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

The Backwaters of Kerala
The backwaters of Kerala in India are a maze of lakes, streams and lagoons with a unique ecosystem. Over the years, a variety of challenges have affected the backwaters and threatened the ecosystem, such as contamination from pesticides that farmers use in paddy fields, dumping of chemical emissions from factories and sewage from cities, unregulated sand dredging for construction, and in recent decades, the tourism boom that has worsened water pollution.

Tourism and Pollution

Over 15 million tourists visited Kerala in 2017. Backwater cruises in houseboats, called Kettuvallams, are a popular tourist activity. A reported 70% of households along the Alleppey backwaters are involved in providing tourist services in one form or another.

The popularity of the backwaters as a tourist experience led to a surge in the number of houseboats. More than 1,000 houseboats operate on the backwaters, far beyond capacity, and a large number are not registered. A houseboat can produce up to 1,000 liters of waste a day. Due to lax regulations, most of the houseboats discharge sewage directly into the waters. Emissions and oil leakages from the houseboats and dumping of plastics and other inorganic waste have further contaminated the backwaters.

Effects on the Lives of the Local People

Pollution from sewage dumping, salinization of the water, sand dredging and other such disruptions have affected the lives of the locals in the backwaters of Kerala in many ways. Much of their traditions and cultural practices connect to the waterways. The backwaters are their primary water source, which they use for cooking, drinking, bathing, etc. But due to oil leakages, the water has a glossy residue and tastes like oil, making it dangerous to consume. Polluted waters also affect paddy fields that run alongside the backwaters. The contaminated water reportedly causes illnesses such as skin diseases. And there have been reports of tourist houseboats invading the privacy of the residents.

Additionally, over 1.5 million residents depend on Vembanad Lake for their livelihoods, and the ecological decline is a cause of great concern. Fisherfolks experience the most effects as several fish species have declined in large numbers or disappeared entirely.

Remedial Measures and Challenges

State and District pollution control authorities have set up Sewage Treatment Plants (STP) for proper treatment and disposal of sewage and created regulations to ensure compliance and identify unregistered houseboats. However, these efforts are not without setbacks. A Sewage Treatment Plant set up specifically for houseboats had to shut down due to operational problems, and dumping of sewage into the backwaters continued. Despite these challenges, the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) emphasized the need for more STP’s and an enforcement wing to monitor the houseboats.

Local residents and organizations such as the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), have also taken steps to control pollution and restore the ecosystem. Every year in May, ATREE organizes the Vembanad Fish Count to document fish species and numbers and evaluate the water quality. Fishermen in Muhamma village, with the guidance of ATREE, have created fish sanctuaries to increase the number of fish. An anti-plastic straw campaign and workshops to spread awareness among women in Muhamma village about the advantages of reusable menstrual products also emerged. And more recently, solar-powered boats and non-motorized canoes are gaining popularity among tourists.

While the tourism boom has certainly benefited the State and created a reliable income source for many locals, preserving the backwaters of Kerala and its ecology is of utmost importance. Initiatives by residents, organizations and advocacy groups who have recognized the need for action and policy have helped spread awareness. And while much work needs to still occur, efforts to contain pollution and reverse the ill effects have intensified.

– Amy Olassa
Photo: Flickr

tourism and COVID-19COVID-19 has caused major disruptions for travel on a global scale. The tourism industry has already experienced a loss of over $300 billion in the first five months of 2020, and that number is projected to increase to as much as $1.2 trillion due to the pandemic. Additionally, 100 to 120 million jobs associated with tourism are at risk. Tourism and COVID-19 have struggled to co-exist amidst the turmoil of 2020, especially in three major tourist countries. However, organizations are working to protect the future of the travel industry.

Global Tourism and COVID-19

Tourism is considered the third-largest export sector. It is an essential component of the global economy, comprising 10.4% of total economic activity in 2018. Some countries rely on tourism for 20% or more of their total GDP. Many countries rely on capital from tourists, ranging from small, low-income island countries to larger, high-income countries. However, according to a U.N. policy brief, there will be an estimated 58-78% decrease in tourists in 2020 compared to 2019. Three countries that have been especially affected by COVID-19 and tourism are Spain, Thailand and Mexico.

  1. Spain: Spain experienced the second-largest overall economic loss in tourism due to the pandemic, behind the United States. The country lost $9.7 million in revenue due to travel restrictions and decreased tourism. Because Spain is a high-income country and has various other contributors to its economy, it is expected to recover with greater resilience than similarly impacted, lower-income countries.
  2. Mexico: In 2018, Mexico gained a total of 7.15% of its GDP from tourism. However, Mexico’s income from tourism in April 2020 was a mere 6.3%. Additionally, the tourism sector accounts for approximately 11 million jobs in Mexico alone, many of which are now at risk.
  3. Thailand: Thailand has lost nearly $7.8 million due to travel restrictions since the start of the pandemic. The country has taken these limitations seriously in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, this action has come at the cost of earning a ranking as one of the countries hit hardest by economic losses associated with tourism. The tourism sector is responsible for about 10% of the country’s total GDP.

Government Response to Tourism and COVID-19

Although COVID-19 has introduced an unprecedented economic strain on a global scale, governments are working to help countries recover. Spain released an aid package allocating €400 million to the transport and tourism sectors, €14 million to boost the local economy and €3.8 million for public health. Mexico’s government is distributing 2 million small loans of 25 thousand pesos (about $1000) to small businesses. Lastly, Thailand has approved three tourism packages to assist the local economy and small businesses.

NGO Policy Response to Tourism and COVID-19

With government and NGO action, experts predict that the travel sector will return to 2019 economic levels by around 2023. Many organizations are stepping in with policy solutions, providing hope for the industry’s revival. The U.N. World Tourism Organization released the COVID-19 Tourism Recovery Technical Assistance Package, highlighting three main policy areas: “Managing the crisis and mitigating the impact,” “providing stimulus and accelerating recovery” and “preparing for tomorrow.” Similarly, the International Labour Organization released a policy framework with four main pillars to protect workers, stimulate the economy, introduce employment retention strategies and encourage solutions-based social dialogue.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development provides “Travel in the New Normal,” a series of six policy areas. These include helping businesses to implement “touchless” solutions, sanitation supplies, health screenings and other protective measures to prevent COVID-19. The OECD states that domestic travel will be vital for the recovery of tourist nations, contributing to 75% of the tourism economy in OECD member countries.

These efforts, along with other policy strategies, are vital to the recovery of the tourism industry. They will be particularly important for small- and medium-sized enterprises, industry-employed women and the working class as a whole. These policies will also further U.N. Sustainable Development Goals like No Poverty, Reduced Inequality, Partnership, Sustainable Cities & Communities and Decent Work & Economic Growth.

The tourism sector has suffered major losses in response to COVID-19, with a significant amount of revenue and jobs lost or at severe risk. Countries of all regions and income levels have been affected by the pandemic, including Spain, Mexico and Thailand. However, these setbacks provide unique opportunities to both transform the tourism industry and promote the Sustainable Development Goals.

– Sydney Bazilian
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous Communities in Mexico
The Mexican government’s abandonment and abuse of Indigenous communities in Mexico are historical, stretching back to the country’s colonial past. In the present day, governmental neglect is largely to blame for a host of social inequities suffered by Indigenous communities in Mexico, including lack of access to hospitals and quality health care in general. Accustomed to being outliers in a system originally designed to benefit elites, Indigenous Mexicans in one region of Mexico have taken matters into their own hands.

In the Zapotec region of Oaxaca, a state in southern Mexico, a network of villages called the Pueblos Mancomunados lies nestled in the Sierra Norte mountains, and is made up of eight villages which maintain their distinctions while honoring their collective identity as well. Prior to COVID-19, this network of villages had for over 20 years had an agreement amongst themselves to welcome outside tourists into their insular community to observe not only the striking natural environment but also traditions of agriculture, gastronomy, weaving, education and sacred healing.

Where Abandonment is Historical, Prevention is Key

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Claudia Schurr, owner of the ecotourism company Tierraventura, said that the tourism sector in these villages and in the region has been completely shut down since mid-March 2020 to prevent infections. Through the company, which is based in Oaxaca City, Schurr has developed close personal ties to the Pueblos Mancomunados, where, prior to COVID-19, she regularly ran tours with her husband, Yves. She said, “Most of the Indigenous communities have closed to outsiders, even people from the village who live in the city of Oaxaca. Only the village authorities are allowed to leave the community in order to buy supplies.”

Tourism in Mexico

While tourists have still been able to fly into and travel around Mexico in 2020, Indigenous communities in Mexico such as the Pueblos Mancomunados have said “no,” preferring instead to block entrances to their towns and return to their ‘milpa’ fields, where harvests have been abundant due to plentiful rains. Schurr said in an interview, “The interesting thing for me is to observe how people are handling the crisis… nobody is complaining.” Focusing on subsistence and environmental justice rather than business and profits has so far insulated the Zapotec villages from a crisis that continues to ravage the world outside. There have been only a few cases of COVID-19 in these Zapotec communities, according to Schurr. Santos Reyes Yucuná, an Indigenous Mixtec village also in Oaxaca state, remained COVID-free until July 17th, long after Mexico saw its first case in the capital city.

Other Indigenous communities in Mexico are reacting similarly, partially due to a lack of resources to fight the virus. Pavel Guzmán, an activist in the Indigenous Purepecha community of Michoacán state, said in April 2020 “If an infection arrives in the Indigenous communities, then there’s no … medical institution that can contain the problem because the clinics don’t even have basic supplies… These are historical problems, and now… they’ve become more critical.” According to Mexico’s National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL), though 21.5% of Mexicans identify as Indigenous, only 1.5% of public hospitals are located in Indigenous regions.

Community and Autonomy

But these Indigenous communities in Mexico are not merely reacting to the virus. The Zapotec communities—pandemic or not—tend to live in a way that is synonymous with their ancestral traditions of community and autonomy. Zapotec children learn early on the importance of cooperation in the community via the “tequio,” or group that cooperates to accomplish needed work in the community. Rather than one person in the community mending a fence, for example, a group of people may work on it together to make the process quick and easy. This cooperation is also visible in the model of group consensus that runs the villages.

They even made the decision to allow tourists into their villages for ecotourism in a collective process. The community is as self-sustaining as it was before the arrival of the Spanish. And while COVID-19 sent the outside world scrambling to adjust life to a crisis, Zapotec society already had the mechanism in place to take refuge.

What Indigenous Communities in Mexico Can Teach the World

While it remains true that infections or governmental neglect during an economic fallout could adversely affect these communities, the Zapotec remain uniquely sustained by their core ideals. As a result, they are in a good position to beat the virus.

The Zapotec have another tradition called “guelaguetza,” which is a tradition of mutually exchanging gifts and even favors. Schurr, not having run tours for her business since March, says that times are hard. Without an income, her family now finds itself in the position of surviving without much income. However, she has stayed in touch with the Zapotec mountain communities: “I have more the feeling that they support us now, emotionally and sending us vegetables, potatoes, flowers.”

“We always talk about creating a global community, which is a beautiful idea,” Schurr said. “…[T]his includes also [taking] responsibility for each other when times are not so great.”

– Andrea Kruger
Photo: Flickr

Tourism's Impact on Reducing Poverty
Within the past decade, international travel to developing countries has risen substantially. Countries like Tanzania and Indonesia have benefited from a surge in tourism. Moreover, research postulates that this will improve economic growth in developing countries. Economic developments in these countries are essential for stable socioeconomic growth. Tourism’s impact on reducing poverty within developing nations will be addressed in this article. However, the tourism industries in these countries promote more than just income generation — also, stability, opportunities in local communities, employment and cultural prosperity.

Advantages

In 46 of the 49 least developed nations (nearly 94%), tourism has become one of the primary sources of economic income. Moreover, in some countries, this results in 25% of GDP. The total contribution of tourism in 2019 generated roughly $9.2 billion, with direct contributions globally generating nearly $2.8 billion. The income generated in these countries can provide further support to local communities and the overall infrastructure and revenue of developing countries.

The tourism industry offers excellent advantages for socioeconomic growth and poverty alleviation. One of the most significant factors is employment. Many individuals living in developing countries lack the education and opportunity for high-paying, skilled jobs. Jobs within the tourism industry, such as food, conservation and hospitality require lower skill levels. Therefore, allowing for expanded employment opportunities. In these ways, tourism’s impact on reducing poverty is both positive and significant.

Disadvantages

The tourism industry can certainly promote nations, effectively raising their global profile and allowing for even more tourism. However, it can also allow for environmental damage, such as pollution, littering, resource depletion or loss of natural habitats due to the massive increase in visitors. In this same vein, roughly 40 million Americans traveled internationally in 2019. Yet, alternatively, it should be noted that tourism can potentially provide funding for conservation and create incentives to preserve natural areas. This occurs in both urban and rural environments to regenerate the areas.

Infrastructure such as roads, airports, hotels and other tourism services may fail to keep up with the estimated tourist projections of an “additional 400 million arrivals forecasted in 2030.” Infrastructure’s crucial role in tourism is in the amenities that these countries can provide for visitors. Although, with tourist arrivals already surpassing projections by 2017, some countries may struggle to progress and uphold their “infrastructure readiness” quickly enough.

Tanzania and Indonesia: Success Stories

Tanzania, located in sub-Saharan Africa, has become a significant tourist attraction within the past couple of years. Due to its rich culture and conservation, Tanzania has become a highly desirable destination. The nation accounted for 1.28 million tourist arrivals in 2016 alone. With this rise, Tanzania’s GDP of 4.7% is directly linked to tourism and travel expenditures. Furthermore, the country increased investments by 8.7% ($1.2 billion) and “export earnings,” generating $2.5 billion in revenue. These earnings dramatically impacted job opportunities, a significant variable in alleviating poverty. E.g., the increased investments employed 470,500 persons in the tourism and travel industry in 2016. Recent reports from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) expect the tourism and travel sector to continue to rise “6.6% annually in the next 10 years.”

Indonesia has also created a profitable tourism and travel industry. Striving to improve income inequality and alleviate poverty through tourism has proven to be a successful initiative. A study conducted by LPEM FEB UI, Universita Indonesia, shows that tourism activities have reduced the “depth of poverty from 2.04 to 1.21.” Along with this, severe poverty lessened in 2016 from 0.37 to 0.29. Additionally, the study also reveals that tourist activities offer more significant support within communities. For those living in regions with more prevalent tourist activity — the poverty rate is 1.5%–3.4% lower than regions that are not.

Continuing the Positive Impact

While the advantages do not necessarily outweigh the disadvantages — there are significant, positive results in promoting the travel and tourism industry in the highlighted regions above. With continued progress, countries such as Tanzania and Indonesia have made increasing strides in alleviating poverty. Tourism’s impact on reducing poverty represents a significant feat that will hopefully continue to yield positive results for the world.

– Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

Tourism in Africa
Tourism has been a fundamental component of the African economy for years, with many countries depending on the industry as a primary source of revenue. In addition to supporting the economy directly through foreign currency, tourism in Africa has become a reliable source of income for many locals. Some of these individuals work as tour guides, while others own tourism-dependent businesses like hotels and cultural craft shops. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism industry has changed dramatically over the past year.

Economic Shifts

The World Bank reported that, in 2012, tourism in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) contributed $36 billion to the region’s GDP. The report also indicated that many countries in SSA were still working to develop their tourism facilities. Since 2012, these countries have improved security and provided better quality resources to attract tourists and tourism investors. However, COVID-19 disturbed this progress. Many countries established touristic travel bans to fight the pandemic, and many visitor attractions had to close. In total, the World Travel and Tourism Council has predicted that Africa’s resulting GDP loss could be $52.8 billion.

Unemployment

COVID-19 terminated many jobs, including tourism-related occupations like travel agencies and small businesses. The World Bank has reported that “one in twenty jobs in SSA is in travel and tourism.” According to a recent study from the African Union, an estimate of 2 million jobs directly or indirectly related to travel and tourism will disappear during the pandemic. These losses will affect all citizens in this region. For example, consumers will experience increased prices on commodities and higher taxes to compensate for the loss of tourism revenue.

Finding Solutions

However, countries typically reliant on tourism for economic stability are finding creative ways to adapt to the changes.

Many countries had no choice but to close borders in order to control the entrance and spread of COVID-19. Various policies implemented now encourage people to observe social distancing and wear masks in public places. To promote the industry amidst these new safety guidelines, the U.N. reported that Kenya and Zambia encouraged domestic tourism in the absence of foreign visitors. South Africa has donated approximately $11 million in relief aid to eligible tourism-related businesses, and the International Trade Centre reported that young Gambians who worked in community tourism became “COVID-19 first responders to awareness and prevention.”

These initiatives have helped people gain some income and retain access to basic needs. Additionally, countries have been conducting virtual tours in parks to continue engaging international tourists and increase chances of visitation following the pandemic. BBC reported that Kenya, Seychelles and Rwanda would open in August 2020 for international travelers; however, tourists would have to undergo different procedures to gain safe access to hotels and touristic sites.

Many African countries greatly profit from the tourism industry. This industry has been rapidly growing in Africa. In fact, the continent expected a consistent increase in the number of incoming international visitors over the next several years. However, in response to the recent surge of COVID-19, the continent is adapting to creatively compensate for these changes and continue protecting citizens’ health and safety.

– Renova Uwingabire
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Kitts and Nevis has collectively only had 17 reported cases of COVID-19 and zero deaths. However, the pandemic has severely affected the economy because tourism primarily supports it. As of 2019, about 4,000 people were registered as making less than 3,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars a month, making them eligible for government aid. When the government of Saint Kitts and Nevis implemented extensive COVID-19 safety measures, it negatively impacted the tourism sector causing many to fall below the poverty line indicated above. Poverty in Saint Kitts and Nevis remains a major issue, especially during the challenging time of COVID-19. However, there are some measures for poverty eradication in Saint Kitts and Nevis.

In April 2020, the Governor-General of the two islands used his emergency powers to create regulations such as closing all ports and airports, closing non-essential businesses and suspending the liquor license of many businesses. While these extreme measures have kept the island relatively safe from COVID-19, the country and its citizens are in need of economic stimulation.

Massive Economic Stimulation

The country’s government has made the decision to extend its Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP) to support poverty eradication in Saint Kitts and Nevis. It instituted the program in 2018 as a monthly, $500 stipend for the country’s poorest citizens. It will give $80 million in aid to those who have suffered financially as a result of the pandemic. It will also allow an additional $40 million to stimulate the economy.

This massive aid program is the largest per capita response to the COVID-19 economic losses so far. Saint Kitts and Nevis is also giving $1,000 in Social Security benefits and increasing the amount of PAP stipends distributed. Lastly, it will suspend water and electricity fees as well as mortgage collections until January 2021 in an effort to support poverty eradication in Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Funding COVID-19 Economic Plan

Interestingly, Saint Kitts and Nevis is relying on its Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program to fund these COVID-19 relief efforts. This program allows a person to gain a Saint Kitts and Nevis passport by donating or investing in the country’s real estate.

The CBI program makes up 20% to 30% of Saint Kitts’ and Nevis’ income annually. In an effort to entice new donors and investors, the government is offering a COVID-19 discount. Therefore, people wishing to donate have to pay $150,000 and those who wish to make a real estate investment have to pay $200,000.

Additionally, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has become an important contributor to Saint Kitts’ and Nevis’ COVID-19 response efforts. It released an appeal to donors in March 2020 and began accepting financial aid. It has raised $52.7 million of its $94.8 million goals as of June 11, 2020. PAHO has provided equipment, access to health experts and individual safety gear to the two islands.

Re-Opening Borders

The latest Emergency Powers regulations expired on August 9, 2020, but Saint Kitts and Nevis government has yet to announce when its borders will reopen. However, the government worked to ensure that workers in the tourism sector would have the preparation to serve any incoming tourists safely with a training program that ran until August 27, 2020.

The government is also preparing to launch and adopt a contact tracing app. It will be mandatory for all visitors to utilize the app and respect all of the emergency regulations that are in effect. Additionally, it will provide health updates and uses geofencing technology to alert users when they enter certain boundaries.

While reopening Saint Kitts and Nevis’ borders is a daunting task, the Premier of Nevis believes that the country needs to find ways to restart its local economy because one can categorize COVID-19 as both a health and economic crisis. The $120 million economic stimulus package the islands are adopting should protect affected citizens from extreme poverty and allow them to survive until the tourism industry can reopen.

Olivia Welsh
Photo: Pixabay

Andorra Struggles With COVID-19 ResponseAndorra, one of Europe’s smallest and oldest countries, does not boast full European Union membership. Instead, sandwiched between Spain and France’s 11,000 foot high Pyrenees borders, Andorra relies on integrating relations with the two countries. Yet, as Andorra’s economy and demographics differ greatly from most of the European Union, Andorra has a unique agreement with the body of countries. Unfortunately, lacking full E.U. membership and the benefits this includes, Andorra has faced struggles with their COVID-19 response.

A Unique Agreement With the European Union

As evidenced by the recent Brexit controversy, E.U. membership comes with positive and negative aspects. Entry challenges proved a significant hurdle for Andorra; therefore, it initially did not join the union. Only after the 2008 recession did Andorra arrange a special agreement with the European Union, like other European micro-states.

Due to tourism, the country’s main economic draw, and Andorra’s location on a map, some economic realities have been unavoidable. After 2008, Andorra began using the Euro and entered trade agreements slashing tariffs. However, unlike the rest of Europe, Andorra continued to restrict individual taxes. This branded the small country as a hot spot for tax evasion. This caveat kept Andorra afloat but alienated the country from the rest of Europe. Due to international pressure in 2011, the country began moving towards international tax standards.

Even though it lacks full European Union membership, Andorra still retains membership in the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Does Andorra qualify for European Union aid?

Full European Union member countries qualify for aid programs. The European Union, like most international institutions, provided large amounts of COVID-19 aid–37 billion Euros in the initial program to be exact. Individual countries qualify for an additional 100 billion from the E.U. for employment assistance.

However, Andorra’s partial membership benefits to the European Union are limited to:

  1. The customs union, which is a group of countries that have agreed to charge the same import duties as each other and allow free trade between themselves.
  2. Tariff exemption to void taxes imposed by a government on goods and services imported from countries outside of the European Union.
  3. Euro use for stable and standardized currency.
  4. Access to name and tax databases.

COVID-19 in Andorra

As Andorra’s place in the European Union is unclear, so is its ability to receive COVID-19 aid. It appears that Andorra cannot and has not accessed any European Union COVID-19 aid. As neighboring Spain and France have done, Andorra implemented specific travel limitations. Uniquely, its rules included odd and even-numbered homes taking turns with short exercise periods.

Poverty in Andorra

The tough situation created by COVID-19 shutdowns and the ambiguous nature of Andorra’s relationship with the European Union have left the country exposed to further poverty. Unlike countries with widespread extreme poverty, Andorra’s poverty is specific to immigrant labor unemployment during tourism lulls and the housing crisis. Both of which, when paired with COVID-19, have the potential to drastically increase Andorra’s 4% poverty rate.

As of now, Andorra continues to encounter additional struggles with their COVID-19 response. As the post-2008 trend of strengthening relationships between Andorra and the E.U. continues, more poverty prevention aid will hopefully find its way to this small, land-locked country.

– Rory Davis
Photo: Flickr