considerably to the local community and the preservation of natural habitats, in particular in protected areas.

A benchmark to guide tourism

We developed a set of benchmarks to guide tour operators, hotel developers, and other actors towards this (see below).

We are now using these benchmarks to develop common strategies for tourism development and Best Management Practises to be used throughout the tourism industry.

Tour Operators' Initiative
As part of this, WWF joined forces with the Tour Operators' Initiative (TOI) to improve the environmental management of marine and coastal destinations in areas of high-volume tourism.

The TOI was formed in 2000 by tour operators interested in moving towards sustainable tourism. Its members have committed to making sustainable development the core of their business activity. This includes protecting natural environments and cultural heritage, cooperating with local communities, ensuring local people benefit from the visits of the initiative members' customers, and encouraging customers to respect the local way of life.
 / ©: Ana Fazio / FVSA
Whale watching in Península Valdes, Argentina. WWF associate FVSA is developing Codes of Conduct for this activity as part of a responsible tourism plan.
© Ana Fazio / FVSA

WWF's sustainable tourism benchmarks for tour operators

Location: ensuring, for example, that new structures are not built in, or directly adjacent to, existing protected areas (where such land use is not consistent with the designation), and that they do not disenfranchise, displace, or otherwise compromise the livelihoods or food security of local communities.

Infrastructure and accommodation:
ensuring, for example, that the impacts of tourism infrastructure are minimized, both on- and off-site (e.g., impacts from the extraction of building materials, waste disposal, etc), and that accommodation is certified through a reliable eco-label consistent with international standards.

ensuring, for example, that species and habitats are not disturbed or damaged by inappropriate practices such as approaching whales and other marine animals too closely, approaching breeding sites, reef walking, or destructive anchoring.

ensuring, for example, that collection and sale of souvenirs (e.g., shells, corals, etc) follows all relevant national regulations, as well as international (e.g. CITES) and regional obligations.

Cruise ships:
ensuring, for example, that the best available technology and best practises are used for the treatment of waste, sewage, and oily bilge and ballast water, the reduction of air pollution, etc.

Communication, education, and transparency:
for example, educating tourists on the ecological footprint of their holiday, appropriate codes of conduct, and cultural sensitivities; as well as measuring and communicating the ecological footprint of every travel offer (using, for example, WWF's Holiday Footprinting method) in catalogues and other advertising media.

Financing protected areas: tour operators and their suppliers should contribute to the management of protected areas, such as by helping to finance the areas through, for example, entrance fees charged to visitors. Find out more...

Partnership with protected areas: a formal confirmation by tourism enterprises, including cruise ship operators, of their support and commitment to the conservation goals of protected areas in or near a tourist destination.

Community-based tourism development: ensuring, for example, that the local community has substantial control over, and is involved in the development of, tourism in an area; that a major proportion of the benefits accrued remain within the community; and that the cultural values and intellectual property of local, especially indigenous, people are respected. Find out more...

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