How tourism can contribute to the world’s most important goals

If you have followed the news lately you cannot help but notice that a lot has been written on tourism and sustainability, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that have been set by the United Nations but most importantly the role that tourism can play in reaching these goals. Enough information to give our view on this topic, we thought.

Recently the Dutch news channel NOS reported that Africa is becoming the fastest growing destination when it comes to tourism. The most of these tourists visit the North and South of Africa (that is where the resorts are situated) which cover 64% of the total amount of tourists. You would think that most of these tourists are international but it might surprise you that 4 out of 10 tourists are from Africa itself. These regional business-, medical- and leisure trips are contributing to the growth of tourism in Africa. But why is tourism actually increasing?

Tourism as a facilitator of economic growth

In a report from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO, 2017) on ‘tourism for sustainable development in least developed countries’ it has been mentioned that “international tourist arrivals have experienced an annual increase of around 4% since 2009” and at the moment the world’s total exports consists 7% of tourism and the world’s services 30%. Here it can be seen that tourism is very important for trade. The report also says that tourism can actually reach the goals of the SDG in 2030 when it comes to sustainable economic growth, sustainable consumption, production and also the sustainable use of the oceans and marines. This means that tourism will represent 10% (!) of the gross domestic product in the world. But it will not only contribute to these three goals, tourism ‘has the potential’ to directly and indirectly contribute to all of the SDG’s, which are 17 in total. (This would mean that all the three dimensions of sustainable development are managed: economic, social and environmental) Wow! That sounds impressive right?

Tourism: How are we doing?

The UNWTO has defined sustainable tourism as: ‘tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities’’. How is tourism doing at the moment?

  • It is providing one out of ten jobs in the world. Mostly the vulnerable young and women get into the labour market.
  • The world’s 48 least developed countries received 29 million tourists.
  • These countries see tourism as a sector that can provide them with economic development, job creation, and poverty reduction and can improve their international reputation.
  • Tourism provides foreign exchange and investment, it generates employment and business opportunities.
  • With the increase of tourists in a country the export and import of services also increases.

It can be concluded that a lot is happening in the tourism sector, especially in the least developed countries. What is needed to expand this growth?

Economic performance, policies and image.

The UNWTO has set five pillars for sustainable tourism that are most important.

·         Pillar 1- Tourism policy and governance

·         Pillar 2- Trade Investment, Data and Competitiveness

·         Pillar 3- Employment, Decent Work and Capacity Building

·         Pillar 4- Poverty Reduction and Social Inclusion

·         Pillar 5- Sustainability of natural and cultural environment

From all of the 48 least developed countries most of the countries would say that the second pillar is most important. Followed by the first. The first pillar makes countries aware of the importance of having a proper tourism strategy and a solid ministry of Tourism for example. Following these pillar Rwanda, for example, created a tourism policy for 2020. But something that gives struggles considering the second pillar ‘economic performance’ is the bad reputation that Rwanda, due to the genocide, and other countries face due to wars, social strives and poverty. The media also keeps that image alive and travel warnings from other countries make that is very hard for such a country to break this image. This means that very good marketing is needed to change this image. Easier said than done.

Skills and cultural heritage

Seeing that tourism is important in many countries, three other subjects come to mind: education and preserving cultural heritage and nature. In many of these countries there is still a gap between the skills that are required and the skills that they actually possess. When there are colleges, they do not have the qualified instructors. Also speaking different languages, most importantly English, and giving good service to customers are requirements for a good tourism sector. From a GreenDream’s perspective we would also say that is not only important to understand what ‘offering service’ is, but also understanding different cultures and seeing that every culture has different rules and manners. Another pillar, which is also perfect for tourism is the preserving of cultural heritage and nature. Many countries are protecting their wildlife and are creating more nature reserves.

What needs to happen?

Mostly everyone needs to understand the importance of tourism. It is not something that is just a fun thing, it can actually help a country grow economically, provide jobs, creating value chains, help local businesses expand and preserve nature and cultural heritage. Instead of only supporting countries with money for food, why should we not invest in tourism projects that are creating real impact in these least developed countries? Cooperation between different stakeholders, including the ones in charge for the environmental sustainability, could help tourism make a real impact in the world!

Interested how GreenDreamFoundation is working on facilitating sustainable tourism and therewith make an impact? Visit our website or contact us.