Tourism for Biodiversity: 5 biodiversity ideas from our Expert Speaker in The Huddle
One of the most popular answers travellers give when asked ‘why do you travel?’ is to disconnect and explore all the wonders of the world. “To immerse myself in nature”. “To go hiking.” “To lay on a beach all day and go diving in the ocean.” Travellers travel in order to get outside their comfort zone and explore different cultures and landscapes. 60% of travellers are impressed by natural sights such as coral reefs and rainforests. How does biodiversity come into this you might ask? What has biodiversity got to do with tourism anyway? It has everything to do with tourism. This is one of the many things we learned from our biodiversity expert Oonagh O’Dwyer in The Huddle this week. In this week’s article I will share 5 strong facts and ideas that I gained from listening to Oonagh.
1. Biodiversity is everything
Biodiversity is vital for tourism and for that reason it is essential that we protect it. People travel to the Caribbean to visit its beautiful beaches, to Egypt to explore its deep waters, to the Himalayas to discover its mountains, to Africa to go on safari and some even come to Ireland to escape the heat in exchange for its mild and wet weather (among plenty of other reasons!). If we do not protect our biodiversity, it will have a detrimental effect on all of these destinations, their attractiveness and on our motivations for visiting them.
When we break it down, biodiversity plays a major role in our food systems and clean water. As Oonagh mentioned in The Huddle, “it is the life support system of the planet.” Our pollinators and other species provide us with food through crop regulation and fertility. In fact, pollinators contribute €53 million to the Irish economy alone each year. Nature’s life cycle maintains our habitats and controls our climate. Biodiversity has a direct impact on our coastal water quality which affects nature-based tourism attractions such as surfing, swimming and kayaking.
So if biodiversity is everything, what can our tourism businesses and destinations do?:
- Aim to source sustainable food supplies, such as fish, seafood, and agricultural products for food and beverage;
- Offer biodiversity training to staff and educate visitors - this is particularly important for water-based attractions and coral reef protection;
- Ensure waste is disposed of responsibly;
- Offer Leave No Trace Awareness courses to your staff and communities;
- Sign up as an All Ireland Pollinator Plan Business supporter.
2. Biodiversity enhances our wellbeing
Referring to nature-based tourism products, a healthy ecosystem and environment enables us to disconnect and engage in invigorating activities such as hiking, scuba diving and biking. As mentioned before, our world’s species provide us with a healthy and balanced diet through the cultivation and pollination of grains, fruits and vegetables. 60% of total plant-based calories consumed can be broken down between wheat, rice and corn. Without our species and biodiversity, these would degrade, deteriorating our health. To emphasise this point, our biodiversity then improves our health when we are ill through medicines. 25% of drugs used in modern medicine comes from rainforest plants while 70% of cancer drugs are natural or synthetic products inspired by nature.
Connecting with nature is proven to provide health benefits. The sounds of birds, smell of wildflowers and touch of a fern offers us a plethora of mental health benefits such as restoration, calm and creativity as well as body temperature regulation. With an influx of nature-based and wellbeing tourism products, it emphasises the importance of protecting our environment. Without biodiversity, these products simply would not exist.
3. Start Small
So if we now understand the importance of biodiversity to tourism and our economy, what can we do? One point Oonagh emphasised was to start small and get to know what is in your local environment and how you can nurture it rather than adding to or harming it. Think of what species, plants and trees are onsite in your business or destination and how you can allow them flourish ensuring there is no use of chemicals such as fertilisers. For example, Croke Park Stadium in Dublin has installed nesting boxes on its grounds which has now attracted blue tits, sparrows, swifts, bats, many bee species and even peregrine falcons.
4. Get Creative
Go for a walk around your property, report sightings and conduct an audit. Then get creative with the space you have. Larchfield Estate in Co. Antrim has created a wetland area on their grounds as an added attraction for guests to connect with nature as well as a place for biodiversity to come alive and carbon to be captured through the soil. Green spaces can be created in concrete jungles through hanging baskets and pollinator-friendly, native, wildflower meadows can be grown in any corner.
5. Take action
Once ideas have been brainstormed, it is time to put them into motion, create a biodiversity plan and implement your actions. Minimising waste is an area that also protects biodiversity.
Who is Oonagh O’Dwyer?
Oonagh O’Dwyer is a certified tutor and biodiversity expert. She is the founder of Wild Kitchen which specialises in immersive, educational food experiences and events. She has featured in various prominent publications like National Geographic and Mind Food. She has appeared on national television promoting her work in sustainable tourism. Oonagh advises on biodiversity action plans and conducting onsite audits. If you would like to get in touch you can contact Oonagh at [email protected].
Oonagh has worked with The Tourism Space on recent Sustainability Training Programmes as the biodiversity trainer and expert. To see an overview of this programme click here.
What is The Huddle?
The Huddle is an online tourism community and network for like-minded tourism and hospitality professionals to connect, share and grow. It is free and all are welcome. It is a place to develop professionally and enhance your leadership, collaboration and networking skills and your knowledge on areas such as sustainable tourism and regenerative tourism. Once you register you will gain access to each of the industry guest speaker Huddles. Learn more and register at www.thetourismspace.com/huddle.
The Tourism Space™ is a leading tourism consultancy, training and professional development practice based in the West of Ireland specialising in sustainable tourism, regenerative tourism, food tourism, stakeholder engagement and networks and destination collaborations. To learn more you can get in touch at [email protected] or visit our previous destination and business development tourism projects here.
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