The recession is thought to be impacting sustainable tourism, an important source of revenue for developing countries and a powerful incentive for conservation of endangered species and biodiversity. An article by the Worldwatch Institute argues that people are now far less likely to pay for luxury nature-based tourism that benefits conservation and local people.

This is particularly worrying for previously war-torn countries like Rwanda, where visitors pay $500 for one hour near its famous apes, and where adventurous travellers account for nearly half of Rwanda’s visitors.

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International tourism is thought to have started slowing in June last year and in its latest assessment in January, the World Tourism Organization predicted that cross-border visits could decline by 2%.

Despite the potential for negative knock-on effects of the recession on sustainable tourism and conservation, it may bring about some positives. The World Land Trust argues that the recession is giving an opportunity for land conservationists to claw back valuable land from developers, as building, development and natural resource exploitation slows and ceases. Usually land rich in natural resources and biodiversity, such as the rainforest in Borneo, are prohibitively expensive for organisations such as the World Land Trust to purchase. With the subsequent drop in land prices, precious tracts of the rainforest have been bought for their implicit value as habitats for wildlife and endangered species like the orangutan. Before the financial crisis, this type of land would have been snatched up by companies wanting to extract palm oil.

With so many interconnected factors and unknown patterns and trends who is to say how the ape might fare in today’s trying economic times?

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