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Tourism to Earth's most threatened areas surges by over 100 percent in last decade

Tourism has increased by more than 100 percent between 1990 and 2000 in the world's biodiversity hotspots, regions richest in species and facing extreme threats, according to a report released today by Conservation International (CI) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Tourism and Biodiversity: Mapping Tourism's Global Footprint is the most comprehensive study of its kind focusing on the impacts of tourism on biological diversity. In some places the growth has been staggering. Over the past decade, tourism has increased by more than 2000 percent in both Laos and Cambodia, nearly 500 percent in South Africa, over 300 percent in the countries of Brazil, Nicaragua and El Salvador, and 128 percent in the Dominican Republic.

Tourism generates 11 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), employs 200 million people and transports nearly 700 million international travelers per year a figure that is expected to double by 2020. It is considered one of the largest, if not the largest, industries on the planet. With nature and adventure travel one of the fastest-growing segments within the tourism industry, the Earth's most fragile, high biodiversity areas are where most of that expansion will likely take place. While tourism has the potential to provide opportunities for conserving nature, tourism development, when done improperly, can be a major threat to biodiversity.

"We are at a crossroads in the Earth's last strong holds for biodiversity, where nature, struggling communities and the expanding world of tourism meet," says Costas Christ, Senior Director for Ecotourism at Conservation International and lead author of the report. "By linking tourism development with biodiversity conservation and the well being of local communities, we can develop strategies that both conserve Earth's most endangered ecosystems and help make a significant contribution to alleviating poverty."

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Contact: Jason Anderson
j.anderson@celb.org
202-912-1464
Conservation International
12-Sep-2003


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