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News Article

Wildlife tourism in Africa – why there’s an economic incentive to combat poaching


UNWTO report highlights value of wildlife tourism

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has released the final version of a briefing called “Towards measuring the economic value of wildlife watching tourism in Africa,” based on a survey carried out between February and April 2014. The report highlights the need for better data on the economic value of wildlife watching tourism in Africa, but also shows that protected areas generate large amounts of revenue, and confirm the importance of wildlife watching tourism for the sustainable development of the region.

A total of 48 governmental institutions and 148 tour operators from 31 African countries participated in the survey. “Set against the backdrop of the ongoing poaching crisis driven by a dramatic increase in the illicit trade in wildlife products, this briefing paper intends to support the ongoing efforts of African governments and the broader international community in the fight against poaching,” states the opening of the paper’s executive summary.

The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) helped distribute the survey to members operating in Africa. The culminating report confirms that wildlife watching is an important segment of African tourism, representing 80% of the total annual trip sales to Africa for the participating tour operators. Wildlife watching, according to the UNWTO, “encourages tourism authorities and the tourism industry to collaborate in strengthening anti-poaching measures and raising awareness of these issues among tourists.”

The review of the literature and case studies reveal that while there are numerous studies, projects and publications analyzing wildlife watching tourism, more is needed in terms of measuring its value. Although the economic value of wildlife watching tourism is usually referred to as important, the reviewed literature focusses mainly on how the economic value could be evaluated and points out that there are no valid data readily available for such analysis. 

The UNWTO briefing focuses on primary data gathered through the surveys carried out among national tourism authorities, protected area and wildlife conservation authorities, individual protected areas and international and African tour operators. Through the analysis of the data it was possible to identify key characteristics and economic indicators related to the segment of wildlife watching tourism in Africa. A typical wildlife watching tour involves a group of 6 persons, lasts 10 days and has an average daily price per person per day of US$ 433 as well as involves out-of-pocket expenses of US$ 55 per person per day. There are large differences, however, between ‘standard’ and ‘luxury’ packages. The variation in the average price per person per day is significant: US$ 753 for a luxury package and US$ 243 for a standard package. From the participating sample, 42% of the participating tour operators offer standard wildlife watching tours, 28% are specialised in luxury tours and 30% target both standard and luxury clients.

Data on protected area visitors and receipts from 14 countries provides conclusive proof that wildlife watching tourism is generating a considerable amount of revenues for the countries where it is taking place. The protected area receipts of these 14 countries totaled US$ 142 million per year. As this figure relates to only a small number of countries, one can assume that protected area receipts are indeed much higher. It is suggested that guidance and capacity building for a more consistent monitoring of protected area visitors and receipts as well as a framework for their analysis are needed.

A majority of the protected area authorities participating in the survey is involved in anti-poaching measures. Tourism authorities are involved only to a minor extent and the majority do not distribute information on poaching. Although the involvement in anti-poaching initiatives is not very extensive yet, the survey shows that there is potential for mobilizing the tourism sector in anti-poaching campaigns since they can play a key role in awareness raising and potentially (co-)finance anti-poaching initiatives.

It is concluded that the briefing paper should be seen as a first step towards measuring the economic value of wildlife watching tourism in Africa and defining the role of the tourism sector in the fight against poaching. The exercise has succeeded in identifying key economic indicators and characteristics of wildlife watching tourism in African countries. Despite the limitations, the findings support the potential of the tourism sector to advance its contribution to the fight against poaching in Africa and confirm the importance of wildlife watching tourism for the sustainable development of the continent.

Subscribers to the Leisure Tourism Database have access to the world's academic literature on wildlife tourism in Africa. See below for a small selection of database records on economic impact.

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • David Simpson
  • Date
  • 19 November 2014
  • Subject(s)
  • Tourism