At the recent TOFTigers 10th anniversary event at the Royal Geographical Society in London, Jeffrey Parrish, Managing Director of the World Wildlife Fund in US, highlighted the ongoing collapse in biodiversity across the globe. More than 53% of wildlife species have been lost since 1970.  He appealed to the global nature travel community to do more to 'inform, incentivise and invest in conservation'.

The chorus for action also came from Colin Bell, founder of one of Africa's best known safari operators, who highlighted the huge collapse in rhinos and other species across Africa, but also remarkable success stories where community-linked conservancies and tourism benefitting communities has helped restore landscape and wildlife.  Yet so little investment is being made by governments or travel businesses; despite having 45% of the top 20 hotels and lodges in the world, Africa only gets 5% of the world's tourism and less than 3% of the world's revenue from tourism.

“Nature tourism is critical to Africa's conservation efforts, but we need to be doing it better and faster all round to ensure it makes an appreciable difference. Without the financial benefits filtering to bordering communities, the battle is lost in conserving landscapes and the animals that safari goers want to see. Africa is losing the battle against poachers and mounting population pressures, but more can and must be done now by the travel community to ensure they have these destinations to sell in the foreseeable future.” 

With tiger numbers up in India, it is surprising that the Indian government has decided to now cut the overall budgets to protect their parks this year, even though Julian Matthews, founder of an India focused campaign charity, TOFTigers, illustrated that research proves unequivocally that investing in wilderness protection is extraordinarily good value both economically for a destination, but also in terms of tigers' survival rates. He suggested that tourism park fees and taxes are already making up a large part of a Field Director's budget, greatly enhancing their efforts at protection and community support. However poor regulation, poor planning, and a lack of expertise are hampering the real benefits of the huge boom in domestic tourism within India.

“With all the recent research reports, any government who cannot now see the value of real investment in conserving wild landscapes, both in ensuring their own ecological security and stability, but also in creating real economic returns from these wild area is plain foolishness.' says Julian Matthews.

A recent WWF US backed report perfectly illustrates the massive gulf between what tourism was generating in and around protected areas, and what Governments were investing in protected areas globally. Protected Area visitor revenues are estimated at £400 billion per annum, while Governments only invest £6.5 billion per annum in protection and conservation.