SANBI celebrates 2017 International Day for Biodiversity

17 May 2017

International Day for Biological Diversity to be celebrated under the theme ‘Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism’

The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) will celebrate this year’s International Day for Biodiversity (22 May 2017) under the theme ‘Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism’.

South Africa’s biodiversity springs from the wealth of its ecosystems. An incredibly long and diverse coastline, craggy mountains, species-rich deserts, colourful shallow and deep water reefs, elephant-friendly thickets, montane forests, treed savannas, along with the incomparable Cape Floral Kingdom make this one of the world's richest countries in terms of biodiversity.

Biodiversity, at the level of species and ecosystems, provides an important foundation for many aspects of tourism. Recognition of the great importance of attractive landscapes and a rich biodiversity to tourism economies underpins the political and economic case for biodiversity conservation.

Many issues addressed under the Convention on Biological Diversity directly affect the tourism sector. A well-managed tourism sector can contribute significantly to reducing threats to, and maintain or increase, key wildlife populations and biodiversity values through tourism revenue.

Biodiversity International DayThis 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 and for which the United Nations World Tourism Organization is providing leadership.

Tourism relates to many of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, primarily about ensuring greater control and management to reduce damage to biodiversity from tourism. For others, this is about pursuing the positive contribution of tourism to biodiversity awareness, protected areas, habitat restoration, community engagement, and resource mobilisation. A further dimension is the better integration of biodiversity and sustainability into development policies and business models that include tourism, thereby supporting Aichi Biodiversity Targets 2 and 4.

‘Celebration of the International Day for Biological Diversity under this theme therefore provides an opportunity to raise awareness and action towards the important contribution of sustainable tourism both to economic growth and to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity,’ says Lihle Dlamini, Director: Marketing and Communications at SANBI.

Furthermore, the theme also provides a unique opportunity to contribute to ongoing initiatives such as the Sustainable Tourism Programme of the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns and to promote the Convention on Biological Diversity Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development.

Biodiversity is a key tourism asset and fundamental to its sustained growth. Intact and healthy ecosystems form the cornerstone of thousands of tourist enterprises and products worldwide, attracting hundreds of millions of tourists each year.

As a leading economic activity, sustainable tourism has an important role and responsibility in managing and conserving natural resources. As a key source of income and employment, tourism often provides strong incentives to protect biodiversity. Sustainable tourism can furthermore generate significant revenues for conservation and community development, and help to raise awareness of biodiversity issues.

Sustainable tourism is not just about being green – it's about ensuring a long-term future for African tourism based on partnerships and community benefit.

Statistics audited by Grant Thornton PS Advisory (Pty) Ltd, as part of ongoing work with SANBI on tourism and biodiversity:

1. Tourism is a large and growing industry globally. In 2016 around 1.2 billion foreign tourist arrivals were recorded with many people travelling within their countries of residence.

2. Importance of tourism on South Africa’s economy:

  • In South Africa, the direct tourism sector accounts for 3.1% of the country’s Gross Value Add (GVA) and 4.5% of all jobs. This impact excludes the indirect and induced benefit that the tourism sector brings to our economy (Stats SA).
  • By comparison, the mining sector only accounts for 3.1% of all jobs but accounts for 8% of GVA.

3. Foreign tourists to South Africa (data sourced from Stats SA and SA Tourism):

  • In 2016 South Africa hosted over 10 million foreign tourists, of which 2.5 million were overseas visitors and 7.5 million were visitors from African countries (Stats SA).
  • In 2015 about 1.3 million foreign tourists visited a natural attraction whilst in South Africa (16% of all visitors) (SA Tourism).
  • A million foreign tourists visited a beach in 2015 (SA Tourism).
  • Close to a million foreign tourists viewed South Africa’s wildlife in 2015 (SA Tourism).
  • Of American and European tourists, 58% and 56% respectively visited a natural attraction whilst in South Africa in 2015 (SA Tourism) – a clear indication of how important our country’s biodiversity is for these important tourist markets.
  • Our natural attractions were visited by 40% of Asian tourists and nearly a quarter of African air-arrival tourists (22%) in 2015 (SA Tourism). Only 3% of African land tourists visited one or more of South Africa’s natural attractions in 2015.

4. Domestic tourism (data sourced from Stats SA):

  • In 2015, South Africans undertook 45.4 million overnight trips in the county.
  • Around 18 million of these trips (33%) involved a nature-based activity of some sort.

These nature-based activities include, inter alia:

  • Wildlife viewing
  • Going to the beach
  • Visiting mountains
  • Enjoying the natural beauty South Africa has to offer

A third of all domestic overnight trips involve South Africa’s biodiversity.


Tourist: Any person travelling to a place other than that of his/her usual environment for at least one night but less than 12 months, who is not in transit and whose main purpose of the trip is other than the exercise of an activity remunerated from within the place visited.

Domestic tourist: a tourist who travels within his/her country of residence.

Foreign tourist: A non-resident visitor within the country of reference.

Tourism based on biodiversity is tourism that incorporates biodiversity assets including trips and visits by domestic and foreign excursionists (same-day visitors) and overnight tourists to partake in and experience South Africa’s biodiversity assets. This includes making use of these biodiversity assets for recreational and leisure pursuits.

To secure an interview please contact:
Dipolelo Moshe
Deputy Director: Marketing and Communications
Cell: +27(0) 72 996 828
Tel.: +27 (0) 12 843 5021

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