Tourism is one of the world's largest industries and is growing significantly. More and more people are interested in exploring new and faraway destinations and cultures. Ecologically sensitive areas, those where natural resources are critically endangered by physical changes and which contain a great diversity and interdependence of living habitats, have been experiencing such increase in visitation. Sensitive areas hold the main assets on which the tourism industry depends, so conservation is a must. Any changes in the component of an ecosystem will have unpredictable effects on the entire system.
In such sensitive areas the following three basic principles of the Convention on Biodiversity apply:
- Conservation of biological diversity
- Sustainable use
- Equitable sharing of benefits among local community and indigenous people
UNEP strongly believes that tourism can make a contribution to the protection of sensitive areas through financial contributions, provision of environmental infrastructure, improved management, awareness raising and education, and by the creation of protected areas, national parks, cultural and natural sites.
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For information on the relationship between tourism and sensitive areas, please refer to UNEP.org, which provides environmental data and compiles information from different scientific institutions to develop comprehensive solutions to specific environmental challenges.
Background information on the subject can also be found on the web sites of the Convention on Biological Diversity, The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.
"Awards for Improving coastal environment" (Blue Flag), a publication by UNEP, the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and the World Tourism Organization (WTO/OMT).