The planning and construction of hotels and resorts can cause some dramatic impacts on biodiversity. Among others, the land-clearing and landscape modifications occurring during the construction phase can potentially have significant impacts on biodiversity, unless properly managed. Removal of vegetation to make way for accommodations and access roads can lead to flooding, increased erosion, landslides, loss of soil fertility, lowering of the water table and siltation of rivers, lakes and other water bodies. The loss of critical habitats as a result of land clearing can severely impact plant and animal species, some of which may be endemic to the area. In coastal areas, the removal of dunes, wetlands and other natural habitats to provide land for development or to allow for better views or better access to beaches, can threaten nesting, breeding and feeding grounds of birds, fish, and mammals.

Architectural and landscape design choices can also influence a hotel’s level of impact on biodiversity. For instance, concrete high rises may require more energy for cooling and lighting than more traditional architectural styles. Choices about the fixtures in the hotel, for example types of lighting, may have a negative impact on local wildlife areas, such as the nesting grounds of sea turtles.

When designing gardens and hotel grounds, the use of non-native plants and increased modification of the landscape will require more maintenance and more use of water and chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, posing a threat to biodiversity. The use of native species in gardens and on hotel grounds is also important to avoid the introduction of potentially invasive alien species.

To specifically address the biodiversity risks associated with the development of hotels and resorts, IUCN has developed the Biodiversity Principles for siting and design of hotels and resorts. These Principles aim at promoting the integration of biodiversity considerations into decision-making on the planning, siting and design of hotels and resorts. The Principles are supported and illustrated by case studies collected from a variety of tourism destinations worldwide.

The Principles are supported and illustrated by case studies collected from a variety of tourism destinations worldwide, including from Australia (Q-Station and Bay of Fires), Mexico (Tres Rios and Fairmont Mayakoba), Indonesia (Misool Eco Resort), Philippines (El Nido and Taytay), Kenya (Campi ya Kanzi) and Tanzania (Chumbe Island).