South Africa marks International Day for Biological Diversity
22 May 2017
The Department of Environmental Affairs today marks the International Day for Biological Diversity- under the theme “Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism.”
The theme has been chosen to coincide with the observance of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, as proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
The United Nations in 2000 adopted a proposal to proclaim May 22 the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.
The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr. Edna Molewa, says this year’s theme has particular resonance at a time when eco-tourism is growing in popularity and making a greater contribution to South Africa’s economic growth.
“Nature-based tourism, or rather eco-tourism is recognised as a driver and critical component to the sustainability and efficacy of conservation management,” says Minister Molewa.
Biological and physical resources are in fact the assets that attract tourists. Ecosystems, on the other hand, provide the much need resources, such as water and food that support the tourism sector. However tourism, if not sustainably managed, may lead to the degradation of the natural environment.
“The conservation of species and ecosystems protection, in conjunction with the promotion of energy and water efficient practices, overall supports responsible tourism,” adds Dr. Molewa
South Africa is amongst the world’s most mega bio-diverse countries, and its well-managed natural resources have made it a premier destination for tourists.
The Tourism Indaba held in Durban from 16 to 19 May played a significant role in creating a platform to promote South Africa’s tourism products and the development of sustainable and inclusive tourism for the benefit of all South Africans.
“Sustainable, nature-based tourism directly benefits our people and communities, and is an important vehicle for rural development given the location of many conservation areas in rural areas,” said the Minister.
In 2016 alone, over 10 million tourist arrivals were recorded in South Africa; representing a 13% increase from the previous year.
Key to major tourist attractions in South Africa are national parks, nature reserves, world heritage sites, cultural and natural landscapes as well as beaches and marine protected areas.
In the 2016/17 financial year, six million people visited the 19 parks that are managed by South African National Parks (SANParks).
“Tourism has to be developed in harmony with environmental considerations. Sustainable tourism can generate employment and income, thus providing a strong incentive for conservation,” the Minister said.
Minister Molewa added that through tourism, public awareness can be raised about the many goods and services provided by biological diversity, and of the needs to respect traditional knowledge and practices.
The implementation of the National Tourism Sector Strategy aimed at the development of sustainable and inclusive tourism for the benefit of all South Africans, as well as the “I Do Tourism” campaign launched by South African Tourism is moving South Africa forward to make Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism a reality.
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