African wildlife adds US$100B via tourist mental health

A new Griffith University study has shown that wildlife safaris in Africa contributed US$100 billion per year to the economies of Europe and North America through mental health benefits.

Drawing on their previous research in Australia , Dr Alienor Chauvenet and Professor Emeritus Ralf Buckley from the School of Environment and Science have calculated the dollar value of mental health benefits that tourists bring back home after participating in wildlife safaris.

That value is 2.5 times larger than the total development aid that those continents contribute to East and Southern Africa.

“After living through COVID lockdowns, we all know how much we need some time in nature to maintain our mental health,” Professor Emeritus Buckley said.

“Even a brief trip to the beach or a park gives us a lasting boost. And that makes a positive contribution to both home and work.

“But what about international holidays? Tourists carry their new happiness with them, so it’s their home countries that gain the benefits for health and productivity.”

Wildlife conservation in Africa suffered from lack of funding due to international tourism experiencing decline during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This new study, published in the world’s top-ranked tourism research journal Tourism Management, highlighted the value of developed nations increasing aid for wildlife conservation as they can achieve a net economic gain via this mental health mechanism.

These findings coincide with the first ever African Protected Areas Congress which is being held in Rwanda. where senior delegates from the International Union for Conservation of Nature will bring the research to the discussions.

This new research forms part of an ongoing program led by these researchers, with colleagues in Australia and 16 other countries.