Rwanda’s Ecotourism IndustryThe Rwandan genocide in 1994 was a national tragedy resulting in an estimated 800,000 deaths in a period of 100 days. However, 27 years after the massacre, the small, landlocked nation of 12 million people is thriving. A mix of social and political factors has contributed to a thriving nation. Rwanda’s ecotourism industry also plays a significant role in alleviating national poverty.

A Closer Look at Rwanda

Over the past quarter-century, Rwanda changed its course, moving positively toward economic growth and increased prosperity. According to the World Bank, poverty in Rwanda declined substantially from 2001 to 2017, dropping from 77% to 55%. Since 1994, Rwanda has maintained political stability. Stability allowed the country to develop a cost-free and compulsory primary education system with “one of the highest primary enrollment” rates in sub-Saharan Africa.

The country instituted a universal healthcare program and made great strides in legislative gender equality. In 2019, women made up 61% of Rwanda’s parliament. The percentage of female parliamentary representation is substantially greater than most western democracies. Continued economic and social growth is necessary in order to continue poverty reduction progress.

The Role of Rwanda’s Ecotourism Industry

The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people and involves interpretation and education.” Ecotourism can be a tool to unite communities, build environmental awareness and grow underdeveloped economies across the world. Over the past 27 years, Rwanda capitalized on this opportunity and created a growing ecotourism industry.

Tourists flock to Rwanda to wander through hiking trails in the country’s four national parks. Others are drawn specifically to the bamboo forests where visitors can see mountain gorillas, an endangered species, in their natural habitat. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Rwanda is one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations in the world. The tourism sector in Rwanda is “more than 80% nature-based,” indicating that ecotourism forms a substantial part of the tourism sector.

Tourism in Rwanda

Rwanda’s tourism sector experienced its highest annual growth in 2019, netting more than $498 million and attracting an estimated 1.63 million tourists. For the past seven years, “tourism has been ranked as the first foreign currency earner in Rwanda,” contributing 14.9% of Rwanda’s GDP in 2018.

Rwanda’s tourism sector has increased jobs and significantly contributes to the overall growth of the country’s economy. Tourism in Rwanda employs more than 3% of the labor force. For the Rwandan government, tourism is a critical tool for alleviating national poverty, explicit in both policy and poverty reduction strategies. Not only does tourism create jobs but the wealth generated from a booming tourism industry can help facilitate a country like Rwanda in its ability to access clean water, reliable energy and sanitation services.

“Africa’s tourism industry continues to flourish and supports more than 21 million jobs, and for the developing countries, tourism is an enormous tool for sustainable development,” says Mukhisa Kituyi, former secretary-general of UNCTAD.

How COVID-19 Impacts Rwanda

Pre-pandemic, Rwanda was experiencing an economic boom. In 2019, the economy grew by more than 10%, on its way to grow further in 2020. Instead, due to COVID-19, Rwanda’s economy shrank, with a projected decrease in GDP of 0.2%. As a result of COVID-19, the World Bank projected that poverty rates would increase by 5.1%, placing an additional 550,000 Rwandans in poverty in 2021. Overall unemployment rose from 13% in February 2020 to 22% in May 2020 and 60% of workers who remained employed saw significant salary decreases.

As the pandemic forced global recessions and travel restrictions, Rwanda’s ecotourism industry took a major hit. Tourism was expected to decrease by more than 70% worldwide in 2020. Rwanda’s finance minister, Uzziel Ndagijimana, confirmed that in March and April 2020, the tourism industry missed out on roughly $10 million in revenue.

The Road to Rwanda’s Recovery

Since reopening in the summer of 2019, Rwanda’s growing ecotourism industry shows signs of recovery. While international tourism rates are down, domestic tourism rates are up in comparison to past years. According to Rwanda’s leading daily newspaper, The New Times, increased domestic tourism is expected to restore a revenue sharing program where the Rwandan government will redistribute the earnings from domestic tourism to communities living in and around the visited national parks. This policy is likely to enhance the growing ecotourism sector and aid communities that have suffered economically throughout the pandemic.

-Zoe Tzanis
Photo: Flickr

Safari Rally Can HelpThe Kenyan Safari Rally is a car racing event “first held in Kenya in 1953 to commemorate the coronation of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.” The Safari Rally became inactive for almost 20 years “due to concerns over safety, organization and finances.” Now, in 2021, the car racing event is making a comeback in Kenya. The event may be an important source of revenue for Kenya as it has the potential to increase tourism in the country. The revival of the Safari Rally can help Kenya since the country’s “economic outlook remains highly uncertain” due to COVID-19.

Impact of COVID-19 on Kenyan Tourism

From 2009 to 2019, the tourism sector’s GDP value in Kenya grew by about $4 billion. Since almost 40% of Kenya’s youth experience unemployment, a growing tourism industry has the potential to provide employment opportunities, thus reducing poverty in the country. International tourism in Kenya is more profitable than domestic tourism with arrivals of more than two million tourists between 2018 and 2019. However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, pandemic-induced restrictions have limited the economic potential of tourism in Kenya.

As is the case for most countries, COVID-19 harshly impacted Kenya’s tourism and hospitality sector with a loss of more than $500 million in hotel revenue alone. Due to decreased travel in 2020, more than 36,000 airline workers in Kenya were at risk of unemployment. According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed an additional two million Kenyans into impoverished circumstances due to job losses, wage cuts and reduced household income. The Safari Rally offers hope to a struggling Kenyan economy, providing a chance to revitalize the tourism sector after the harsh impacts of the pandemic.

How the Safari Rally Can Help Tourism

By hosting 24 foreign and 34 Kenyan drivers, the Safari Rally will boost not only international tourism but also domestic tourism. Domestic tourism is just as important as international tourism in preventing tourism-based economies from collapsing during the pandemic. The Safari Rally enables local Kenyan residents to travel to the race venues to support Kenya as domestic tourists.

The hospitality industry will see a rise in activity as sponsors and participants in the Safari Rally book hotels for accommodation. A Kenyan betting company, Betika, sponsors the event along with companies such as Toyota. The event will increase the prominence of Kenyan businesses harmed by the lack of sporting activities due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Additionally, the Safari Rally will give Kenyans a chance to boost their sporting culture and patriotism. The itinerary of the race consists of 18 stages that pass through key tourist attraction sites in Kenya. Locations such as Lake Naivasha and other wildlife conservancies give spectators and participants a chance to enjoy the sight of lions, leopards, giraffes and elephants, all while boosting the Kenyan economy.

The Road to Economic Recovery

While tourism may have been the worst-hit sector globally, for developing countries it may be a way to escape the economic impacts of the global pandemic. The Safari Rally can help Kenya by offering Kenya’s tourism sector an opportunity to recover, igniting economic growth and reducing poverty in the country.

– Frank Odhiambo
Photo: Flickr

Morocco's EconomyPreviously, a myriad of tourists had visited Morocco to explore its diverse culture, food, landscapes, history and people. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation has faced a devastating economic crisis. Without its regular influx of tourists or traveling diaspora, Morocco is in the depths of a recession for the first time since 1995. The government is working to ensure that Morocco’s economy can recover from the pandemic.

5 Ways Morocco’s Economy is Recovering

  1. The Mohammed VI Investment Fund: In November 2020, King Mohammed VI established a $1.6 billion economic plan to revive Morocco’s economy due to the economic crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic brought on. Shortly afterward, the International Finance Corporation, as part of the World Bank Group, officially announced its support for the Moroccan Ministry of Economy and Finance’s efforts to boost the country’s economy.
  2. Moroccan Transportation Companies Decrease Prices: In June 2021, King Mohammed VI announced that all transportation companies must make tickets more affordable for Moroccans living abroad. The announcement targeted airlines such as Royal Air Maroc, which dropped flight ticket prices by more than 50% globally. Within a few days of the announcement, flights were being booked much faster than before. During the first week of discounted airline ticket prices, 195,547 people traveled to Morocco.
  3. Other Discounts for Tourists: Airline discounts are not the only thing Morocco’s economy is relying on to attract travelers. All forms of transportation in Morocco, from car rentals to train and bus tickets, have decreased in price. Additionally, 30% of hotel prices have decreased.
  4. More Visitors: International travel restrictions drastically affected tourism, causing a 78% deficit in the sector’s revenue in the first quarter of 2021. In response, the Moroccan government established a new economic plan that specifically targeted revenue from tourism. Now, tourism is surging more than it ever has since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, 12 million tourists visited Morocco, half of whom were Moroccans living abroad. From June to September 2021, Morocco will see 72% of the visitors it saw in the same period in 2019, or around 3.5 million travelers.
  5. Rapid Tourism Sector Rebound: Morocco’s tourism sector suffered a loss of $7.2 billion in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic hit small businesses and tourism hotspots hard, especially during national lockdowns. However, these businesses are benefiting from the country’s new economic plan. Travel reopenings are also catalyzing Morocco’s economic recovery.

Laudable Economic Growth

Despite the effects of COVID-19 on Morocco’s economy, the World Bank ranked it 53rd out of 190 countries for ease of doing business in 2020, reflecting its laudable economic achievements within merely a decade. With King Mohammed VI’s plan in place, the country’s setbacks hardly seem significant. The restoration of Morocco’s economy is underway and the country’s effervescent tourism sector is back on the rise.

– Nora Zaim-Sassi
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccination in San MarinoSan Marino is a small Southern European state surrounded by Italy. Despite having a small population of just 33,000 people and a mountainside location, the country is surprisingly one of the wealthiest in the world based on GDP per capita. San Marino acquires most of its wealth from tourism and the sale of local goods. However, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic nearly destroyed the country’s tourism industry. The campaign for COVID-19 vaccinations in San Marino will allow the economy to recover as industries begin to reopen, igniting economic activity.

The Impact of COVID-19

In terms of the poverty rate in San Marino, minimal data exists. But, like the rest of the world, San Marino’s economy has also experienced adverse impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, tourism rates decreased due to stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions. Before the pandemic, the small country averaged around two million tourists in 2019, a clear indication of the significant economic role of the tourism sector. With regard to COVID-19 rates, San Marino has confirmed 5,092 cases and 90 deaths. The campaign for COVID-19 vaccinations in San Marino has been successful due to small population numbers and a steady supply of vaccines.

COVID-19 Vaccinations in San Marino

All of San Marino’s people have either been partially or completely vaccinated against COVID-19. The country administered mostly Sputnik V vaccines after signing a deal with Russia. Starting May 17, 2021, San Marino is offering a COVID-19 vaccine holiday package to boost tourism with an incentive. The holiday package allows non-residents access to vaccines in San Marino by booking accommodation for a certain duration at one of 19 hotels.

“The initiative is open only to those coming from countries that Italy has opened up to for tourism.” Two separately administered Sputnik V doses are available at a cost of €50. To receive the second dose of the vaccine, tourists must return to the country and stay in a hotel for at least three days. This way, San Marino makes up for its loss of tourism revenue while helping to eradicate the virus with vaccines.

The Road to Recovery

More than 66% of the population has been fully vaccinated through the campaign for COVID-19 vaccinations in San Marino. With no patients hospitalized for COVID-19, the country is effectively controlling its COVID-19 infections. With an adequate vaccine supply to cover its population, San Marino has found an innovative way to put the vaccine surplus to good use while boosting the tourism industry. The COVID-19 vaccination holiday package in San Marino is a unique solution to ignite economic recovery in the country. The offer has caught the attention of tourists who trust in the efficacy of the Sputnik V vaccine. Through innovative solutions, San Marino is finding creative  ways to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic

– Matt Orth
Photo: Flickr

Cuba's Private Sector
A couple of days after the closing of the Cuban border, 16,000 private workers, upon sensing danger, requested the labor ministry suspend their licenses so they could avoid paying taxes. That number rose to 119,000, 19% of the private workforce, in a few more days and threatened to annihilate the Cuban economy. The implementation of the global travel restrictions had a devasting impact on the country’s tourism sector, which is the second-largest revenue generator for the island nation. As a result, selective private businesses took a massive hit and the government lost a crucial foundation for foreign exchange. By December 2020, Cuban tourism had fallen by 16.5%, followed by an 11% drop in the country’s GDP. Worried by the lingering economic collapse, the government began opening Cuba’s private sector, providing Cubans with self-employment opportunities and allowing them to operate businesses in added sectors.

What Did the Government Do?

Previously, the communist-led government allowed Cubans to participate in merely 127 officially approved private sector activities. Some of the legalized activities included working as a barber, working in gastronomy or transportation or renting rooms to tourists. To expand the private sector, the government eliminated the previous list of 127 activities. Instead, it created a new list of 124 jobs prohibited in the private sector. The rest of the 2,000 legal activities, which the government recognized, will be open to Cubans. In the past, state-owned businesses have always dominated the Cuban economy. However, the private sector has managed to make a mark over recent years. Presently, 635,000 people occupy the private sector, which is roughly 14% of the Cuban workforce. The introduction of the long-awaited economic reform might increase diversification in the private sector and could spur economic growth for Cuba.

The Effects on Cuba and its People

The economic reform will allow Cubans to partake in additional economic activities. It will help eradicate bureaucracy in the governmental arrangements, as the Cubans will no longer have to manipulate their business documentations to fall under the list of legalized activities. Now, they only have to confirm that they are not running any business from the list of prohibited activities.

Further, the liberalization of the private sector will bring about a change in the career patterns of Cubans. Previously, apart from the underpaid state-run jobs, the only other viable option for Cubans were low-skilled jobs. Now, Cubans will have countless other opportunities in technical fields like engineering and economics. Still, professional fields like medicine, law and teaching could open to state employees only. Additionally, the opening of the private sector will increase employment opportunities, which will rapidly develop the private sector. Private business owners currently make up 13% of Cuba’s workforce. This number will spike due to the relaxation of the private sector.

The Future of Cuba’s Economy

Ricardo Torres, a pro-reform economist at the University of Havana’s Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy, stated that the opening up of Cuba’s private sector will diversify jobs and boost the GDP. This, in turn, triggered a shift in economic arrangements in Cuba. But the chances of the private sector dominating the economy soon are bleak, mainly due to the political settings of Cuba. Therefore, expectations have determined that state-owned businesses will direct the economy. Rather than rushing into free-market forces, the Cuban government must seek inspiration from other countries and establish a solid institutional framework. Several European states, the U.S., Japan and other East Asian countries have proved that by focusing on macro and microeconomic policies and planning and investing in citizens, an economic upliftment should be possible.

Cuba’s Relationship with the US

The economy was booming under the Barack Obama Administration. Things, however, took a turn when former President Donald Trump overturned Obama’s agreement to ease travel restrictions on Cuba. Donald Trump also ended the U.S. cruise travel to Cuba, disallowed many Cuban Americans to send remittances back home, pressured a U.S.-run hotel out of Cuba, forced countries not to hire Cuban doctors and nurses during the pandemic and re-enlisted Cuba on the list of countries that sponsor state terrorism. Cuban businesses suffered a great deal due to this. The labor reform could not have been timelier for the Cuban government as it could present a sturdy case for amendments in the U.S. policy.

One of Obama’s main objectives was to expand the private sector in Cuba. Therefore, on the back of the opening of the private sector and the appointment of Joe Biden as President, the Cuban government can look to persuade the U.S. to consider a policy reform. Although Cuban had to wait a long time for labor reform, it is crucial to mend unemployment rates, boost the GDP and restore Cuba’s unsteady economy through Cuba’s private sector.

– Prathamesh Mantri
Photo: Flickr

Housing Crisis in VeniceVenice’s resident population is drastically shrinking, from around 175,000 people within its boundaries after World War II to about 50,000 today. Despite this small number, the high cost of housing and the lucrativeness of the tourism industry leads to many homeowners turning properties into short-term tourist rentals. Estimates indicate that 25 million people visit Venice every year and 14 million of those people only stay for a day. This precarious economy reliant on tourism increasingly proves itself to be unsustainable due to high housing costs relative to resident income. Fortunately, Nicola Ussardi, the co-founder of Social Assembly for the House (ASC) is trying to address the housing crisis in Venice.

The Housing Crisis in Venice

In a nutshell, Venice has become the “world capital” of tourism which has predictably led to overtourism — a term the World Tourism Organization uses to describe “the impact of tourism on a destination, or parts thereof, that excessively influences perceived quality of life of citizens and/or quality of visitor experiences in a negative way.” To put this into perspective, more than 20 million tourists visit Venice per year but loses about 1,000 residents in the same span of time. The remaining citizens face tough financial situations with regard to housing costs. Property owners have the option to keep their buildings affordable for locals or transform their properties into short-term rentals and make a potential windfall profit.

More than 8,000 Airbnb apartments in the city point to a frustrating reality of the housing crisis in Venice that Ussardi’s grassroots movement concerns itself with. For ages, Venice has relied on mass tourism for the overall well-being of the country but it is increasingly obvious that it also has a negative impact on citizens. Ussardi’s plan to provide housing circumvents traditional methods of applying for and receiving public housing. Ussardi says that many public housing properties have fallen into disrepair. Even abandoned convents become hotels instead of public housing.

Assembly for the House (ASC)

Assembly for the House is a housing community that focuses on finding homes for Venetians who have to leave their residences due to the rising cost of rent. People who lose their homes can count on ASC to locate uninhabited, abandoned or dilapidated spaces, repair them for occupancy and move them in. ASC also works with residents to block evictions.

In essence, ASC not only lobbies the government for fairer housing practices but also finds abandoned homes for people to occupy. This applies a communal face to the crisis in a kind, albeit unconventional approach to ensuring shelter for the people of Venice.

How Assembly for the House Helps

Assembly for the House hosts 150 people in Cannaregio and Giudecca, two working-class neighborhoods in Venice. Emanuela Lanzarin is a social services assessor for the region and plainly admits that while ASC’s actions are illegal, there are also not enough public houses to meet demand. Shockingly, 2011 is the last time a Venetian received a public apartment.

For people like Simonetta Boni and Davide de Polo, two Venice residents who lost their homes after steep rent increases and ineffective social services, ASC provided housing spaces at a crucial time. De Polo said, “We [occupiers] are the alternative to the death of Venice.” The Assembly for the House is helping facilitate that alternative.

This uncommon approach from a nonprofit focused on ending the housing crisis in Venice is providing necessary housing assistance to citizens who otherwise would not have a roof over their heads. Ussardi is an inspiring example of a citizen taking action to solve a crisis that the government has overlooked.

Spencer Daniels
Photo: Flickr

Tourism-Economies
Everyone loves a good vacation or at least it is easy to think that while walking on a white-sand beach and sipping a Mai Tai. The truth lurking behind the tranquility of remote island temples and the prestige of historical landmarks is that tourist economies are not all sunshine and smooth sailing. With off-seasons that take up a large portion of the year and uncertain demand, tourism-economies may be more vulnerable to pitfalls than industrial or agriculture-based economies. The following countries exemplify the great promise and instability of tourism-economies.

Indonesia

Tourism in Indonesia is one of the main draws for foreign currency. In 2018, the number of people coming in from outside of Indonesia rose 12.6% to about 15.8 million. One of the biggest draws in tourism is culture. Countries that do well in tourism carry significant cultural influence in the area or have notable landmarks. For example, the world fetes Italy for its long history, art and cuisine. Meanwhile, statistics have shown that Indonesia underperforms in this sector compared to other countries in the region. Singapore, for example, draws in about 19 million people per year.

Bangladesh

Bangladesh is rapidly developing and this is an overall plus for the economy. However, it could bring a slight hiccup in the years to come. The nation’s main source of income, its textile industry, faces an imminent, irreversible decline with its graduation in development stages. Tourism could be Bangladesh’s biggest hope, with the industry contributing 10.4% to the global GDP. However, tourism only comprised 4.4% of Bangladesh’s GDP as of 2018, painting a bleak picture for the future of tourism. The country has been performing second to least successfully concerning popular destinations in Asia.

What might help is how well South Asia has been performing in tourism. Nations that have performed well in this area, like India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam, drew in 86% of the region’s total earnings in 2018 – a high Bangladesh was able to ride on the coattails of, as it attempted to market itself as a more desirable tourist destination. In recent years, Southeast and Southern Asia have demonstrated success in tourism, with respective 8% and 10% rates of growth.

One factor that greatly affects tourism is the visa facilities in a country. If tourists find the entry process to be too much of a hassle, they may be less inclined to vacation there. In India, a top-performing country in tourism, most of the world can easily obtain an e-Visa. In Bangladesh, however, in order for a person to gain a visa, many of their neighbors need to secure a visa beforehand. This further hampers an already struggling tourism industry.

Nigeria

Some have long thought of Nigeria as having great tourism potential, although obstacles in economic development stand in the way of meeting this full potential. Countries also have accommodation rates to take into account with tourism economies. Too steep a price may turn travelers off while not charging enough will undercut the profit potential of having a tourism economy to begin with. Since not all currencies convert equally, tourism-economies do well when they draw tourists from places with currencies that are more valuable to them. For example, Nigeria has this advantage over the U.S., with $1 being equal to 381.25 Nigerian Nairas. The average hotel rate in the U.S. was $131.21 per night as of 2019, while in Nigeria, the daily rate averaged anywhere in-between the equivalent of $27 and $128.

Relative Problems

Where tourism differs from other income-generating industries is that demand is less certain. If there is a use for a product, then a demand exists, and if there is a demand, then a country can profit by supplying for that demand. However, with tourism-economies, the “use” that creates demand is fickle, and as such, the success of the country “filling the supply” is less secure.

When the culture cannot compete, visas are too difficult to secure and prices just are not right, it does not just mean that the economy slows. People working in tourism potentially cannot generate an income, even if they can technically perform their jobs correctly. Travel trends and off seasons are out of the control of the low-to-middle income people working in the industry. For those already in a precarious financial situation, finding financial growth and stability in a tourism economy is incredibly difficult. In the past year, the global COVID-19 pandemic has also created further problems for the tourism industry.

Barefoot College International

With COVID-19, travel restrictions and business shutdowns, the tourism industry is all but entirely gone in most countries. As the earning potential of a tourism economy is insecure, some organizations strive to help populations attain more secure means of income. Barefoot College operates in more than 90 countries and is expanding across Africa, Latin America and South Asia.

Barefoot College has a variety of boots-on-the-ground efforts to help impoverished communities, including clean water and environmentally conscious health initiatives. It also has a strong education program that provides academic and practical skills that can help people increase their earning potential and make it easier for them to get jobs. Its focus is on digital education so that its work is accessible for people anywhere in the world.

After 40 years, 75,000 children have received an education, 65% of whom have been girls. From here, 40% of the children educated through Barefoot College have been able to enter their country’s mainstream education system. Of those educated through Barefoot College, 30% went on to become employed at jobs that required literacy. After graduating, 85% of those considering migrating decided to stay in their village to use their acquired knowledge and skills there.

While tourism-economies can be very profitable, changing factors such as a global pandemic cause many of these economies to be unstable. Organizations like Barefoot College help provide much-needed stability to tourism-economies. Moving forward, it is essential that more organizations work to find long-term economic solutions for countries that rely heavily on the tourism industry to help ensure a stable economic future.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Tourism in Latin America ReducesLatin America is a vast region with diverse weather, geography, culture and foods. Each year, millions of tourists flock to Latin America to enjoy its natural beauty. A vacation haven, tourism in Latin America is a driving force for economic development in the region. Furthermore, tourism in Latin America reduces poverty.

Tourism in Latin America

From the beaches of Cuba to the Andes mountains in Peru, any traveler can find a destination of their preference. The most visited countries in Latin America are Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. According to the World Bank, more than 113 million tourists traveled to Latin America in 2018, bringing $103 billion worth of revenue. Tourism in Latin America has created more than 15 million jobs, which accounts for 7.6% of all employment. Furthermore, international tourism contributes roughly $348 billion to the GDP of the countries in the region.

Ecotourism in Costa Rica

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Central America saw a 7.3% growth in its tourism sector, the biggest subregional growth in Latin America. Moreover, the country of Costa Rica has attracted millions of international visitors thanks to its ecotourism. Costa Rica is a leader in preserving its environment while attracting millions to come and enjoy its natural beauty. Beaches, rainforests, volcanoes and wildlife attract tourists which contributes to the economic development of the nation. A study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences correlates ecotourism with improving the lives of Costa Ricans. The study found those living near protected areas and parks saw a 16% reduction in poverty. Furthermore, tourism in the country accounts for 5% of the GDP.

Poverty Reduction in the Dominican Republic

Punta Cana is the dream destination for many, with captivating views of the ocean and exciting nightlife, the beach town welcomes 60% of all Dominican Republic’s tourists. Moreover, the country has benefited more from international tourism than any other Latin American nation. The tourism industry contributes to 9.5% of the island nation’s GDP. Even though poverty is still an issue for the country, extreme poverty decreased to 1.6% of the population in 2018. Furthermore, malnourishment has also decreased and life expectancy has increased. Tourism has steadily contributed to the well-being of Dominicans.

COVID-19 and Mexico

Mexico’s tourism is very important for its economy. Mexico is dependent on its tourism sector since it accounts for 16.1% of its GDP and employs nearly nine million people. Destinations such as Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo are very popular for tourists to visit. Furthermore, Mexico’s tourism was thriving until the COVID-19 pandemic brought challenges to the country. The pandemic brought a halt to tourism and hurt the economy of Mexico. Nonetheless, Mexico still manages to keep the industry alive. Mexico began to limit hotel and restaurant capacity to curtail the virus. Mexico is also working with the CDC to ensure U.S. travelers going back to the United States are returning uninfected. Even though tourism has decreased because of the pandemic, flights to the state of Quintana Roo, where Cancun and Tulum are located, were averaging 460 air arrivals compared to an average of 500 pre-pandemic.

Tourism and the Future

Tourism in Latin America has positively impacted many lives across the region. The U.N. acknowledges that tourism is a way for a developing country to economically sustain itself. Moreover, tourism in Latin America reduces poverty. Challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic put a setback to the growing tourism sector. Regardless, Latin America has an abundance of beauty and adventure, thus ensuring tourism will be kept alive once the pandemic is over.

– Andy Calderon Lanza
Photo: Flickr

Madagascar’s PovertyMadagascar, an island country located in the Indian Ocean, is one of the most impoverished countries in the world, with 75% of its population living in poverty in 2019. Due to the country’s insufficient infrastructure, isolated communities and history of political instability, the economy of Madagascar has long been incapacitated and heavily dependent on foreign aid to meet the basic needs of its people, with food being the most urgent. In recent times, Madagascar’s poverty has been further impacted by more crises amid the country’s continued search for economic stability.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Madagascar’s economy has drastically worsened and so has Madagascar’s poverty as a result. With an already frail economic climate before COVID-19, the pandemic has negatively affected both the rural and urban areas of Madagascar, as precautionary measures enforced by the government are obstructing the flow of food and job opportunities, further stifling the already impoverished. Movement restrictions, one of many precautionary measures being enforced by the government, have cornered the most poverty-susceptible households to stay in place versus finding labor opportunities through seasonally migrating. Without the freedom to move about and access markets, these rural households are hard-pressed to find food and urban households are feeling the economic effects of this as well.

Drought in Madagascar

About 1.6 million people in southern Madagascar have suffered from food shortages since 2016. The reason for this food shortage: drought. Ejeda is one of many Madagascar villages that finds its villagers trekking miles away from their homes to dig holes into sand beds around rivers in search of water. If water is found, these villagers are then tasked with transporting it miles back home. Three years of recurrent drought in southern Madagascar has almost entirely eradicated farming and crop yields.

Declining Tourism Industry

Tourism in Madagascar is a significant source of annual revenue for the country. Home to lush national parks and scenic beaches, it is estimated that the fallout of COVID-19 has taken away about half a billion dollars of tourism revenue from the country since the pandemic began. Travel restrictions in Madagascar have gradually been eased but the damage has been done as people are simply not traveling unnecessarily during COVID-19. This loss of tourism revenue has been widely felt as it has added to the people’s ongoing struggle with poverty in Madagascar.

Poverty in Madagascar continues to worsen due to COVID-19, drought and the ensuing loss of tourism. With an already feeble economy before these crises, poverty has been intensified in both rural and urban areas as these crises continue to play out.

The Good News

Madagascar’s poverty has increased but there is good news to be found. A dietician and missionary from Poland named Daniel Kasprowicz recently raised 700,000 PLN through an online fundraiser to build a medical facility for malnourished children. Construction on the building has already started, and as poverty is expected to increase throughout Madagascar for the foreseeable future, it is believed that the facility will be opened and treating the malnourished by February 2021. In a time of crucial need, foreign aid means life or death in Madagascar and no act of assistance goes unnoticed.

– Dylan James
Photo: Flickr

Tourism, the advantages, disadvantages and how to improve the practice
Around the world, 44 countries rely on tourism for at least 15% of their workforce and national GDP. Many of these countries are island nations or countries that don’t have a highly developed economy or business sector. As the United Nation’s agency, the World Tourism Organization, states, increased tourism can boost developing countries’ local economies, cultural discussion and job opportunities. However, if developing nations solely depend on the tourism sector and dismiss infrastructure development and other essential services, the disadvantages of tourism can outweigh the advantages.

The Advantages

For developing countries, the advantages of tourism tend to be primarily monetary. A large scale tourism industry prevents larger, more harmful businesses from working off the land. Small tourist companies that reign on the land stops large capitalistic corporations from polluting the air or gentrifying people’s homes.

The tourism industry encompasses many different travel areas, which allows the majority of a country’s population to be employed. These employment places include hotels, car rental agencies, restaurants, tour companies, souvenir shops, and equipment shops, among others.

Profit earned from tourism can be reinvested into the country for better infrastructure, education, funding conservation efforts and creating more responsible ways of touring. Without tourism, many countries would not have the same level of access to education and infrastructure. Moreover, tourism allows hosts and visitors to share cultures and meet diverse groups of people. Through respectful interactions, a broader view of the world from both parties can be achieved. By reinvesting the money earned back into the country, tourism and its attractions can grow, creating a positive cycle for the country.

The Disadvantages

With the way the tourism industry is currently run, the disadvantages of tourism may greatly outweigh the advantages in a country. The first factor to take into consideration is environmental damage. When a country has a high tourist attraction, the number of people occupying a space increases immensely. As a result, the release of carbon monoxide gases can increase due to plane and car use affecting the country’s environment. Many countries with ancient ruins or natural attractions are also in danger of destruction or erosion with significant foot traffic and human interaction. Additionally, flora and fauna can decrease in areas or change their growth and migration patterns when there is an overflow of humans interact. Foot traffic and continuous touching can also slowly degrade the stability of ancient structures.

One of the advantages breached upon the sharing of cultures. While this is a great interaction of beliefs and customs, it can become destructive to a host country’s culture. One of the ways cultures can be disrespected is through the commercialization of countries’ cultures. When tourism booms, large industries swoop in and sell figures of the cultures’ icons or traditional wear, disrespecting the countries’ indigenous beliefs and can be harmful to the people living there. Moreover, poor behavior from tourists who don’t respect the spoken or unspoken codes of conduct held by indigenous peoples also undermines the sacred beliefs held within the country.

Also, for many countries, tourism is a seasonal occurrence. For people that work in the tourism industry, their jobs are only viable for a certain number of months, and after the season has ended, many are left without income. Many of these jobs also lack the benefits that other sector jobs supply. Tourism workers are often left without insurance or pension. Not to mention, foreign businesses tend to overtake the companies present in these countries, forcing small businesses to shut down. As a result, foreign businesses keep the majority of profits from tourism, while local businesses lose their income. This hurts small businesses and local economies.

As previously stated, the profit gained from tourism is often reinvested into the industry. However, with unequal infrastructure development, the tourism industry can inadvertently sustain itself without aiding a country’s other vital sectors. As such, many countries end up developing tourism hot spots while the rest of the country suffers. In these countries, there are visible socioeconomic gaps between the wealthy and the poor. Focusing mainly on the tourism industry and places of mass attraction leaves disadvantaged communities at risk of financial instability. Moreover, countries solely invested in tourism are vulnerable to quick economic falls as its working sectors are unevenly balanced. If a natural disaster, political unrest or unprecedented pandemic were to strike, the country would lose a massive income, causing an economic recession that some countries may significantly struggle to bounce back from.

Ways to Respectfully Travel

The most important step to being a respectful tourist is to be an educated tourist. Understanding and respecting the culture and the people of the country is vital. By not undermining tourism countries’ culture and beliefs, the people living there will be more welcoming to tourists, and cultures can flourish without fear of commercialization.

Being environmentally conscious is also important to the survival of these countries. Respecting a country’s land and structures preserve the countries’ beauty and keep the land clean and prepped for further development. Many countries are more environmentally strained, so reducing pollution or your carbon footprint in a foreign country can help ease the strain.

Supporting the small and local businesses found in these countries can help keep local communities employed and support the overall economy.  As local businesses grow, more people will have the opportunity to be employed outside of the tourism sector, and the economy will be able to grow within itself.

By learning the advantages and disadvantages of tourism, and how one can improve the practice of traveling, the tourism industry will be able to change for the better and support the countries that host people from all over the world.

– Marlee Ingram
Photo: Flickr