‘Tourists can help to reduce poverty through ethical choices to make’

Wouldn’t it be great if something as simple and fun as tourism can contribute to the poverty in the world to push back, writes professor of Sustainable Tourism Susanne Becken. The industry is growing already with 4 percent per year since the sixties of the previous century, but as simple as it appears.

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In 2016, spent more than 1.3 billion international tourists estimated to be 1400 billion dollars – the equivalent of the gross domestic product of a country like Australia. This year, the UN declared the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, and draws the attention on the ability of tourism to reduce poverty. But how much of that money will find its way to poor countries?

The cake

Researchers from the Griffith University and the University of Surrey have developed a mechanism to determine: the Global Sustainable Tourism Dashboard. And very bright appearance, the result is not.


‘Tourists can help to reduce poverty through ethical choices to make’

The dashboard was in January launched to assess the impact of tourism on the Sustainable development Goals of the United Nations to measure. The system can determine whether wealth is effectively redistributed by tourism by examining how money accrues in the least developed countries in the world, and in small island states.

About 14 percent of the world’s population lives in those countries, including Vanuatu and the Dominican Republic. But in 2016 saw that developing countries less than 5,6 of the expenditure of international tourism. And if we Singapore – that only in the name of a small island state is out of the equation, then drops that figure to 4.4 percent: less than 62 billion of the 1400 billion in the whole year of travel was spent.

The dashboard shows, in particular, that wereldtoerisme especially an exchange is between rich countries. The citizens of ten countries, most of which in Europe and North America, about half of all travel in the world. China joined in 2000, only the top ten.

Still important

Although the share of the eilandstaatjes and the least developed countries is not high, the inflow of resources from the tourism still substantial: 79 billion in 2016 alone. That is similar with the joint development budget of the USA, Germany, Great Britain and France.

But money alone is not sufficient to reduce poverty. If that is the case, then it would be Thailand, the fourth most popular destination in the world, a rich country. The tourism generated 54 billion in 2016.

But whether such a cash-injection also translates into development, it depends on many, well-studied factors. So should the least developed countries, often without the crucial goods and services that the tourism need, such as airports, hotels, attractions, guides, and telecommunications. That leads to ‘leakage’, as economists call it. As a tourist everything to bring, from generators to solar panels and food, then another few dollars to the local economy.

In developing countries, that ‘leakage’ rise from 40 percent in India to 80 percent in Mauritius, writes researcher Leah Long in a study for the German development agency GIZ in 2011.

Another problem with leaks is that the investment in the tourist sector, often foreign, and therefore the revenue often going abroad. Cruise ships are notorious. The ships do constantly small island states, but most of the revenues go to the headquarters of the shipping company, usually in the west.

Dollars hold

Governments can leak to reduce by strategic thinking, the emphasis on the development of local businesses and to invest in education and training to employees to prepare for the tourist sector.

That approach has worked in Samoa, where tourism is one of the main pillars of the economy has become. Revenues from tourism have grown from 73 million in 2005 to 141 million in 2015, accounting for a fifth of gdp. Samoa welcomes 134.000 visitors per year.


If only the tourism department, luxury hotels and ecoparken, owned and operated by local, well-trained employees, able to the income from tourism in a fair way to be divided and is a sustainable growth

With the help of donors, the government and local working groups, improved the land, the local income for its own inhabitants. So were the ‘fales’, small huts on the beach backpackers attract, re-invented to be more luxury to offer. Of the two thousand hotel rooms in Samoa there are now approximately 340 fales, which are operated by local families. The government state they are at with the development of a business plan, marketing and service.

2014 was Samoa is officially no longer one of the least-developed countries.

But to be sure that toerismedollars also with the local population, is also a willingness is required from foreign companies, especially hotel chains, to invest in the local communities and local partners.

The Marriott in Port au Prince, for example, not only received a lot of praise because it is a hotel opened in the ruined Haiti in 2015, but also because the local people are employed, she pays well and bet on the further development of their career. That also appears to be a good strategy for the hotel: happy workers do not run away, and the hotel has a very stable workforce.

Tourism work

Ecuador, Fiji and South Africa are the other countries which show that tourism can work for local development and the fight against poverty.

International organisations such as the UN, countries can also help to infrastructure projects also take into account possible tourism development in the long term. And at the same time, a good relationship with local stakeholders is essential.


Also tourists themselves play an important role by ethical choices to make

If only the tourism department, luxury hotels and ecoparken, owned and operated by local, well-trained employees, able to the income from tourism in a fair way to be divided, the costs for the local communities to be controlled and it is sustainable growth possible.


Also tourists themselves play an important role by ethical choices. Who a developing country visits, the revenues for the local community to maximize by choosing local food, local travel agencies and local products and souvenirs.

Choose certified ‘responsible’ companies, or simply ask the right questions, can also be an important signal that tourists have their own impact.

Tourism in itself, poverty is not from the world. But if governments, the industry and the consumers attention, it can be a major force for change.

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