Tourism and Wetlands


People are naturally attracted to water, to coastal wetlands such as coral reefs and beaches, and to inland wetlands such as lakes and rivers, reflecting the strong bond between people and nature as well as the unique aesthetic appeal of wetlands.

Kobele island, Rongelap Atoll, Marshall Islands (© Barry Rilang)

The Ramsar Convention has only recently formally addressed wetland tourism, recognizing the increased demands for tourism expansion and the potential negative impacts on the health of wetlands, but also understanding that, if managed sustainably, tourism can bring many benefits, environmental, social and economic.

The Ramsar Convention launched its focus on tourism and wetlands on 2 February 2012, World Wetlands Day, with the slogan "Wetlands and Tourism, a Great Experience", in partnership with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

In July 2012, the Convention formally addressed tourism as one of the many ‘ecosystem services’ that wetlands deliver at the 11th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP11) in Bucharest, Romania. The Conference identified what countries need to do at national and local levels to ensure that wetland tourism is sustainable, consistent with the Convention’s ‘wise use’ principle, which resulted in the adoption of a Resolution on tourism and wetlands. (See the Resolution here).

Launch of 14 case studies on tourism in wetlands

Škocjan Caves Regional Park (© Borut Lozej, Archive of the Park Skocjan Caves)

Based on the fact there is a clear need to manage wetland tourism wisely through sound policies, planning, and awareness-raising – in other words, by putting the principles of sustainable tourism into action, the Ramsar Convention Secretariat and UNWTO launched at COP11 (July 2012) a publication that highlights the considerable value of wetlands for tourism and the economic benefits that tourism can bring for the management of wetland sites. Through case studies and other materials, this publication demonstrates the contributions that sustainable tourism practices in and around wetlands can make to conservation, poverty alleviation (through improvement of local livelihoods), regional and national economies, and support to local cultures. It also highlights the associated risks and impacts when tourism is not well managed and is not sustainable.

For this publication, 14 case studies on tourism in wetlands, 13 of which are Ramsar Sites, have been selected to cover different wetland types around the world and to examine the diversity in the scale of tourism, the management processes in place, the many challenges encountered and, wherever possible, the management solutions employed. The full texts of the case studies include considerable detail on the scale of tourism and how it is being managed. They can be viewed here.

More Information:
>> Tourism and the Convention
>> Ramsar and UNWTO Publication
>> Tourism Case Studies
>> Useful Materials

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Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
International Importance
2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

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