Recognizing the unique role of ecotourism - that is, tourism that relies on the existence and maintenance of biological diversity and habitats - and the need to develop clear strategies to develop sustainable ecotourism sectors which provides for full and effective participation and viable income-generating opportunities for indigenous and local communities.
The need to develop, with all the potential stakeholders, strategies and plans, based on the ecosystem approach and aiming at a balance between economic, social, cultural and environmental concerns, while maximizing opportunities for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, the equitable sharing of benefits and the recognition of traditional knowledge.
In order to contribute to the sustainable use of biological diversity through tourism, there is a need to implement a flexible mix of instruments, such as integrated planning, multi-stakeholder dialogue that includes indigenous peoples, zoning in land-use planning, environmental impact assessment, strategic environmental assessment, standards, industry performance-recognition programmes, recognized accreditation bodies, ecolabelling, codes of good practice, environmental management and audit systems, economic instruments, indicators and limits regarding the carrying capacity of the natural areas.
The General Assembly of the United Nations, in its resolution 53/200 of 15th December 1998, proclaimed the year 2002 as the "International Year of Ecotourism."
The most direct means of exploiting tourism for the sustainable use of biological resources is through the harnessing of some proportion of tourism revenues for that end. This may be achieved either through a generalized environmental tax on tourists or particular tourism activities or by charging fees for access to biological resources, the revenue from which can then be used for their maintenance. The latter procedure generally means charging entrance fees to national parks and other protected areas, but also includes fees for activities such as fishing, hunting and diving. Voluntary payment from visitors can also assist in conservation and management of places they visit. It may include donation, membership, sponsorship, merchandise and practical tasks.
The Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly, held from 23 to 27 June 1997, asked its Commission on Sustainable development to develop an action-oriented international programme of work on sustainable tourism in co-operation with the World Tourism Organisation, the United Nations Environment Programme, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity and other relevant Bodies.
In 1994, the Sustainable Tourism World Conference, held in Lanzarote, agreed on the [Charter for Sustainable Tourism].
In its decision on tourism and sustainable development the [Commission on Sustainable Development] (CSD) at its 7th meeting invited the Conference of the Parties to the [Convention on Biological Diversity] to further consider in the context of the process of the exchange of experiences, existing knowledge and best practice on sustainable tourism development and biological diversity with a view to contributing to international guidelines for activities related to sustainable tourism development in vulnerable terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems and habitats of major importance for biological diversity and protected areas, including fragile mountain systems.
The drawing up of guidelines on sustainable tourism as part of the implementation of the [Convention on Biological Diversity] was supported by the participants in the Council of Europe Colloquy on "Tourism and Environment: the natural, cultural and socio-economic challenges of sustainable tourism" (Riga, 9-11 September 1999).