New Business Opportunities in Micronesia
The Federated States of Micronesia is a 600-island nation in the Pacific Ocean where 40 percent of the population lived in poverty as of 2014 and 32 out of 1,000 children died before the age of 5 as of 2017. Micronesia is heavily reliant on U.S. aid since the nation’s independence in 1986, but many expect it to end by 2023 as the country struggles with unemployment, over-reliance on fishing and a stagnant local business sector with uncertainty looming. Micronesia’s private sector will need a significant boost when aid from the U.S. comes to an end. Opening new business opportunities in Micronesia, specifically at the local level, is a priority the Pacific island nation needs to capitalize on.

Connecting Micronesia

The rise of the internet has been an important business driver for the private sectors for many nations. Micronesia has been tackling a project to expand the country’s own servers both locally and globally. The Pacific Regional Connectivity Project by the World Bank is a long-term project that will not only connect Micronesia with its neighbors Palau, Nauru and Kiribati via a fiber network, but also allows Micronesia to open and regulate the market to allow the private to build and improve domestic businesses that the current satellite connections would not be able to bring. The building of the lines to improve networking and connections is a pivotal investment to increase the domestic business sector to boost the local economy. Exploiting the internet is an important objective for opening new business opportunities in Micronesia and evolve the local marketplace.

Tourism Sector in Micronesia

Improving the tourism sector is also a priority Micronesia should exploit to bolster its economy. Neighboring countries such as Palau, Nauru and the Northern Marina Islands, a U.S. territory, have strong connections to various Asian countries to allow easier access to their respective areas of interest, which Micronesia also currently relies on if falling short. States within Micronesia have taken steps to rectify the tourism concern, such as when Yap made a controversial deal with the Chinese development company Exhibition & Travel Group in 2011 to develop tourist destinations 1,000 acres across the state. Meanwhile, the Papua New Guinea-based airline Air Niugini established connections to Chuuk and Pohnpei, Micronesia in 2016 and increased flight capacity in 2017.

Fishing Sector in Micronesia

While Micronesia has been improving its tourism sector, it has also made deals with countries outside of the U.S. to bolster its fishing sector which has been in major need of development. Focusing on the regional neighbors has been a major step in that development. As an island nation, fishing is one of Micronesia’s main economic sources, however, there have been concerns about its long-term reliability, and thus, the country’s management of resources has become necessary. Chuuk has size-based policies to control and maintain fish populations during appropriate seasons, balancing the marketplace and keeping fish populations at sustainable levels. Micronesia also began a transparency program in its tuna fishing sector in 2018, a measure to monitor and sustain the tuna population for both local and international marketplaces. Fishing is an important asset for Micronesia; maintaining the population levels of various species including tuna is a priority the country be paying attention to for years to come.

Opening new business opportunities in Micronesia requires the country to branch out from the guiding hand of the U.S. and beseech nearby neighbors to bolster the local economy. Micronesia also expects to sustain its local fish populations to enhance the markets both locally and internationally. While the steps have been small, the Federated States of Micronesia has made the necessary moves in the event that the United States end its aid in 2023.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

 

 

Tourism Sector in Timor-Leste Oil accounts for 90 percent of Timor-Leste’s government revenue, but since 2017 the government has focused on diversifying the economy, attracting investors and developing its rising tourism industry. The small island country gained independence in 1999 and reduced its poverty rate from 50.4 percent in 2007 to 41 percent in 2014. It plans to develop the tourism sector in Timor-Leste in order to attract new visitors, increase revenue

and add jobs. USAID, Chemonics and private investors are seeing economic opportunity in the emerging tourism sector.

Benefits of Tourism Industry Investments

The benefits of developing the tourism sector in Timor-Leste include job creation and increased revenue. Poverty-reduction policies, health care and improved education are possible uses of much-needed revenue to the developing economy. The government’s goal is to attract 200,000 annual international tourists by 2030, which would generate $150 million and add 15,000 local jobs. For reference, total revenue for Timor-Leste was $300 million in 2017. Chemonics is currently working with the government and USAID’s Tourism for All Project to develop Timor-Leste’s tourism industry.

Since the tourism sector in Timor-Leste is new, one task stated by Peter Semone, chief of party for the USAID Tourism for All Project, is to explain the benefits of tourism to Timorese that might object to the rising tourism industry, especially in terms of its environmental impact. Marine tourism, particularly on Atauro Island, is expected to flourish once the tourism industry is further developed. One priority is convincing wary Timorese that the rising tourism industry means increased revenue to the government or directly through selling services and/or products.

Achievements by USAID’s Tourism for All Project

The USAID Tourism for All Project began in January 2018 and is slated to end in January 2021. Its goal is to expand and improve the Timorese tourism industry using a comprehensive and sustainable approach. The project costs $9 million and its focus is directed towards two main areas: ensuring laws, institutions and policies are in place to implement the national tourism policy that began in 2017, providing sustainable private sector tourism investments and participation by Timorese communities and replicating successful models for future use.

There are five major achievements of the USAID Tourism for All Project. One accomplishment of USAID’s coordination with the government of Timor-Leste is the registration for a Mt. Ramelau Tourism Partnership that is currently in progress. Mt. Ramelau is a sacred mountain and major tourist attraction. USAID also facilitated the process of Atauro Island residents creating a vision, mission and tourism action plan for the next three years and began registration for the Tourism Partnership of Atauro. Atauro Island is the most marine biodiverse location in the world. USAID and Timor-Leste anticipates a booming ecotourism industry on the island.

Grants programs were also launched under the project to encourage tourism entrepreneurs to invest in targeted areas. One final achievement is the establishment of a working group involving the Secretary of State for Arts and Culture, UNESCO and local non-governmental organizations for conservation and preservation of tais, a hand-woven textile used to make scarves and bags. Tais was proposed for UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage recognition.

Future Economy of Timor-Leste

Semone stated that “tourism is the base to improve the service industry and the culture of service in the country. It is also an excellent factor to foster the development of a private sector of SMEs but also a way to raise environmental consciousness for locals.” With the help of Chemonics, USAID and other organizations, Timor-Leste’s tourism sector shows promise in reaching the goal of attracting 150,000 international tourists and adding 15,000 by 2030.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Decrease Poverty in Benin

Tourism is the second-fastest-growing industry in the world, but it is an untapped resource in many countries, including Benin. Benin is a small West African country and one of the poorest in Africa, but it does have one of the best wildlife reserves in West Africa. As a result, the country has exceptional tourism potential, which can help decrease poverty in Benin. However, protecting its wildlife is essential to achieving that goal.

Benin’s Potential for Tourism

Around 40 percent of Benin’s population lives in poverty. Tourism can thus help because it does not only increase gross domestic product. According to the World Bank, Benin’s natural landscapes and cultural attractions give them an advantage by both creating jobs across a range of skill sets and opening new markets for various businesses and entrepreneurs. This helps decrease poverty in Benin by further developing the country and generating shared wealth.

However, tourism and national parks in Africa are nearly symbiotic. Poaching doesn’t just threaten wildlife, it threatens tourism. Popular tourist destinations and National Parks in Africa tend to be East African countries, such as Tanzania’s Serengeti or Botswana’s Kalahari Desert. Botswana’s tourism sector makes up 8.9 percent of the country’s job market, creating 84,000 jobs, and generating $2.52 billion in 2018. Benin has one of the highest conservation land ratios in Africa, but Benin’s Pendjari National Park is one of the last intact and richest wildlife reserves in West Africa.

The park is home to lions, elephants and leopards as well as endangered species, such as the giant pangolin, African wild dogs and the Jabiru Senegal. However, tourism in Benin accounts for only 0.7 percent of the country’s GDP, generating well below its potential at $197 million, and making up 5.6 percent of the job market. Instead, Benin’s economy relies on agriculture, accounting for 26.1 percent of the country’s GDP, although the weather in Benin can be unpredictable.

Plans to Expand Tourism

To expand economic development and decrease poverty in Benin, the Beninese government started the Government Action Program (GAP) in 2016 and passed a public-private partnership law in 2017 to attract foreign investors. The goal is to improve infrastructure, education, agriculture and tourism. Through seven major tourism projects under GAP, Benin plans to increase its tourism GDP to 10 percent by 2021. One project includes protecting and rehabilitating Pendjari Park.

In partnership with African Parks, a nongovernmental organization that manages 11 national parks and reserves in eight African countries, the Beninese government plans to double the wildlife population in Pendjari Park and increase the average six-thousand visitors to nine thousand, but the task is only possible if Benin can protect its wildlife from poachers.

Canine Heroes

Throughout West Africa, poachers kill rhinos, pangolins and elephants to smuggle to Asian and European markets. This is where canines play a vital role in combating poaching and therefore protecting wildlife, tourism and the economy to decrease poverty in Benin.

In Tanzania, tracker dogs are used to combat poaching by finding wounded animals and tracking down poachers. Botswana has been a prime example of wildlife conservation, winning the war against poachers with their Canines for Conservation program and some of the harshest anti-poaching laws, which helped mitigate elephant losses seen in neighboring countries. Elephants from Angola, Namibia and Zambia were seen retreating to Botswana for safety, but when the government disarmed anti-poaching units in 2018, the country lost 87 elephants and five white rhinos to poachers just months later. Poaching in Botswana has been on the rise ever since, not only threatening wildlife but potentially tourism in Botswana.

One of the biggest animal welfare and conservation charities, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), helped establish the Sniffer Dog Project in Benin to help stop poaching in Benin. These dogs are trained to detect animal parts at prime smuggling locations, such as airports, border crossings and the border of protected habitats. Before IFAW, there were no established dog detection training programs in West Africa; now there are eight canine detection units.

In January 2018, African Parks, National Geographic, the Beninese Government and the Wyss Foundation—a charity dedicated to protecting natural habitats—invested $23.4 million to protect Pendjari Park. Because of the vast potential of Benin’s tourism industry, decreasing poverty in Benin lies not only in agriculture, education and technology, but its rich history, iconic landscapes and wildlife.

– Emma Uk
Photo: Google Images

 

Growth in the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic, a Caribbean nation of 10.77 million people, shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti and is primarily known for its beautiful beaches and resorts. With a 13.5 percent youth unemployment rate in the country, these resorts provide necessary jobs, economic stimulation and growth in the Dominican Republic. Despite the recent negative media attention, the growth of resorts shows no sign of stopping. Four new resorts opening in late 2019 and 2020 will continue adding to the burgeoning tourist industry, increasing numbers of workers in the service sector and establish mutually beneficial U.S. and Dominican exchanges.

The Pillar of Tourism

According to the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, the tourism industry is one of the “four pillars” of the Dominican economy. It forms 7.9 percent of the economy. Growth in the Dominican Republic focuses on projects encouraging tourists to spend more money. There are already 65 such projects approved by the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism for 2019.

Speedy development will continue the trend of success in the tourism sector. The Dominican Republic Association for Hotels and Tourism statistics for 2018 displayed a 6.2 percent increase in the sector, which now makes up 20 percent of Caribbean trips. There was also a six percent increase in hotel rooms, and people filled 77 percent of total rooms. Overall, the industry reaped immense revenues of $7.2 billion in 2017. Tourism’s success contributes to GDP growth. The University of Denver predicts $89.54 billion in 2019, and GDP rising to $161.4 billion by 2030.

More Rooms, More Jobs

New resorts will extend the tourism industry’s prosperity by increasing the amount of occupied rooms and the jobs required to service visitors. The World Bank reported that the Dominican labor force was 4,952,136 workers in 2018, up from 3,911,218 only eight years before. Service sector workers made up 61.4 percent in 2017, illustrating the prominent role tourism and related industries play for the growth of the Dominican Republic. Here are four vacation spots heating up employment progress in late 2019 and 2020:

Grand Fiesta Americana Punta Cana Los Corales: This resort, owned by the Mexican Company Posadas, will have 558 rooms and various amenities necessitating more staff. The Director-General of Posadas, José Carlos Azcárraga, expressed hopes that the new resort will aid one of the fastest-growing Caribbean economies. The Dominican president visited the cornerstone to show his support. The resort opens in late 2019.

Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana: This American-owned Playa Hotels and Resorts brand also had a groundbreaking ceremony attended by the Dominican president. There will be 750 rooms requiring staff attention, alongside the various dining and fitness services provided. It opens in November 2019.

Club Med Michès Playa Esmeralda: This newest edition to Club Med’s resort collection will be an eco-friendly environment with four separate “villages” for new employees to manage. In an email to The Borgen Project, Club Med stated it will hire more than 440 Dominicans and help lead vocational training for approximately 1,000 locals to extend the resort’s positive impact. It opens in November 2019.

Dreams Resorts and Spas in El Macao: AMResorts, a subsidiary of the American-owned Apple Leisure Group, will have 500 rooms for the staff to manage. Bars, pools and a litany of eateries will require service sector employees as well. It opens in 2020.

A Vacation for Two

The development of new resorts is mutually beneficial for both the U.S. and the Dominican Republic. The island nation’s tourism is highly dependent on American visitors, who formed 33.85 percent of guests in 2013. The Dominican Embassy reported that individual tourists spent $1,055 on average in the same year. Americans received a pleasant vacation in exchange for growth in the Dominican Republic.

Two of the above resorts are branded by American companies as well. Their earnings not only benefit the Dominican economy but also benefit the American economy. Resort companies are part of a larger exchange where 53 percent of 2017 Dominican trade was with the U.S.. The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service found that the Dominican Republic imported 42 percent of its goods from the U.S. in the same year.

Unfortunately, the four new resorts will not solve all of the Dominican Republic’s problems. Poverty remains high at 30.5 percent, although it has dropped from 41.2 percent in 2013. However, new resorts contribute to this decrease by providing employment opportunities in one of the nation’s most lucrative sectors.

– Sean Galli
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Tourism InitiativesThe United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) notes that tourism is capable of driving high economic status in developing countries. Three of the below initiatives are examples of how sustainable tourism can best support developing communities.  

3 Examples of Sustainable Tourism Initiatives

  1. Cambodia’s Phare Circus
    First unveiled in 2013, the Phare Circus has drawn a large tourist and local crowd over the years and has even organized tours and private performances across the world. The stories they showcase through their acts are an authentic look into Khmer history and culture. By telling stories through performance, the circus promotes Cambodian art both domestically and overseas. The Phare Circus is an initiative of Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang (PPSA), which translates to The Brightness of the Arts, a nonprofit school founded in 1994 with the mission of helping young people cope with war trauma through art. All students are able to participate for free and can even move on to work for the Phare Performing Social Enterprise (PPSE), the parent company of Phare and the Circus. Both the PPSA and the PPSE are true definitions of sustainable tourism. The circus returns 75 percent of profits to the educational program and school, who in turn work on creating employment opportunities for Cambodian artists. Like the circus, Phare’s other social businesses under PPSE, such as the Phare Productions International and the Phare Creative Studio, create a reliable income to sustain the school. 
  2. Hotel Bom Bom on Príncipe Island
    Hotel Bom Bom is a bungalow resort situated on São Tomé and Príncipe, an island nation located 155 miles off the northwestern coast of Gabon. The hotel promotes water and recycling projects launched by the Príncipe Island World Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO and invites tourists to take part in these programs. Hotel guests, for example, can participate by exchanging 50 plastic bottles for one “Biosphere Bottle,” a reusable type of water container, which guests can fill up at one of the 13 water stations around the island. In total, 220,000 plastic bottles have been collected since December 2013. Preserving the local environment positively influences the livelihood of the native community.
  3. Prainha do Canto Verde, Brazil
    The native land of Prainha do Canto Verde, a coastal village located in the northeastern Brazillian state of Ceará has been threatened by illegal fishing and tourism development projects. As a result, the community decided to create its own tourism council in 1998. Since then, community tourism has come to represent 15 percent of the town’s source of income. Many of the initiatives they offer include “posadas,” or community inns, workshops and crafts, cooking, cultural activities and native fishing. The posadas are a true example of community-based tourism. Local residents offer up a few rooms in their homes to tourists. One posada, “Sol e Mar,” features a restaurant, garden, and six rooms which can accommodate up to 18 guests. Many families that run posadas end up registering with the Ministry of Tourism and joining the community’s council. It is an enriching experience for the locals that also improves living standards within the native community. Additionally, it allows locals to craft tourism activities and opportunities themselves so that there is little risk of endangerment to their culture. Overall, this tourism initiative in Prainha is actively working towards large goals to redistribute income and preserve the surrounding ecosystem of the village.

The Big Picture

When tourists support sustainable tourism, they are actively taking steps to meet locals, hear their experiences first-hand, and participate in greater causes to combat poverty in those regions. Sustainable tourism allows people to make a social impact on the place they are visiting and the initiatives mentioned above are just some of the few that are providing that opportunity.

– Melina Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

Tourism in Myanmar
Tourism in Myanmar has become a concern following the recent Rohingya crisis. Tourists and tourism organizations are debating whether it is safe or ethical to travel to the nation. But beyond the political issues, it is clear that tourism can benefit Myanmar‘s communities. In order to ensure tourism will have a direct, positive impact on the people of Myanmar, it is crucial for the tourism industry to employ local Burmese. Additionally, tourists can educate themselves about what they can do to help improve the livelihoods people in the regions they are traveling to.

While many have considered a boycott of Myanmar due to the state’s violence toward the Rohingya, the benefits of tourism for local communities are too important to lose. Liddy Pleasant, the managing director of Stubborn Mule Travel, says avoiding tourist travel to Myanmar would have a “profound impact on local people.

As the problem itself is political, a boycott of tourism to Myanmar would likely only hurt local populations without affecting the country’s leadership. Furthermore, many primary tourist sites are located far from the areas where the persecutions of Rohingya are happening, meaning the tourism economy does not support these efforts. It also means that tourists should not feel unsafe traveling to Myanmar.

Boosting Tourism in Kayah State

Currently, most tourism in Myanmar is to six main regions: Bagan, Inle Lake, Yangon, Mandalay, Kyaikhto and Ngapali Beach. According to the International Trade Centre, expanding tourism to other regions of the nation could help those areas benefit economically. One target area is Kayah, a state in eastern Myanmar. As one of the poorest states in the country, ITC started working on increasing tourism in Kayah with the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, Union of Myanmar Travel Association, Myanmar Ministry of Commerce and Myanmar Tourism Marketing in 2014.

In building the tourism industry in Kayah, the main goal is to enrich local people and businesses. Working with a variety of Kayah’s residents — including the youth, the elderly and people from various ethnic backgrounds — companies have started offering cultural tours. The Kayah tourism sector primarily employs local residents as guides for cultural tourism. In particular, these companies offer opportunities for ethnic minorities, many of whom have recently returned to the country after being displaced.

Overall, the work in Kayah provides a model for how all tourism in Myanmar should develop, focusing on providing job opportunities, particularly in low-income areas. The project has had success in growing tourism to the region, with tourism increasing by 140 percent between 2014 and 2016. As the tourism sector in Kayah continues to grow, perhaps companies can extend similar efforts to other parts of Myanmar, thereby benefiting impoverished Burmese.

Tourist Considerations and Responsibilities

Ideally, all tourism sites would have a positive impact on the local population. Therefore, tourists need to make the effort to educate themselves on the areas they are traveling to if they want to support local communities and businesses.

One consideration is respect for the culture. Due to religious beliefs, men and women should dress appropriately while in Myanmar. This generally involves wearing pants and covering the shoulders and upper arms. It is also important to communicate with locals, asking them questions about their culture and trying to learn about their way of life.

If there are concerns about financially contributing to the government of Myanmar, the solution is to go local by shopping at markets, eating in local restaurants, hiring local tour guides and purchasing craft products made by local Burmese. This is the primary way that local communities benefit from tourism and can have a direct impact on the livelihoods of people tourists come into contact with.

Tourists should also take care not to contribute to the abundance of waste Littering is a huge problem caused by tourism in Myanmar. Garbage builds up on riverbanks, turning them into landfill sites. The nation is currently struggling to keep up with waste disposal. In general, minimize waste. In some cases, it may be better to take items back home with you and dispose of them safely.

Overall, the tourism sector in Myanmar needs to continue so the people of the country can economically benefit. Meanwhile, tourists can educate themselves about the political situation in Myanmar and decide for themselves whether they feel it is right to travel there. If they do, it is important to focus on supporting local communities and businesses to positively impact the livelihoods of many.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Tourism in PakistanIn recent years, Pakistan has witnessed a surge in the number of tourists from around the world. This positive change is not only welcomed by the government agencies but also the private businesses and the local people. According to a CNN report in 2017, Pakistan saw in increase of around 200,000 more tourists this year than the year before, about 1.7 million foreigners. Moreover, the annual tourist arrival has tripled since 2013, as reported by The Pakistan Tourism Development Corp (PTDC).

The restoration of tourism in Pakistan will not only benefit the country’s overall economy but will also enhance its image in the eyes of the people who enjoy activities such as hiking in snow-capped mountains, walking on beaches, trying a variety of food and appreciating the rich historical heritage and diverse cultures.

The Ultimate Back-Packing Destination

Pakistan’s perception as a tourist destination has been marred by the political instability for a very long time. But professional tourists like Will Hatton are helping to change the image of the country and its people by their first-hand experiences. Hatton describes Pakistan as the “ultimate adventure back-packing destination” and Pakistanis as “the most hospitable, kind and welcoming people” he had encountered. The people always insisted on feeding him and showed him around their local towns like royalty.

He also recounts that Pakistanis are fiercely anti-Taliban and most locals can speak some English. They are highly protective and caring about their guests. The portrayal of Pakistan in the mainstream western media augments the misperception about the country as a war-torn region. However, in reality, the Pakistani armed forces are combatting the extremist militants in the border regions to keep the country, its inhabitants and its visitors safe.

The increased security and the ease of obtaining visas will undoubtedly attract more tourists from around the world and also within the region. Moreover, tourism in Pakistan can benefit from better branding and media coverage. In a report in The British Backpacker Society, Pakistan was ranked as the number one adventure travel destination for 2018 among 20 other countries. A lot of this has to do with aspects ranging from the hospitality of the people to the wildness of the Himalayan mountains.

Despite their rough terrains and lofty peaks (five out of 14 world’s highest peaks present in Pakistan), the mountainous regions are quite accessible due to expertly engineered roads and one of the world’s highest paved highways, the Karokoram Highway. The Karakoram connects China with Pakistan and gains an elevation up to 4,693 meters (15,397 ft) above the sea level.

History and Culture

Pakistan is not only the cradle ground from Indus Valley Civilization but it also consists of several relics from the Gandhara Civilization to the Mughal era. Among the greatest cultural treasures of Pakistan are the Gurdwaras – the sacred shrines of the Sikh religion. Pakistan is also the birthplace of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.

Since Pakistanis welcome thousands of Sikh pilgrims from India and other countries around the world every year, improved geopolitical relations between India and Pakistan and better perception about tourism in Pakistan can be immensely beneficial in supporting both the Pakistani locals and the Sikh communities from around the world.

Apart from its cultural allure, Pakistan also is a great destination for an economical trip. The transportation, food and accommodation are relatively inexpensive. According to Hatton, a weekly budget of $100 would suffice. The rich ancient sites, the mesmerizing natural landscapes and the remarkably amiable dwellers make Pakistan a great destination for many tourists around the globe.

Regaining Its Reputation as a Tourist Destination

In the 1970s, Pakistan was a tourist hotspot and until the mid-90s, hotels were booked a year in advance. All this had suffered due to instability in the region. The government and the local people, realizing the negative impact that the political volatility has had on tourism, are working hard to revive tourism in Pakistan.

The Pakistani tourism industry, partnered with security agencies and private companies, has improved greatly. According to Jovago, the top hotel booking and e-commerce site in Pakistan, hotel bookings have increased by 80-90 percent in 2017, compared to the bookings in the previous years. This not only means greater revenue for the hotels and other local businesses but also a significant contribution in the GDP of the country.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) estimated that the total contribution of tourism toward Pakistan’s economy was about $19.4 billion or 6.9 percent of the GDP, in 2017. Within a decade, this is projected to rise to $36.1 billion.

Improving tourism in Pakistan is perhaps one of the most viable ways to bring about a more realistic perception of the country’s landscape and population. Pakistan has a lot to offer. It is a county of cultural riches ranging from Gandharan relics to tombs from the Mughal era. It is a country of raging rivers and vast lengths of serene deserts. But, probably most importantly, Pakistan is a country of generous and warm people, who would invite their guests into their homes and serve them with the best food and comfort they can provide.

– Fariha Khalid
Photo: Unsplash

ecotourism in sri lanka
Elephants, whales, dolphins, eagles and mangrove forests are just a few aspects of Sri Lankan nature that give rise to the increasing popularity and benefits of ecotourism in Sri Lanka.

Tourism in Sri Lanka

Tourism, in general, is rapidly increasing in Sri Lanka. The surge in number of tourists seeking Sri Lanka’s nature brought initial exploitation and misuse of nature by locals trying to capitalize on the quickly accelerating business. However, ecotourism in Sri Lanka and efforts from others inspire more protection and the growth of sustainable tourism.

While further improvement efforts are still needed, nature is now more recognized by Sri Lankan locals and government as a valuable resource that needs protection and intelligent management. Only this kind of treatment will continue bringing income and other benefits.

The number of tourists visiting Sri Lanka hovered around 200,000 to 500,000 per year for the past three decades. However, in 2011, that number raised to about 850,000 tourists, which reached beyond two million tourists in 2016. While the number of tourists visiting Sri Lanka has drastically increased in the past few years, the average length of stay has consistently remained the same since at least the 1970s – about 10 nights.

A Nation’s Economy

Those 11 days and 10 nights of tourists pouring their money into Sri Lanka’s economy combined with the drastic increase in number of tourists in the past few years has caused the tourism sector to become an important core of Sri Lanka’s Foreign Exchange (FE) earners. Ranking third in 2016 behind worker’s remittances at 29 percent and textiles/garments at 19 percent, tourism brought 14 percent of Sri Lanka’s FE earnings.

Undoubtedly, tourism is becoming an increasingly important and beneficial part of Sri Lanka’s economy that helps to reduce poverty and empower local communities. The surge in tourism presents economic benefits, stark challenges and sustainability issues as businesses seek to capitalize.

Elephants

For example, elephants are one of the major tourist draws, and they have been (and some still are) horribly abused by Sri Lankan locals trying to make a profit from tourists. Many tourists are not aware of the extreme suffering captive elephants undergo in the businesses offering elephant rides.

Some good news is that many local Sri Lankans, international animal protectors and ecotourists are trying to put an end to the suffering of elephants in Sri Lanka’s tourism industry while also providing alternative tourism income. There are now sanctuaries for elephants to rescue the creatures from abusive businesses and provide acreage and veterinary care for the rescued elephants to heal and retire.

The Sri Lanka Wildlife and Conservation Society (SLWCS) is a non-profit organization working to bring harmony between humans, elephants and nature in Sri Lanka. SLWCS focuses on sustainable economic development, conservation and field research. New Life Elephant Sanctuary (NLES) is a project of SLWCS, with goals of providing medical care and protected nature habitat for rescued elephants, educating people and transforming tourism into a co-existence format that doesn’t hurt the elephants.

Ecotourists are drawn to spending their money on visiting wildlife sanctuaries such as NLES rather than abusive businesses. As general tourism and ecotourism in Sri Lanka grows, so do organizations such as SLWCS, regulations and improvements in environmental management.

Mangroves

Mangrove ecosystems also provide an option for the development of sustainable ecotourism in Sri Lanka. Although Sri Lanka’s mangrove ecosystems were hit hard during the 2004 tsunami, local communities, experts and organizations work to restore them.

Mangroves provide locals with tourism income as they continue to heal from tsunami damage. The trees not only provide opportunity for sustainable tourism income, but they also offer a habitat for unique species and act as a buffer protection shield for inland Sri Lanka against tsunamis and other storms.

Exclusive Economic Zone and the DWC

In addition to nature that can be used as economic resources within the country, Sri Lanka also has sovereign rights to an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) — an area that includes 510,000 square kilometers of ocean extending 200 nautical miles beyond its shore.

It is now illegal in Sri Lanka to go whale or dolphin watching without paying a park fee for a permit from the Department of Wildlife and Conservation (DWC). Also, since 2013, fishing licenses are now required for any fishing activities, and registration certificates must be obtained for any boats intended as fishing vessels.

Prioritization of Both Tourism and Nature

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) also helps Sri Lankans deal sustainably with issues connected to its increasing numbers of tourists and urbanization. In September 2017, USAID granted $625,000 to organizations in Sri Lanka for proper waste management, including recycling and to “create livelihood and income generating opportunities such as composting and the sale of recyclable and reusable plastics.”

Overall, initially poor management of the surge of tourism and mishandling of nature in Sri Lanka led to eventual increase in protections for animals, conservation of land and more sustainable ways to share nature with tourists. While continued and expanded efforts are still needed, increasing conservation efforts from locals, assistance from USAID and eco-friendly choices of ecotourists are helping Sri Lankans realize longer-lasting economic benefits of their sustainable tourism and nature.

– Emme Leigh
Photo: Flickr

Reasons for Indonesia’s Resilience
Indonesia is a beautiful country home to over 18,000 islands, the komodo dragon, jungle elephants, beautiful beaches and incredible volcanoes. Its beauty brings tourism and natural resources, but there is still high poverty rates that the Indonesian government is determined to decrease. Despite challenges of poverty and natural disasters, here are the main reasons for Indonesia’s resilience.

Indonesia Learns from the Past

Indonesia is particularly exposed to natural disasters such as volcanoes, flooding earthquakes and tsunamis. Over the last ten years Indonesia has undergone multiple earthquakes with over a 6.0 magnitude. Of the more recent earthquakes, the most devastating was one that hit Sumatra at the end of September 2009 with a 7.6 magnitude that caused over a 1000 casualties.

The history of natural disasters coupled with a high risk of more to come has fortified the Indonesian government to be ready for any future events. In April of 2012, Indonesia’s National Tsunami Warning Center alerted the Banda Aceh community of a tsunami threat.

Luckily the earthquake did not create a tsunami, and the alarm went off as intended, but misunderstood and confused procedures lead to panic and disorder. However, events like these contribute towards finding the holes, implementing solutions and ultimately, fixing the problems. Many locations like Banda Aceh have now marked evacuation routes and built safety shelters.

Fighting Poverty

At 10.2 percent, Indonesia’s poverty rate is the lowest it’s ever been. With a population of about 261 million, the fourth largest in the world, Indonesia still hosts over 26 million people living below the poverty line. However, the nation’s standard of living and social assistance increased over the last twenty years.

In particular, the poverty rate dropped about 5 percent over the last ten years. The National Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro acknowledged the need for further improvement and hoped to see the rate drop to under 10 percent in the near future.

Growing Tourism and Economic Strength

With so many beautiful attributes, it’s not hard to believe that Indonesia’s tourism rose from a little over 12 million tourists in 2015 to over 14 million in 2017. The growing tourism industry goes a long way towards helping Indonesia make comebacks.

Even when the worldwide slowdown hit after 2011, Indonesia still received an increasing number of foreign tourists — 7.65 million in 2011, 8.04 in 2012 and 8.8 million in 2013. 

Indonesia has the tenth largest economy in the world for purchasing power. The nation’s gross domestic product grew from $861.3 billion in 2015 to $932.3 billion in 2016.

This bounce-back occurred after a dip in the GDP output but was still an overall increase. The government is still looking for ways to strengthen the economy, such as outing corruption by strengthening the legal framework or improving infrastructure by decreasing fuel and electricity subsidies.

Looking at the Long-Term Goal

Powerful changes, such as those listed for the building economic strength, will help to make Indonesia more attractive for foreign investment. However, some changes — such as cutting fuel subsidies — can result in a short-term struggle causing many citizens to become dissatisfied.

If the country can make it past the initial difficulty, the eventual removal of the subsidies will lead to long-term gain. Indonesia’s ability to recognize what sacrifices will lead to longevity is one of many reasons for Indonesia’s resilience, and a hopeful sign for the future. 

– Natasha Komen
Photo: Flickr

Tourism Alleviates Poverty
Tourism is one of the fastest growing economic sectors; in fact, the number of international travelers hit 1 billion in 2012. That same year, tourism accounted for 9 percent of global GDP and 5 percent of global exports. This rapid growth has raised the question of how and whether tourism alleviates poverty. Salli Felton, the acting chief executive of the Travel Foundation, stated that tourism is “the largest transfer of resources from rich to poor.”  It may be the largest, but is it the best?

Tourism, The Industry

Tourism as a method of economic growth and poverty alleviation has advantages and disadvantages. In the most direct way, tourism can help to create jobs for low skilled workers. The tourism sector was responsible for over 260 million jobs worldwide in 2010—about 1 in 11.

These jobs in the tourism industry also help reboot other sectors of the economy, in turn creating indirect employment: 1 job in the tourism field generates roughly 1.5 additional jobs in other related areas such as construction, utilities, textile, transport and agriculture. The vast array of goods and services that tourism requires — infrastructure, roads, power, water, airports, hotels and resorts, restaurants, entertainment — leads to a more dynamic and wider economy at large.

Tourism’s great appeal for developing countries lies in its accessibility for communities often detached from other means of economic development i.e. island nations and rural areas. In fact, tourism is one of the 5 largest sources of exports for 69 developing countries, and the largest source for 28.

Tourism’s Attraction and Reliability

Many island areas hold draw for tourist activity—beautiful beaches, warm weather, and rich culture—but lack the connectivity to grow in other ways. On some island states, tourism is responsible for nearly 25 percent of the nation’s GDP. However, if not introduced in a sustainable way, it is not the case that tourism alleviates poverty or even helps to develop a country’s economy.

Often, tourism is not a reliable source of revenue as it is extremely sensitive to environmental and political fluctuations. Tourist towns are also susceptible to seasonal demand, making consistency difficult to achieve.

Many instances of tourist expansion come at the expense of local populations and can lead to exploitation. For instance, competition over resources between locals and tourist may ensue, as well as ecological degradation and loss of cultural tradition or heritage. In some cases, developing countries turn towards importing food, equipment, labor and other goods to meet the expectations of vacationers; as a consequence, these actions redirect revenues away from the local community.

Making Tourism Sustainable

In order to combat the negative effects of tourism, growth must be sustainable—that is, activities must be beneficial to the people of the host country. Sustainable practice can be ensured on a number of levels.

Governments can become involved in regulating environmental impacts and incentivize locally-sourced resources and labor. Large resorts can also partner with local communities. For instance, the Ritz Carlton hooked up with nearby organizations on children’s issues, hunger and poverty across their numerous locations.

Finally, tourists themselves can research which hotels or resorts are affiliated with sustainable certification programs and/or have local residents as staff. Tourists can also get outside of hotel and resort walls to use their purchasing power to help the economy by eating local, shopping local and using local guides.

If implemented in a sustainable manner, tourism alleviates poverty and lessens hardships associated with poverty related issues. However, due to the inconsistent nature of activity, tourism is not a catch-all response to poverty eradication, but rather a step in the right direction.

– Jessie Serody
Photo: Flickr