Bringing conservation businesses to the market

18 April 2011 | News story

IUCN, the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment and Kuoni, the Swiss travel company, have embarked on a joint project to build capacities in conservation organizations that are developing sustainable tourism as part of their conservation efforts.

IUCN, the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment and Kuoni Travel Holding Ltd have joined forces to develop a project in East Africa with the aim of providing business skills and marketing support to conservation organizations that are setting up small scale tourism businesses. Increasingly, these organizations see tourism as one of the sectors with the greatest potential for linking conservation to economic development. However, as such organizations often have little “business” experience, tourism products and services can fail the market test. This project will capitalize on the wealth of knowledge and experience that exists in the tourism industry to help design successful ecotourism products. It will also promote the transfer of skills between conservation and business communities.

Through this project, IUCN will support conservation organizations to understand the ecotourism potential of their proposed products and sites as well as provide support to promising ecotourism businesses in product development and marketing. The work will revolve around a capacity building workshop that will take place in the East Africa region. The approach will be to provide basic business skills to a wider audience by pointing them towards existing web-based resources and then to home in on those organizations that have the highest potential to succeed in the market through a workshop and coaching programmes. As the business partner, Kuoni and their regional counterpart, Kuoni Private Safaris, will be instrumental in bringing the right skills to the table.

In a region where tourism goods and services revolve around nature but also where tourism development is increasingly encroaching on natural areas, this project will also raise awareness of the need for effective tourism planning and management in or near protected areas as well as the need for responsible tourism practices by industry operators. A focus will be placed on promoting sustainable tourism in natural World Heritage Sites as the region possesses a number of high profile sites such as the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the Serengeti National Park, and the Kilimanjaro National Park. The project is an integral part of IUCN’s World Heritage Agenda for Nature, supported by the Swiss Mava Foundation, and part of its work aims to enhance World Heritage Site managers’ knowledge of sustainable tourism planning and practice. This project is also part of a larger capacity building and Sustainable Tourism initiative of the Government of Switzerland that contributes to the implementation of the World Heritage Convention.