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Concept: Tourism


Tourism accounts for 9% of global GDP and comprises 1.1 billion tourist arrivals per annum. Visits to wildlife tourist attractions (WTAs) may account for 20-40% of global tourism, but no studies have audited the diversity of WTAs and their impacts on the conservation status and welfare of subject animals. We scored these impacts for 24 types of WTA, visited by 3.6-6 million tourists per year, and compared our scores to tourists' feedback on TripAdvisor. Six WTA types (impacting 1,500-13,000 individual animals) had net positive conservation/welfare impacts, but 14 (120,000-340,000 individuals) had negative conservation impacts and 18 (230,000-550,000 individuals) had negative welfare impacts. Despite these figures only 7.8% of all tourist feedback on these WTAs was negative due to conservation/welfare concerns. We demonstrate that WTAs have substantial negative effects that are unrecognised by the majority of tourists, suggesting an urgent need for tourist education and regulation of WTAs worldwide.

Concepts: Tourism, World Tourism Organization


While assisted suicide (AS) is strictly restricted in many countries, it is not clearly regulated by law in Switzerland. This imbalance leads to an influx of people-‘suicide tourists’-coming to Switzerland, mainly to the Canton of Zurich, for the sole purpose of committing suicide. Political debate regarding ‘suicide tourism’ is taking place in many countries. Swiss medicolegal experts are confronted with these cases almost daily, which prompted our scientific investigation of the phenomenon. The present study has three aims: (1) to determine selected details about AS in the study group (age, gender and country of residence of the suicide tourists, the organisation involved, the ingested substance leading to death and any diseases that were the main reason for AS); (2) to find out the countries from which suicide tourists come and to review existing laws in the top three in order to test the hypothesis that suicide tourism leads to the amendment of existing regulations in foreign countries; and (3) to compare our results with those of earlier studies in Zurich. We did a retrospective data analysis of the Zurich Institute of Legal Medicine database on AS of non-Swiss residents in the last 5 years (2008-2012), and internet research for current legislation and political debate in the three foreign countries most concerned. We analysed 611 cases from 31 countries all over the world. Non-terminal conditions such as neurological and rheumatic diseases are increasing among suicide tourists. The unique phenomenon of suicide tourism in Switzerland may indeed result in the amendment or supplementary guidelines to existing regulations in foreign countries.

Concepts: Law, Switzerland, Suicide, Tourism, Suicide methods, Cantons of Switzerland, Zürich, Canton of Zürich


Scientists have traditionally studied recreation in nature by conducting surveys at entrances to major attractions such as national parks. This method is expensive and provides limited spatial and temporal coverage. A new source of information is available from online social media websites such as flickr. Here, we test whether this source of “big data” can be used to approximate visitation rates. We use the locations of photographs in flickr to estimate visitation rates at 836 recreational sites around the world, and use information from the profiles of the photographers to derive travelers' origins. We compare these estimates to empirical data at each site and conclude that the crowd-sourced information can indeed serve as a reliable proxy for empirical visitation rates. This new approach offers opportunities to understand which elements of nature attract people to locations around the globe, and whether changes in ecosystems will alter visitation rates.

Concepts: Statistics, Mathematics, Science, Travel, Universe, Tourism, Social media, Recreation


Multi-decadal increase in shell removal by tourists, a process that may accelerate degradation of natural habitats, was quantified via two series of monthly surveys, conducted thirty years apart (1978-1981 and 2008-2010) in one small embayment on the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Over the last three decades, the local tourist arrivals have increased almost three-fold (2.74), while the area has remained unaffected by urban encroachment and commercial fisheries. During the same time interval the abundance of mollusk shells along the shoreline decreased by a comparable factor (2.62) and was significantly and negatively correlated with tourist arrivals (r = -0.52). The strength of the correlation increased when data were restricted to months with high tourist arrivals (r = -0.72). In contrast, the maximum monthly wave energy (an indirect proxy for changes in rate of onshore shell transport) was not significantly correlated with shell abundance (r = 0.10). Similarly, rank dominance of common species, drilling predation intensity, and body size-frequency distribution patterns have all remained stable over recent decades. A four-fold increase in global tourist arrivals over the last 30 years may have induced a comparable worldwide acceleration in shell removal from marine shorelines, resulting in multiple, currently unquantifiable, habitat changes such as increased beach erosion, changes in calcium carbonate recycling, and declines in diversity and abundance of organisms, which are dependent on shell availability.

Concepts: Mediterranean Sea, Portugal, Iberian Peninsula, Classical mechanics, Spain, Acceleration, Tourism, Coastal geography


Conserved lands provide multiple ecosystem services, including opportunities for nature-based recreation. Managing this service requires understanding the landscape attributes underpinning its provision, and how changes in land management affect its contribution to human wellbeing over time. However, evidence from both spatially explicit and temporally dynamic analyses is scarce, often due to data limitations. In this study, we investigated nature-based recreation within conserved lands in Vermont, USA. We used geotagged photographs uploaded to the photo-sharing website Flickr to quantify visits by in-state and out-of-state visitors, and we multiplied visits by mean trip expenditures to show that conserved lands contributed US $1.8 billion (US $0.18-20.2 at 95% confidence) to Vermont’s tourism industry between 2007 and 2014. We found eight landscape attributes explained the pattern of visits to conserved lands; visits were higher in larger conserved lands, with less forest cover, greater trail density and more opportunities for snow sports. Some of these attributes differed from those found in other locations, but all aligned with our understanding of recreation in Vermont. We also found that using temporally static models to inform conservation decisions may have perverse outcomes for nature-based recreation. For example, static models suggest conserved land with less forest cover receive more visits, but temporally dynamic models suggest clearing forests decreases, rather than increases, visits to these sites. Our results illustrate the importance of understanding both the spatial and temporal dynamics of ecosystem services for conservation decision-making.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Ecology, Ecosystem, Forest, Habitat conservation, Tourism, Landscape, Land


The purpose of this study was to conduct a systematic content analysis of sex tour websites to understand how sex tours are marketed to potential clients. A total of 380 web pages from 21 sex tour websites were reviewed. The sex tour websites sought to promote privacy and hassle-free travel with a local ‘escort’ and the opportunity for ‘hooks-ups’ with no strings attached. Three themes emerged around the description of sex workers: (1) enjoyment and complete acceptance, (2) a ‘total girlfriend experience’ and (3) exoticisation of the ‘Third World’ woman. The majority of the sex tourism websites used marketplace mythologies concerning racism, sexism and imperialism to appeal to sex tourists' desires for fantasy experiences, power and domination, and a renewed sense of identity. Legal and STI-related information was largely missing from the websites, and when it was included it was aimed at protecting sex tourists, not sex workers. It is of importance for researchers, social workers and others engaging with sex workers and sexscapes to recognise the power of language, cultural myths and framings and their ability to generate real-world social and health implications.

Concepts: Prostitution, Tourism, World Tourism Organization, Sex tourism


The desire to see free ranging large carnivores in their natural habitat is a driver of tourism in protected areas around the globe. However, large carnivores are wide-ranging and subject to human-caused mortality outside protected area boundaries. The impact of harvest (trapping or hunting) on wildlife viewing opportunities has been the subject of intense debate and speculation, but quantitative analyses have been lacking. We examined the effect of legal harvest of wolves (Canis lupus) along the boundaries of two North American National Parks, Denali (DNPP) and Yellowstone (YNP), on wolf viewing opportunities within the parks during peak tourist season. We used data on wolf sightings, pack sizes, den site locations, and harvest adjacent to DNPP from 1997-2013 and YNP from 2008-2013 to evaluate the relationship between harvest and wolf viewing opportunities. Although sightings were largely driven by wolf population size and proximity of den sites to roads, sightings in both parks were significantly reduced by harvest. Sightings in YNP increased by 45% following years with no harvest of a wolf from a pack, and sightings in DNPP were more than twice as likely during a period with a harvest buffer zone than in years without the buffer. These findings show that harvest of wolves adjacent to protected areas can reduce sightings within those areas despite minimal impacts on the size of protected wolf populations. Consumptive use of carnivores adjacent to protected areas may therefore reduce their potential for non-consumptive use, and these tradeoffs should be considered when developing regional wildlife management policies.

Concepts: Dog, Canidae, Gray Wolf, Coyote, Canis, Tourism, Pack, Wolves


Managing the pathways by which non-native species are introduced and spread is considered the most effective way of preventing species invasions. Tourism and outdoor recreation involve the frequent congregation of people, vehicles and vessels from geographically diverse areas. They are therefore perceived to be major pathways for the movement of non-native species, and ones that will become increasingly important with the continued growth of these sectors. However, a global assessment of the relationship between tourism activities and the introduction of non-native species-particularly in freshwater and marine environments-is lacking. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to determine the impact of tourism and outdoor recreation on non-native species in terrestrial, marine and freshwater environments. Our results provide quantitative evidence that the abundance and richness of non-native species are significantly higher in sites where tourist activities take place than in control sites. The pattern was consistent across terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments; across a variety of vectors (e.g. horses, hikers, yachts); and across a range of taxonomic groups. These results highlight the need for widespread biosecurity interventions to prevent the inadvertent introduction of invasive non-native species (INNS) as the tourism and outdoor recreation sectors grow.

Concepts: Natural environment, Taxonomy, Introduction, Taxonomic rank, Invasive species, Introduced species, Tourism, Systematics


Alien species, one of the biggest threats to natural ecosystems worldwide, are of particular concern for oceanic archipelagos such as Galápagos. To enable more effective management of alien species, we reviewed, collated and analysed all available records of alien species for Galápagos. We also assembled a comprehensive dataset on pathways to and among the Galápagos Islands, including tourist and resident numbers, tourist vessels, their itineraries and visitation sites, aircraft capacity and occupancy, air and sea cargo and biosecurity interceptions. So far, 1,579 alien terrestrial and marine species have been introduced to Galápagos by humans. Of these, 1,476 have become established. Almost half of these were intentional introductions, mostly of plants. Most unintentional introductions arrived on plants and plant associated material, followed by transport vehicles, and commodities (in particular fruit and vegetables). The number, frequency and geographic origin of pathways for the arrival and dispersal of alien species to and within Galápagos have increased over time, tracking closely the increase in human population (residents and tourists) on the islands. Intentional introductions of alien species should decline as biosecurity is strengthened but there is a danger that unintentional introductions will increase further as tourism on Galápagos expands. This unique world heritage site will only retain its biodiversity values if the pathways for invasion are managed effectively.

Concepts: Human, Plant, Transport, Invasive species, Tourism, World Tourism Organization, Ecuador, World Heritage Site


During wildlife tourism, proximity or actual contact between people and animals may lead to a significant risk of anthropozoonotic disease transmission. In this paper, we use social network analysis, disease simulation modelling and data on animal health and behaviour to investigate such risks at a site in Morocco, where tourists come to see wild Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus). Measures of individual macaques' network centrality-an index of the strength and distribution of their social relationships and thus potentially their ability to spread disease-did not show clear and consistent relationships with their time spent in close proximity to, or rate of interacting with, tourists. Disease simulation modelling indicated that while higher-ranked animals had a significantly greater ability to spread disease within the group, in absolute terms there was little difference in the size of outbreaks that different individuals were predicted to cause. We observed a high rate of physical contact and close proximity between humans and macaques, including during three periods when the macaques were coughing and sneezing heavily, highlighting the potential risk of disease transmission. We recommend that general disease prevention strategies, such as those aimed at reducing opportunities for contact between tourists and macaques, should be adopted.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Sociology, Social network, Network theory, Network science, Wildlife, Tourism, Barbary Macaque