How are biodiversity and tourism connected?

Discover the meaning of biodiversity and the contribution your vacation rental business can make

It seems as if everyone is talking about sustainability. Could 2024 be the year that this approach to future-proofing a vacation rental business really takes off? However, when we talk about “sustainability”, many of you may think immediately of climate change and topics like energy consumption and carbon footprints.

Undoubtedly, the impact of climate change is a really important issue to address and requires urgent action. But there are two other aspects of “sustainability” which also need attention if we are to create a better future. These are people and the natural world. In this article, we are going to examine what we can do to protect the natural world and, specifically, biodiversity.


What does biodiversity mean?

The word “biodiversity” is being used increasingly when we talk about the natural world and the impact that humans are having on it. It literally means the variety of species living on the earth including plants, animals, bacteria, fungi – and humans. This can refer to a particular region of the world or on a much smaller scale. An area like the Amazon Rainforest in South America has one of the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet.

The important thing to remember is that all species are connected and are part of an ecosystem of biodiversity. The forests provide a home for animals where they can eat the plants, which need healthy soil to thrive. Fungi help to decompose organisms and naturally fertilize the soil. Even we humans are part of this ecosystem, as indigenous people have always understood. However, over past decades, we have started to see ourselves as rulers of nature rather than part of it.

This disconnection from nature has led to these types of problems:

  • Plastic and chemical pollution in the oceans harming marine life – most of us have seen the upsetting images of birds and fish choking on microplastics
  • Deforestation due to change of land use for cattle rearing and palm oil production, which destroys habitats for animals like the orangutan and elephant
  • Degraded land and soil due to over-farming and the use of pesticides
  • Climate change has altered the traditional distinct seasons of the year

Now is the time for transformation for the good of all living beings on our planet.


How are biodiversity and tourism connected?

As you will have read above, we are all connected and harmony supports the whole ecosystem of our planet. However, we now live in a world which is out of balance and Mother Nature is struggling to thrive.

The natural world is an integral part of tourism and, therefore, is vital to the future of our industry. Particularly following the pandemic, we all experienced the desire to get out into nature and feel that connection. Furthermore, there is evidence that nature has a positive effect on our mental health, as well as the potential physical benefits. Many travellers actively seek out experiences which give them that connection with the natural world.

Another travel trend is wellness, with the overall industry expected to reach $8.5 trillion by 2027. Many people see travel as an opportunity to detox and pay attention to their physical and mental health. As such, they will want to enjoy local, freshly-prepared food, try natural beauty treatments and take part in wellbeing experiences like yoga and mindfulness.

Often groups of guests include children, who are usually keenly interested in wildlife. In addition, they are learning about biodiversity at school and are typically instrumental in convincing their parents to be more eco-conscious. For city-dwellers, frequently a holiday is the main opportunity they have to connect with the natural world.

Lastly, food is such an important part of travel and your guests will, undoubtedly, be excited to try the local specialities of the destinations you promote. Without pollinators like the iconic bee, there would be a lot of our favourite foods which would disappear. Just imagine a world without chocolate, coffee, strawberries, or bananas.


So, what can a vacation rental business do to create a balance between biodiversity and tourism?



1. Highlight ways to connect with nature

Your guests are likely to be looking for some form of connection with nature. Obviously, if you are in a rural location, you can highlight lots of ways for your guests to enjoy the great outdoors. If your groups include children, perhaps you could create some games to introduce them to the wildlife in your area.


DID YOU KNOW? – Having a list of local off-the-beaten path sites can get you up to 3.13% on the Sustonica criteria! Check out our standard.

Why is it part of the criteria? One of the current travel trends is to seek places that are away from the usual tourist trail. This helps with the dispersal of guests across a wider area of a destination, spreading traveller spend accordingly


If your properties are on the coast or lakeside, you have a perfect location next to water which is known to have a soothing influence on the mind. Most guests will need no encouragement to take to the water! Just try to focus on activities that show respect for the ocean – read more in the conservation section below.

It might be a bit more difficult if you are in a destination for city breaks. However, even in cities, there are parks and green spaces with plans to pedestrianise and green up many town centres – like the future plans for the Champs Elyseé in Paris.



2. Use eco-friendly cleaning products

Chemicals in cleaning products can create an unhealthy indoor environment. This can be harmful to human health, particularly for allergy sufferers (you will undoubtedly have some guests who suffer from a respiratory or skin allergy).


DID YOU KNOW? – Having green cleaning products can get you up to 3.50% on the Sustonica criteria! Check out our standard.

Why is it part of the criteria? Non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products can help lessen both water and air pollution, and effectively fight climate change and ozone depletion.


Consequently, choosing eco-friendly cleaning products will be better for guest wellbeing but also, just as important, for your household staff. When you are researching cleaning product suppliers, you can ask about the ingredients as part of your sustainable procurement policy.


3. Avoid plastic waste and microplastics

Another way to show you understand the connection between biodiversity and tourism is to reduce plastic waste, including microplastics. This is essential for the natural world and our oceans.

Consumers are very concerned when it comes to plastic, and they are likely to be taking action in their personal lives. They probably already carry a reusable water bottle to avoid buying water in plastic bottles.  As a property manager, you can help them to continue these practices whilst they are staying with you. For example, you can provide a water filter in the rental or a list of nearby water refill stations.

A simple way to help your guests avoid plastic bags is to provide a reusable shopping basket – you could even brand it to your place.


DID YOU KNOW? –  Offering reusable shopping bags, baskets, or trolleys in your property can get you up to 3.00% on the Sustonica criteria! Check out our standard.

Why is it part of the criteria?  Avoiding plastic shopping bags cuts down plastic waste which could end up in our seas and oceans. Plus, lots of guests will be used to shopping in this way at home in many countries where there are charges on plastic bags in supermarkets.


Microplastics are microscopic pieces of plastic which can be released into our water system and end up in the oceans. The beauty industry often uses microplastics in its products for their slightly abrasive effect to create a deeper clean. Choosing eco-friendly body washes and shampoos shows you are thinking about protecting biodiversity and tourism, and will be appreciated by your guests.



4. Partner with conservation projects

Working to promote biodiversity and tourism as a combined force for good offers you some great opportunities to create memorable experiences. Research the conservation projects which are in the destinations where you operate. Think of ways you can promote them to your guests, probably through your digital guide. Of course, you can ask them to donate to these projects financially, and you could also donate as a business.

However, probably a more impactful way would be to create an experience which allows your guests to be involved in the work of the conservation project. This could be as simple as taking part in a beach clean-up or recording numbers of birds if you have properties in protected areas.


DID YOU KNOW? –  Having a list of local volunteering work can get you up to 3.13% on the Sustonica criteria! Check out our standard.

Why is it part of the criteria?  This can generate a positive impact for community improvement projects related to biodiversity


Furthermore, you could even involve your own staff in some volunteering projects. These could be either close to your offices if you are running a property management company or in your destination as a property owner. It can be a great team-building exercise, particularly if everyone takes part! Many companies are also giving staff extra holiday in order to encourage them to volunteer.


5. Promote organic and vegetarian food

Earlier in this article, we mentioned the plight of the bees and their importance to our food system. One of the main reasons for this decline is the use of pesticides, which are toxic to pollinators.

If you promote organic restaurants to your guests, you will indirectly be reducing the use of harmful pesticides, which are not allowed in organic agriculture.


DID YOU KNOW? – Having a list of local organic food restaurants can get you up to 3.13% on the Sustonica criteria! Check out our standard.

Why is it part of the criteria?  Organic food is grown using methods which are in harmony with nature and do not allow the use of harmful pesticides like neonicotinoids.


If you do not have organic restaurants in your destination, the next best thing is to promote locally sourced food where your guests can interact with the stall or shop owner. In this way, they can ask about the origins of the food and how it has been grown. If it has not been transported over long distances, that will reduce carbon emissions which have created the changes to our traditional seasons.

Another impact felt by biodiversity and tourism is deforestation. One of the main drivers is caused by the change of land use, often for cattle rearing. More and more people are cutting back on their meat consumption for this reason but also from a health point of view. Therefore, it makes sense to make your guests aware of any vegetarian restaurants in your area.


DID YOU KNOW? – Having a list of vegetarian restaurants can get you up to 3.13% on the Sustonica criteria! Check out our standard.

Why is it part of the criteria?  Eating less meat is better for human health and reduces the need for clearing land for cattle rearing


Biodiversity and tourism can be complementary. The vacation rental industry can support the natural world through the choices it makes. Whilst creating a meaningful and improved guest experience.



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