Assessing Economic Impacts of Visitor Spending in Protected Areas of Brazil

Thiago Beraldo
Published: 05 February 2019
Last edited: 02 October 2020
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Assessing economic impacts of tourism in protected areas (PA) provides a way for park managers of developing countries to inform stakeholders of the value of PAs in serving not just for conservation purposes, but as engines for relatively low-impact, high added-value economic growth.

An analysis of the economic impact of tourism was developed to measure visitor spending around PAs in Brazil. The study revealed the economic magnitude of an important ecosystem service provided by PAs – tourism and outdoor recreation. Visitation at PAs demonstrated to be an impactful mechanism to develop local economies and the tourism industry in Brazil as each dollar invested in management generates $7 for the economy. The initiative reinforced that economic impacts of tourism influence directly the PAs, as well as indirectly other businesses and the local communities, generating greater economic benefits for local communities that have a higher household dependency on the surrounding natural resources.



East and South Africa
South America
Scale of implementation
Coastal desert
Coastal forest
Cold desert
Coral reef
Deep sea
Desert ecosystems
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
Grassland ecosystems
Green spaces (parks, gardens, urban forests)
Hot desert
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Open sea
Pool, lake, pond
River, stream
Rocky reef / Rocky shore
Salt marsh
Seamount / Ocean ridge
Temperate deciduous forest
Temperate evergreen forest
Temperate grassland, savanna, shrubland
Tropical deciduous forest
Tropical evergreen forest
Tropical grassland, savanna, shrubland
Tundra or montane grassland
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Ecosystem services
Protected and conserved areas governance
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Science and research
Sustainable financing
Sustainable livelihoods
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Inefficient management of financial resources
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor governance and participation
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
Aichi targets
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge


Brazil | Federal System of Protected Areas of Brazil (336 PA)


Protected areas (PAs) may contribute significantly to local economies through trip-related visitor spending on goods and services, indirect supply-chain spending, economic activity induced by the presence of the PA, and park operations. However, in general, PA agencies are more accustomed to financial reports which deal only with direct income (from gate fees, concessions, resource royalties, etc.) and costs, while failing to consider the wider scope of monetary value generated by PAs for local, and the larger provincial and national economies. Despite the fact that visitation is a major source of income to PAs, by ignoring the larger contribution to a regional economy, financial analyses can mislead decision makers and the general public.


Economic Impacts of Tourism in Protected Areas provide a way to inform stakeholders of the value of PAs in serving not just for conservation purposes, but as engines for relatively low-impact, high added-value economic growth.


How do the building blocks interact?

The building block show the process to develop an analysis of economic impacts of visitor spending in protected areas.


The first building block explains that agencies that manage protected areas are accustomed to producing financial reports which deal with direct income and costs. It is necessary to identify the problem that narrow financial analyses significantly under-value the areas in the eyes of decision-makers and the general public compared to the larger economy effects for regional economies, which often amounts to many times the direct costs of running the protected areas.


In order to address this issue, the second building block offers a assessment tool called Tourism Economic Model in Protected Areas (TEMPA) that help guide project managers and others to develop Economic Analysis through the collection, analysis and display of tourism spending data at local and national level. 


The third building block describes how to use the tourism economic data for reporting and influencing decision-making. The main objective of tourism and recreation economic reports is public relations, increasing society support, raising PA budgets, building partnerships, and influencing local policies and planning decisions.



Economic Impacts of Tourism assist managers to inform policy-makers, stakeholders, local communities, and the public at large, of the PAs values for conservation as well as for benefit-sharing. 


Results in Brazil, for example, identified that each dollar the country invested in the PA system produced $7 in economic benefits. In 2017, the 10,7 million visitors spent about U$ 530 million on local communities around PAs. The total contribution of these expenditures to the national economy was around 80 thousand jobs, U$ 583 million in income, U$ 822 million in aggregated value to GDP and U$ 2,2 billion in sales. In regards to taxes, a total of U$ 38 million was generated at the municipal level; in state, U$ 130 million and in federal, U$ 71 million; totalizing U$ 240 million in taxes. 


Results are assisting policy-makers, conservation and commercial stakeholders, local communities, and the public at large of the value that PAs serve for conservation as well as engines for benefit-sharing. The results were used, for example, to pass the Law No. 13.668 / 2018, which improved the legislation for the concession of recreation services in federal protected areas in Brazil.



Thiago Beraldo

Brazil did its first report of economic contribuitions of visitors expenditures in federal protected areas in 2017. Park managers are getting really excited with this kind of data. They understand that economic analysis is an important tool to demonstrate proteced are values for the general public that is not interested in conservation. 


In a moment, where the country face a economic recession, economic analysis of turism is a way to inform stakeholders of the value of PAs in serving not just conservation purposes, but as engines for relatively low-impact, high added-value economic growth, presenting how many jobs, income and GDP is generated.


The results are now being used in presentations of park managers and directors, by journalists and other stakeholders that advocate in favor of conservation. The statement that each dollar invested in the protected area system produced $7 in economic benefits became a mantra for the agency staff.

Contributed by

thiago.beraldo_36029's picture

Thiago do Val Simardi Beraldo Souza Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBIO)

Other contributors

Alex Chidakel
University of Florida
Brian Child
University of Florida and Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP)
Wen H. Chang
US Army Corps of Engineers
Virginia Gorsevski
Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP)
Usman Iftikhar
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)