Conservation Messaging in the Bucketlist Era

On March 1st, 2023 YCEC hosted a panel of intergovernmental, non-profit, and private sector practitioners around the world to discuss how to leverage growing interest in nature-based tourism to conserve the world’s vulnerable natural ecosystems. Dr. Amy Vedder, a lecturer at the Yale School of the Environment, moderated a conversation between Dr. Anna Spenceley, Chair of the IUCN Tourism and Protected Areas Group, Dr. Susanne Etti, Global Environmental Impact Manager, and Mauricio Miramontes, the strategic Partnership Coordinator for La Mano del Mono. Tourism presents a challenge and opportunity – while it can relieve extractive pressure from natural areas (by diverting economic incentive from logging or overfishing, for example), increasing demand for nature-based tourism offerings require improved governance and messaging between travelers, businesses, and governments. The panelists discussed the following critical communication streams:

  1. Organizations carrying out conservation work in protected areas must double down on effectively communicating the need for capacity building and finance to international development organizations, private donors, and other conservation finance mechanisms, which are of greater importance now more than ever.
  2. Governments can and should leverage technology for visitor management and pre-arrival communication to set expectations and guidelines around nature tourism (i.e. pack-in/pack-out, preparedness, etc.) Destinations have successfully implemented using QR codes, booking platforms, online day-visitor reservations, electronic fee portals, virtual safaris, and more to this end.
  3. Tourism businesses have a massive opportunity to revisit their internal values and subsequent messaging around decarbonization (aligned with the Science Based Targets Initiative), continuously improving the sustainability of their own operations and products, and developing or advocating for industry best practices across the entire industry (i.e. no-contact wildlife tourism, citizen science, etc.).
  4. Guides and trip leaders who directly interface with visitors serve one of the most important roles in interpretation and education, which helps visitors form deep connections with the local culture and ecosystem while promoting a travel mindset more focused on connecting with people, culture, and learning.