Global wildlife tourism generates 5.2 times more revenue than the illegal wildlife trade annually, according to a recent study by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
In 2018, wildlife tourism accounted for US$120.1 billion of the global GDP, as compared to the US$23 billion attributed to the illegal wildlife trade.
This includes viewing and experiencing animals in their natural habitats, which accounts for 4.4 per cent of all direct tourism GDP last year and directly created 9.1 million jobs worldwide.
The WTTC study, which was released to coincide with World Elephant Day on August 12, shows that the total economic contribution of wildlife tourism totals US$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. Coming in second place is Africa, where 3.6 million people are employed through wildlife tourism, which was worth US$29.3 billion last year.
Gloria Guevara, president & CEO, WTTC, said: “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,” she said.
She added: “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.”
Other highlights from the report include:
• Over one-third, or 36.3 per cent, of all direct tourism GDP across Africa in 2018 attributed to wildlife
• North America is the third largest wildlife tourism economy after Asia-Pacific and Africa, directly contributing $13.5 billion to GDP last year
• 21.8 million jobs globally are supported by wildlife tourism – equivalent to the population of Sri Lanka