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Global wildlife tourism generates five times more annual revenue than illegal fauna trade

Global wildlife tourism generates five times more annual revenue than illegal fauna trade
August 12, 2019

In 2018, wildlife tourism directly contributed US$120.1 billion to global GDP, versus the US$23 billion in revenue attributed to the illegal trade in wildlife, or 5.2 times more, according to new research from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

This includes viewing and experiencing animals in their natural habitat, which accounts for 4.4% of all direct tourism GDP last year and directly provided 9.1 million jobs worldwide.

Released on World Elephant Day, the research shows that the total economic contribution of wildlife tourism totals USUS$343.6 billion - equivalent to the entire economy of Hong Kong.

Asia-Pacific forms the largest regional market worth US$53.3 billion in direct GDP and responsible for 4.5 million jobs. In second place is Africa, where 3.6 million people are employed through wildlife tourism, which was worth US$29.3 billion last year.

Commenting on the release of this research, which falls on World Elephant Day, WTTC President and Chief Executive, Gloria Guevara stated “our message to tourism businesses, employees and visitors across the globe is that wildlife is worth far more alive than dead.

“Wildlife tourism is a rich segment of the industry, showing how our precious species can legitimately enrich tourism businesses without being harmed. In fact, the wildlife tourism market is so strong – worth five times more than the illegal trade – that it provides a strong incentive for communities to protect and display animals to the world rather than killing them for a one-off cash bonus. For years, we have professed the role and value of Travel & Tourism in alleviating poverty, and wildlife tourism is a key part of that.

“With more than 110 signatories to date, the WTTC’s Buenos Aires Declaration Against the Illegal Trade in Wildlife commits the travel industry to helping to eradicate the scourge of wildlife trafficking in the world, working together to responsibly inform the behaviour of one billion travellers across the world. This new research compounds the rationale behind our work, demonstrating the power and potential of travel to displace such illicit activity.”

Highlights from the report include:

• Over one-third of all direct tourism GDP across Africa in 2018 attributed to wildlife (36.3%)
• North America is the third largest wildlife tourism economy after Asia-Pacific and Africa, directly contributing US$13.5 billion to GDP last year
• 21.8 million jobs globally are supported by wildlife tourism – equivalent to the population of Sri Lanka
• Case studies of wildlife tourism and its value in Brazil, Germany, China, India, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, the UK and the USA.

This research is one piece in a series of comprehensive reports from WTTC analysing the impact of various travel segments, with the next focusing on medical tourism.

Images: The endangered Sumatran tiger (top) and and a herd of wild horses in Mongolia (below, courtesy of Petra Kaczensky).

Related Articles

12th August 2019 - Taronga Western Plains Zoo celebrates Elephant Day

14th July 2019 - New research reveals global cities’ readiness for tourism growth

16th May 2019 - University of Queensland predicts climate change could cause the extinction of 26 species

10th April 2019 - WTTC launches tourism best practices toolkit to inform governments

8th April 2019 - WTTC recognises sustainable tourism excellence with 2019 Awards

30th January 2018 - Research reveals how humans impact on wildlife movement

27th September 2017 - World Travel & Tourism Council explains how ‘tourism transforms our world’ on World Tourism Day

12th July 2017 - Elephant tourism exploitation report identifies offenders

25th September 2015 - Wildlife Tourism as a force for biodiversity conservation and local economies

20th November 2014 - IUCN summit delivers major commitments to save Earth’s most precious natural areas

19th November 2014 - Criminal wildlife poaching driving endangered species to brink of extinction


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