Tourism can contribute to nature conservation and biodiversity protection. It is difficult to measure the tourism-conservation relationship, and a proxy has to be defined. The data presented here show those natural World Heritage sites that have a tourism management plan. The assumption is that better planning leads to improved outcomes.

Less than one third of natural World Heritage Areas have extensive tourism planning in place.

Natural World Heritage sites are globally recognized as the world’s most important protected areas. With a total coverage of 279 million hectares these account for more than 8% of the combined surface covered by protected areas. Tourism in natural areas can be a driving force and important mechanism for conservation, but only if adequate management strategies are in place. Tourism to World Heritage Areas is growing and there is increasing recognition of the need to manage visitors.

Analysing publicly available documents for each World Heritage Area, this indicator measures the extent to which natural/mixed World Heritage Areas have a tourism management plan in place. The indicator informs SDG Goal 15 on terrestrial ecosystem and biodiversity protection, and Goal 14 on marine protection.

Key facts

  • In 2016, 12 World Heritage Areas (6%) had a current stand-alone tourism management plan, with one additional site having an out of date stand-alone tourism plan and a further 9 claiming to have a stand-alone plan that could not be verified. This has not changed since the previous year.
  • Out of all natural World Heritage Areas, 74 sites (32%) have an extensive level of planning for tourism. This includes both stand-alone tourism management plans as well as general management plans that cover tourism management extensively. This has increased by 1 percent since the previous year.
  • New extensive plans started in 2016 for the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, USA, and for the Tasmanian Wilderness, Australia. The extensive plan Uvs Nuur Basin, Russia, is now out of date.
  • Marine World Heritage Areas were more likely to have an extensive tourism plan (38%) compared with terrestrial ones (32%).