Marine-based tourism: Financing conservation & alleviating poverty

As part of our work to secure long-term, sustainable financing for marine park management and to help local communities, WWF is promoting tourism both as a financing mechanism for marine parks and as a source of income for local people.

Bringing income to local communities

One way that tourism can benefit marine reserves and local communities is by providing income, both directly to local people and for covering the running costs of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). 

The money can come from various sources, for example:
  • entrance fees charged to visitors for access to protected areas
  • user fees charged to visitors undertaking specified activities, or for use of specified facilities (e.g. fishing, hiking, diving, boating)
  • concessions and lease contracts between protected areas and businesses operating within the area
  • investment and sponsoring of specific facilities by the tourism industry (e.g. lodge building, reintroduction programmes)
  • offering opportunities to visitors to support protected areas through voluntary donations
  • in kind donations, e.g., staff contributing to specific park management issues
  • purchasing of food and services (e.g. guides, drivers, accommodation) from local communities

One approach that is working well for financing MPAs is the charging of entrance or diver's fees, with the money being used to fund management and conservation activities. WWF is supporting several systems like this around the world, including in:

We are also working to ensure that local people benefit from sustainable tourism in and around MPAs. Examples include:

Divers help conservation and people in Indonesia

Bunaken National Park was established in 1991 to protect the reefs, mangroves, and outstanding biodiversity of the northern tip of Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island. 

WWF is supporting a user fee system adapted from the Bonaire Marine Park system, whereby visitors pay to use the park's facilities and dive within the park.

Eighty per cent of the collected funds are specifically used for conservation programmes in the park. The remaining 20% is split between local, provincial, and national government, and provides an incentive for government to continue to support the scheme.

The flow of money into directly into villages for development projects is itself revolutionary in a country where most entrance fee systems are managed by the central government.

The funds are managed by the Bunaken National Park Management Advisory Board (BNPMAB), a multi-stakeholder board comprising dive operators, environmental organizations, academics, government officials, and members of communities living within the park.

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