Tourism and Natural Capital: Inter-Dependencies Between Tourism, the Economy, and Ecosystem Services in South Africa

Tourism and Natural Capital: Inter-Dependencies Between Tourism, the Economy, and Ecosystem Services in South Africa

Joël Houdet (Integrated Sustainability Services (ISS), South Africa), Michelle Browne (Institute of Natural Resources, South Africa) and Fonda Lewis (Institute of Natural Resources, South Africa)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5843-9.ch015

Abstract

There is growing concern that ongoing degradation of natural capital, due to various global and local drivers of change, will compromise the delivery of the ecosystem services on which the tourism industry relies. This chapter aims to explore the relationships between natural capital and tourism. The chapter first provides an introduction to the inter-dependencies between business and natural capital and presents an overview of the tourism sector in South Africa. The focus then shifts to conceptualizing the links between tourism and natural capital, focusing on inland freshwater systems. A conceptual framework of the interactions between natural capital and the tourism sector is presented and key links between hydrologic ecosystem services and the tourism sector are described. In the final section, the risks of increasingly stressed water resources on tourism and the South African economy are explored.
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Business And Natural Capital: Unpacking Inter-Dependencies, Risks, Opportunities, Costs, And Benefits

All businesses both depend (e.g., use of water in agriculture and mineral mining) and impact, directly and indirectly, on natural capital stocks and the associated ecosystem services (Hanson et al., 2012; Houdet et al., 2012; Natural Capital Coalition 2016; TEEB 2012). Yet, such interactions do not all have the same consequences as natural capital stocks are divided into renewable and non-renewable assets: While metals and minerals are non-renewable natural capital assets (e.g. coal) whose exploitation can only lead to their eventual depletion (and the loss of the associated benefits), renewable natural capital assets, such as water resources and populations of species, can (theoretically) be sustainably managed in perpetuity.

This inter-dependency between business and natural capital creates costs and benefits for business and society, generating risks but also creating opportunities. Natural capital impacts and/or dependencies can directly affect business operations, which can generate positive (e.g., lower input costs) or negative effects (e.g., discontinued supply of raw materials, water shortages) (Natural Capital Coalition 2016). Simultaneously, these impacts / dependencies can also positively (e.g., improved water quantity and quality due to business’ efforts to sustainably manage its watershed) or negatively (e.g., air emissions) impact on particular stakeholders or on society as a whole. Eventually, stakeholder and societal responses to these effects can create additional risks and opportunities to businesses.

The business case for natural capital mainstreaming can be made by identifying the risks and opportunities that arise from impacts and/or dependencies on natural capital that might be invisible, overlooked, misunderstood, or under-valued. Furthermore, natural capital risks and opportunities can arise in all areas of a business (operational, legal, regulatory, financing, reputational, marketing, and societal; see Table 1 for examples) and can occur at all stages of value chain (upstream / suppliers, direct operations, downstream / clients; see Table 2 for elements to consider when trying to measure and value natural capital at different stages of the value chain).

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