World’s most popular natural wonders

More than 8 billion people visit national parks and nature reserves every year, and visitors to those protected areas generate more than an estimated $600 billion in tourism dollars annually, according to a new study on the impact of global visits to protected areas.

That number is much more than the estimated $10 billion spent yearly to safeguard these natural wonders, according to “Walk on the Wilde Side: Estimating the Global Magnitude of Visits to Protected Areas,” which was published in PLOS Biology, an open access, peer-reviewed journal. The study did not include Antarctica.

Robin Naidoo, the World Wildlife Fund’s lead wildlife scientist and a contributor to the study, said the study’s authors analyzed data from 556 parks worldwide to estimate the economic value of visits to the world’s most popular protected areas.

“Even with the multibillion dollar value, this is a vast underestimate of the total economic value of these parks, as it does not account for the myriad ecosystem services that they collectively provide,” Naidoo said.

South America and Caribbean

• Tijuca National Park, Brazil: 737,000 visits/year.

• Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, Peru: 691,000 visits/year.