Tourism and Coral Reefs

Tropical marine ecosystems are among the most important tourist attractions, providing support to the economy of many developing countries and Small Island Developing States. Tourism can generate powerful political and financial support for conservation, yet if left unregulated, it can also result in tourism-driven environmental degradation of un-managed areas of natural beauty.

C J Wantenaar 2005

The responsibility for protecting the environment of tourist destinations lies with national and local authorities, tourism service providers, civil society and, of course, the tourists themselves. However, the actions of people in developed and temperate countries can also impact upon the fragile tropical marine resources.

Whether at home or away, here are 10 ways you can help to protect the coral reefs of the world:

  • Choose seafood products that come from certified, well-managed and sustainable fisheries. Certified products are available in most supermarkets – check the product label, or visit:
  • Avoid purchasing tropical wood furniture or products obtained from clear-cut tropical forests causing siltation damage to coral reefs.
  • Avoid purchasing souvenirs or products made from coral or any threatened or endangered marine species (e.g turtle shells).
  • Choose products for home marine aquariums that come from certified, well – managed and sustainable fisheries. Visit:
  • While travelling, choose resorts and tour operators that employ eco-friendly measures, such as the treatment of all sewage and wastewater.
  • Support marine and coastal protected areas by taking guided tours, visiting information centres, and respecting the local regulations.
  • Do not drop litter or dispose of unwanted items on beaches, or in the sea.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint by supporting carbon neutral programmes.
  • As a diver or snorkeller, choose tour operators that use mooring buoys or drift diving techniques rather than anchors that can cause reef damage.
  • As a diver, practice buoyancy control skills in a pool or sandy area before diving near a coral reef. Make sure your gauges and equipment are secured to avoid accidental contact with the reef, and never touch, stand on, or collect coral.

Click on coral friendly guidelines to view or download them in various languages.

Sustainable Tourism Best Practices
At ITMEMS3, ICRAN was requested to lead an international team to identify best practices in sustainable tourism, and to promote key outputs and lessons learned through the ICRAN and ICRI websites. Click on the links below to review best practice case studies drawn from programmes around the world.

Case Study

Case Study: Dominican Republic Marine Tourism Alliance – Enhancing Tourism Competitiveness in the Dominican Republic (English) | (Spanish)

Case Study

Case Study: The ICRAN Mesoamerican Reef Alliance: Promoting Sustainable Tourism along the Mesoamerican Reef (English)

Additional Resources