Living Conditions in the Virgin Islands The U.S. Virgin Islands are a tourism hotspot in the Caribbean comprised of four major islands: St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island. Many people retire on the islands to enjoy the white sandy beaches and blue coastal waters. However, this list of top 10 facts about living conditions in the Virgin Islands goes beyond the images of tropical paradise to get a closer look at life on the islands.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in the Virgin Islands

  1. The average household income in the U.S. Virgin Islands is $37,254 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This is 75 percent of the mainland’s average income. Its economy relies heavily on tourism which makes up more than half of the islands’ GDP. More than 2 million tourists come to the Virgin Islands every year. However, when hurricanes damage the islands, they hurt the economy as well.
  2. The territory is $2 billion in debt due to hurricane damage, the collapse of sugar production and the closure of factories. In 2012, the Hovensa refinery closed down, leaving the islands without its largest employer.
  3. Hurricanes Irma and Maria damaged up to 90 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands Water and Power Authorities’ (VIWAPA) transmission and distribution lines. The U.S. provided $1.9 billion for recovery to the islands. The Virgin Islands have since regained its water and power, but many top hotels and resorts will still be closed until late 2019.
  4. The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands is a nonprofit organization that supports aid to the islands and works with the government to provide essential resources. In addition, All Hands and Hearts and Repair the World are two groups which provide relief to the islands following the aftermath of hurricanes.
  5. The U.S. Virgin Islands have three main sectors of employment: mining, logging and construction; accommodation and food and leisure and hospitality. Because of hurricanes, as the tourism sector declines, the construction and rebuilding sector is experiencing growth. Following the 2017 hurricanes, employment declined by 7.8 percent.
  6. The cost of living in the U.S. Virgin Islands is higher than on the U.S. mainland. On average, apartments cost $2,000 per month. A two-bedroom house costs at least $285,000.
  7. Not everyone can afford health care on the U.S. Virgin Islands. There are high levels of HIV on the islands with 31.4 people out of 100,000 diagnosed with HIV. In the continental U.S., only 12.5 people out of 100,000 people have HIV. In addition, doctors who come from the U.S. mainland often have issues communicating with locals.
  8. Water conservation is important on the islands because it only rains an average of 38 inches per year. Many residents rely on cisterns to store water instead of using the main water supply. This can cause problems with the water not being safe to drink. To combat this issue, the U.S. Virgin Islands have constructed new, efficient desalination plants.
  9. The middle and lower class is largely made up of Black Americans. Hurricane seasons push many people in this demographic deeper into debt when they have to reconstruct or rebuild. It is estimated that over 480 people are homeless in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  10. The U.S. Virgin Islands provide private and public schooling to kids K-12. The University of the Virgin Islands offers 43 degree-options. It has campuses on both St. Thomas and St. Croix and there are 2,500 undergraduate and graduate students who attend the university. Though many schools were destroyed during the hurricanes in 2017, many have been rebuilt.

The U.S. Virgin Islands are more than just a tropical paradise with luxury homes. There are differences between the locals and those who move there from the mainland. Hurricanes wreak havoc on the small island territories every hurricane season, causing the islands to struggle economically and physically. This list of top 10 facts about living conditions in the Virgin Islands is not exhaustive, but it paints a clearer picture that the island territory is not solely about palm trees and sea breeze.

Jodie Filenius

Photo: Flickr

PA Top 10 facts about living conditions in Oman
Oman is a country known for its restored forts and castles. In 2010, the country, which is twice the size of Georgia, was ranked as the most improved nation over the last 40 years. However, none of this explains what it’s like to live among the Omani culture and people. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Oman.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Oman

  1. Education: In Oman, education is free from primary school to high school; however, attendance is not mandatory, nor is it enforced. The first six years of education are very similar to that of primary schools in most western countries. The next three years are dependent on whether or not a student decides to continue their education or start working. If they have stayed in school and their grades are exemplary, they may decide to go on to secondary school, which is another three years similar to high school in western countries. Here, students can specialize in either sciences or arts. There is also a variety of vocational centers for students to choose from, lasting anywhere from one to three years.
  2. Water: The Central Intelligence Agency found that 95.5 percent of the urban population and 86.1 percent of the rural population have access to an improved drinking water source. Both urban and rural populations also have access to improved sanitation facilities: 97.3 percent for the urban population and 94.7 percent for the rural.
  3. Energy: The World Factbook also reports that there are 100,000 citizens without electricity in Oman, however, 98 percent of the total population has access to electricity. The country receives electricity from fossil fuels, nuclear fuels, hydroelectric plants and other renewable sources.
  4. Legislation: Legislation is based on Sharia law with the authority of the longest-serving ruler in the Middle East, the Sultan of Oman–Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, being an absolute monarchy. The monarchy restricts all political rights and civil liberties. The current leader was not elected through fair and free elections, and the country is not considered a free country.
  5. Internet Use: Only 69.8 percent of the population use the internet in Oman, compared to 89 percent of Americans using the Internet, according to the Pew Research study. However, there are more than 6.9 million total subscriptions to mobile cell phone companies. One state-run TV broadcaster with stations transmitting from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iran and Yemen via satellite TV, provides access to all television programs.
  6. Transportation: There were 132 total airports in Oman in 2013, but by 2017, only 13 of them had paved runways. There are more unpaved roadways (30,545 km) than paved (29,685 km) in the country. Generally, road conditions in cities and major highways are good; however, the condition of rural roads varies from good to poor. Traveling at night could be dangerous due to poor lighting, wandering livestock and other common factors such as pedestrians, weather conditions or driving speed.
  7. Crime: The U.S. Department of State reports that violent crime is uncommon in Oman; however, non-violent crime rates are higher in Oman than in other major cities within the United States. Crimes of opportunity and petty theft are the main types of illegal activity. There has been an increase in cybercrime due to money lending scams requiring high down payments, credit card fraud and prepayments that are solicited with the intention of future services never rendered.
  8. Labor Force: Average unemployment rate for Oman from 1991 to 2017 was 3.94 percent, with youth unemployment during that time averaging 9.51 percent. The average value of the labor force, which includes anyone older than the age of 15, rose from 0.56 million people in 1990 up to 2.68 million people in 2018.
  9. Healthcare: Oman’s universal health care system offers free primary health care to its citizens and even subsidized care for the foreign population of the country. The last 40 years has yielded an increase to the lifespan of the country’s population by about 30 years due to improved access to medical facilities and doctors, according to Oxford Business Group. This puts the current life expectancy rate for the country at 76 years.
  10. Tourism: The capital, Muscat, boasts beautiful suburbs with “golden sand,” mountains and “magnificent views over the Gulf’s turquoise waters.” In Muttrah, one can experience true Omani culture through the city’s traditional souq (marketplace) and corniche (a road on the side of a mountain). The city also houses the annual Muscat Festival, which is one of the most famous festivals in the country, attracting people internationally to witness a cultural celebration that includes folklore dances, special costumes and other performances.

Oman has been known for its castles and wonderful exhibitions of culture through the famous Muscat Festival. It is a country offering much for its population as these top 10 facts about living conditions in Oman show. Although there are still key improvements to be made, the country is continuing to progress.

Simone Edwards
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Sardinia
Sardinia, Italian Sardegna, is an Italian island in the mediterranean sea that is no stranger to poverty. The economic hardship increased after the 2008 recession. Beginning in 2010, a variety of workers and artisans found themselves at risk of losing their jobs. For example, shepherds and independent farmers were losing business to larger farming companies and small entrepreneurs and independent contractors had to compete with privatization. So, they took to the streets of the regional capital city in Cagliari in protest. Now, Italy is looking to sustainable development and ecotourism to alleviate poverty in Sardinia.

Poverty Overall

Italy really began showing signs of economic recovery in 2017. In the first quarter of 2017, its GDP went up 0.5 percent, business morale was at its highest in a decade and export volumes had risen 2.8 percent over the first eight months of the year. The economic recovery, however, has not played out evenly. Life is getting worse for many Italians. The number of Italians living in extreme poverty had increased from 4.7 million in 2016 to 5 million by the end of 2017 despite that fact that the economic recovery has slowly been gaining traction on a macro level.

Poverty in Sardinia did not skip a beat. The percent of poor individuals living in Sardinia increased from 16 percent in 2016 to 21.4 percent in 2017, according to ISTAT. To compound the issue, the unemployment rate in Sardinia was 17 percent in 2017, which was considerably higher than Italy’s overall 11 percent rate in 2017. The island suffers from high emigration, a negative rate of population growth and a low population density of 40 inhabitants per square mile, which is almost one-third of the average in Italy.

Despite the issue of poverty in Sardinia, the inhabitants of the island live a very long time, especially in the village of Tiana where the proportion of centenarians is found to be 3 times higher than in other parts of Italy. Researchers believe this is true because of the social fabric of the region. The elderly in Tiana tend to lead longer and happier lives because of the degree of social interaction they enjoy. Italy is working to improve condition on the island by capitalizing on the history and culture of the region.

Efforts to Combat Poverty in Sardinia

To combat poverty in Sardinia and promote economic development, the country has embraced a model of sustainable development. In 2013, the island became the first sustainable destination in the Mediterranean. Part of Sardinia’s commitment to sustainability comes from the fact that the island is a huge promoter of green energy, hosting more than 2000 companies in the green supply chain and using renewable energies through its numerous wind and solar farms.

Ecotourism is gaining momentum on the island. Almost 200,000 more tourists visited the Sardinia in April and May 2017 than in the previous year during the same time. Sardinia’s beautiful coasts boast nearly unspoiled beaches and reefs. Tourists can go diving to see the protected marine life or one of the many underwater archeological sites in the region. There are a variety of things to do and see on the different islands in Sardinia depending on the interests of the tourists.

Tourism in the summer months is very popular and helps to combat low employment rates. The ecotourists and elites that visit the island during the summer months bring employment and capital to the coastal regions of the island, but the interior does not benefit from summer tourism. Sardinians living in the interior have recently taken strides to develop a cultural tourism industry. Sardinians who live in the interior believe there is an opportunity for increased tourism since the heritage of the island–cultural, linguistic, artistic and musical–has been fiercely preserved. They have begun attracting tourists to the interior by hosting successful festivals that draw out the unique characteristics of each region.

Although there is still a significant number of people living in poverty in Sardinia, efforts are underway to greatly alleviate the situation by capitalizing on the island’s beauty and rich cultural history. Ecotourism and sustainable energy are going a long way to improve the living conditions in Sardinia and bring in new business opportunities to continue building a prosperous economy.

Photo: Flickr

Tourism Reduces PovertyMachu Pichu is a premier tourist destination in the developing country of Peru. It is listed as one of the new seven wonders of the world, attracts over 1.2 million tourists each year and continues to be incredibly well preserved. Peruvian tourism authorities are restricting access to the Incan ruins to minimize the impact of the millions of visitors who journey to the ancient citadel each year. Efforts like these have preserved most of the city and its buildings that are over 500 years old. Machu Pichu is the “golden goose” of the Incan ruins that are spread throughout Peru and has shown that tourism reduces poverty.

Machu Pichu

The ancient citadel was built on a mountain ridge in the Cusco region for the Incan emperor Pachacuti around 1450. It was soon abandoned during the Spanish conquest, but its isolated location left it completely unnoticed by the conquistadors, who were responsible for the destruction of most Incan relics. Machu Pichu remained unknown to the outside world until 1911, when it was discovered by American historian Hiram Bingham. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983 and still features its famous astronomical clock, Temple of the Sun and Room of Three Windows that have given historians and tourists an accurate glimpse into Incan life.

Tourism in Peru

The astronomical growth in the popularity of Machu Pichu, from having around 800,000 visitors in 1980 to over 1.2 million in 2013, has made tourism an essential development tool in Peru. According to a guide for Akorn Destination Management, “tourism is the main industry in the region of Cuzco followed by mining and then agriculture.” Tourism reduces poverty in Peru by providing the government with tax revenue from restaurants, sales and income, in addition to the $6 million generated per year from Machu Pichu’s entrance fee.

The Peruvian people also benefit from the enormous popularity and interest in the ancient ruins, through a multiplier effect, a phenomenon whereby a given change in a particular input causes a larger change in output. The new money that is brought into the economy by tourists attracts new businesses and services that are highly labor intensive, which creates millions of jobs for Peruvians. Both the employment benefits for Peruvians and the tax dollars going to the government are having a positive impact on the overall economy.

The Economy in Peru

Peru is one of the world’s fastest growing economies with a GDP of 6.3 percent in 2011 and is classified as an upper-middle economy. According to the guide, “Peru has grown exponentially in the last decade.” This steady increase in GDP has been coupled with tourism in Peru, growing by an annual rate of 25 percent. Overall, travel and tourism contribute 10.1 percent to the country’s GDP and supports 1,366,500 jobs. Thus, Peru has the largest tourism sector in all of South America and is one of the leaders in the global tourism industry.

Tourism is responsible for 5 percent of the world’s GDP and over 235 million jobs. It is an important development tool for developing countries, which host several of the world’s wonders. Peru’s use of Machu Pichu as a tool for domestic progress is a prime example of how tourism reduces poverty.

– Anand Tayal
Photo: Unsplash

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

Galapagos tourism reduces povertyTourism can be an important tool for developing countries to reduce domestic poverty. The global industry is responsible for 5 percent of the world’s GDP and helps provide foreign exchange earnings and over 235 million jobs. Many of these jobs belong to the poor in developing countries because of the labor-intensive and low-skill nature of work in the tourism sector.

Tourism’s Impact

Workers can often make $1,000 to $4,000 a year which can help bring workers and their families above the poverty line. Employment can be scarce in some developing countries, which makes tourism a necessary stimulant in otherwise stagnant economies. International arrivals continue to increase each year, which creates an even greater demand for labor.

One developing nation that sustainably benefits from the tourism industry is Ecuador.

Equador and the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos islands host one of the few remaining natural sanctuaries for marine and bird life such as sea lions, octopi, sharks and flamingos in the world. Many of these species are endemic to the Galapagos, which means that they do not exist anywhere else in the world.

The animal life, geologic activity and lack of development have made the archipelago a premier travel destination for wealthy patrons looking for an expeditionary vacation. The islands continue to gain popularity as the number of visitors has grown from 17,500 in 1980 to over 200,000 in 2012.

The Ecuadorian government has kept pace with growing demand, while still preserving the untouched beauty of the Galapagos by employing a platform of Eco-Tourism.

Eco-Tourism

The World Conservation Union defines Eco Tourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people.” The goals of eco-tourism are to capitalize on the economic benefits of tourism while minimizing the negative effects it can have on the environment and local people.

Ecuadorian policymakers have actualized this approach in a manner that has maximized benefits to tourists, the local population and ecosystems alike.

The increasing popularity of the Galapagos islands for tourists has been met with several regulations designed to protect the environment and interests of the local people. The government mandates that cruise ships must be kept in Ecuadorian ports, which incentivizes international cruise liners to staff their boats with locals and purchase supplies from the mainland.

Poverty Reduction

Such occurrences couples the direct benefits of tourist expenditures on the islands with the indirect benefits of employment, trade, transport, construction and social services.

A study by Edward Taylor entitled Ecotourism and Economic Growth in the Galapagos (2006) found that overall tourism generates $200 million in revenues. Meanwhile, the locally-owned hostels have gained more popularity with tourists as a more affordable option to the small cruises.  These hostels expose tourists to local markets and restaurants, which further directs capital flows away from international cruise lines and towards the people of Ecuador.

Galapagos tourism reduces poverty by focusing on the inclusion and welfare of the locals. The environment has also benefited from this Eco-Touristic approach.

Economic and Environmental Benefits

The islands were made a national park in 1959 and have become further protected as tourist numbers have increased. “Cruises are limited to having 100 guests per trip,” only certain areas are designated for expeditions and 97 percent of the island is protected from human habitation. Measures like these have protected the endemic wildlife of the Galapagos from human interference and invasive species.

The Borgen Project had the opportunity to interview an expedition leader for the Silver Seas cruise in the Galapagos, and he stated that “tourism only adds an average of 1,500 extra people to the islands each day because of the regulations.” Thus, Galapagos tourism reduces poverty without harming the environment.

The conservation measures taken by the Ecuadorian government have minimized the effects of human activity, but the presence of humans has still caused problems for some of the native wildlife.

Migration Ramifications

The migration of mainland Ecuadorians to the three percent of the island not protected by national park statuses has created a presence of feral dogs, cats and goats that outcompete the native animals and bring some to the point of starvation.

The guide even explained that “feral dogs eat the baby giant tortoise eggs and the goats feed on the plants that several of native herbivores rely on to survive.”

A Prosperous Balance

The governing body of the Galapagos has responded by attempting to exterminate these feral animals and create breeding centers for endangered native species, but it’s important for tourists and migrants alike to respect the true natives of the archipelago.

Eco-Tourism, as seen in the Galapagos, should serve as a model for other vacation destinations. The Galapagos tourism reduces poverty through the influx of foreign spending and the jobs created, without harming the natural environment which is allowing tourism to flourish as well.

– Anand Tayal
Photo: Google

VolunteerThroughout the United States and Europe, voluntourism, as a combination of tourism and volunteering, has been on the rise. Students are dedicating their free summers and vacations to go abroad to help communities and organizations in bettering their infrastructure and spreading awareness of their individual causes. As in any other form of tourism, voluntourism has undoubtedly its downsides, yet it is important to shed light on its benefits. Voluntourism, if done properly, can benefit communities and organizations, and for the volunteer, it creates a cultural awareness that would not be achieved otherwise. The key to voluntarism is sustainability, and if done in a sustainable way, the benefits of voluntourism are many.

Fixable cons of voluntourism

One of the greatest issues facing the voluntourism sector is the level of qualifications that the volunteers have. Many negative representations of voluntourism depict underqualified students working in health clinics or orphanages, fields that require years of specific qualifications. This can certainly be cause for concern. However, it is important to note the benefits as well. Internships abroad are often seen as opportunities for voluntourism. Internships require a certain level of qualifications which ensures that the student or person who volunteers has a certain degree of skill in the required field. This allows the intern to further their understanding of the field in a new culture, while simultaneously having a positive impact on the industry. For example, South Africa has an uneven distribution of doctors as for every 1000 person there is less than one doctor available. Many of these doctors work in the private sector. This has created a need for international medical interns. Read more

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

A Journey to Stay: Migration and Industry in the South Pacific
Migration led to the population of the South Pacific Islands, along with innovation to sail against the wind. The islands developed a unique history, language, and culture and migration and industry built the South Pacific nations. There are challenges facing the islands, but people are rising up to face them. 

What are the South Pacific Islands?

The South Pacific includes about 10,000 islands located in the South Pacific Ocean that, based on their ethnic geographic history, can be further broken down into Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. 

About 3,400 years ago, people left land and started sailing, and the wind brought these new settlers to many remote islands such as Tonga, Fiji and Samoa. Eventually, this exploration stopped for about 2,000 years due to a lack of technology to sail against the wind. Once the technology was developed, many continued their migration and industrialization in the South Pacific to explore and settle the rest of Oceania to Tahiti, Hawaii and New Zealand.

From the 16th to 18th Century, the Europeans began to make infrequent and accidental discoveries of the islands that helped add to the narrative of wealth in unknown lands. It was not until the 18th Century that Europeans began an organized colonization effort in the South Pacific Islands. By 1980, most of the South Pacific Islands had reached independence.

Recent Migration

The general consensus is that people are happy on the islands and few leave unless searching for work or education. However, due to an increase in dangerous weather and rising seas, many are faced with a possibility of being forced out. An estimated 10 tropical cyclones are predicted to hit the islands between November and April each year.

While, there is no international law that recognizes people leaving on account of weather changes, talk of a new refugee has begun. On Tuvalu, it is estimated that migration will increase 70 percent by 2055, and already about 23 percent of citizens on Kiribati have migrated due to climate stressors, 41 percent for work and about 40 percent may migrate if flooding or climate changes worsen.

Business

Many of the islands face similar challenges — islands possess limited natural resources, a distance from larger markets and a greater susceptibility to external factors such as natural disasters. Despite these challenges though, tourism and other businesses are becoming a strong reality for many.

Larger islands such as Fiji, Samoa and French Polynesia have already begun to build a strong tourism industry. Fiji, in particular, is partnering its tourism with oceanic sustainability — a priority for many. Some tourism operators engage tourists with local communities by bringing them to view the Shark Reef Marine Reserve or visit villages away from the popular resorts.

Leaders in the Pacific Islands encourage entrepreneurialism, but efforts in the past have had mixed results, often beginning with loans and ending with shut-downs due to lack of payment. Currently, a refocus on education and training has started to take place, and informal polling has pointed out the importance of community in building businesses and highlighted microfinance for the future.

Migration and Industry in the South Pacific

Migration and industry in the South Pacific work to change islanders’ lives for the better. Australia still looks at many Pacific Islands as recipients rather than providers, which often detracts from viewing these islands as loci for businesses. To combat this perception, the Australian government is challenging financial institutions to sign a memorandum that will promote private sector development through financial inclusion.

Migration and industry in the South Pacific are of key importance. The islands are faced with finding their innovative selves to develop businesses and new technologies to avoid migration.

– 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