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

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

Strategy of Pro-Poor Tourism to Alleviate Global Poverty
Pro-Poor Tourism (PPT) is an approach to reduce poverty in developing nations. Areas across the globe, including regions like Africa, Asia, South America and India, have successfully adopted PPT. In addition, PPT’s principal goal is to generate net benefits for poor communities. The strategy of Pro-Poor Tourism aims to increase economic stability and mitigate the negative effects of local cultures and environments. In order to do so, developing countries must apply several strategies.

Strategies of Pro-Poor Tourism

Tourism accounts for 11% of the world’s economy. Tourism is a rapidly growing market and industry. Countries promoting tourism experience economic growth rates of over 9% per year. The industry employs hundreds of millions of people.

There are three strategies for Pro-Poor Tourism. The first strategy of Pro-Poor Tourism is to increase the financial profits of the poor. PPT promotes the growth of local occupational opportunities and the development of local businesses that supply products for the tourist industry. The second strategy is to enrich the lives of native citizens. PPT provides locals with availability to facilities and services originally established for tourists. The third strategy of Pro-Poor Tourism is to stimulate collaboration with the poor. This involves promoting the participation of the poor in the government and private sectors. In addition, it also includes increasing policy formation that supports the involvement of the poor.

Success in Kerala, India

In Kerala, the early adoption of tourism led to decreases in agricultural produce, increases in unemployment and a decrease in availability to local waterways. Hotels and restaurants employed individuals from poorer parts of the country, farmers sold their property for quick money and tour operations damaged local fishing equipment. In addition, Kerala’s Department of Tourism discussed a Pro-Poor Tourism reform in 2007. The strategy was labeled “Responsible Tourism.”

Over a dozen of hotels agreed to purchase numerous products from the local economy. As a result, this agreement created several businesses such as a fish administering division, a chappathy division, agricultural coalitions and coconut suppliers. Furthermore, hotels later arranged to purchase items from craft businesses, performances from a women’s traditional dance group and local art business. These opportunities enhanced the preservation of traditional Kerala cultures. This pro-poor tourism reform specifically focused on the expansion of jobs for women. Now, nearly 1,000 women participate in agribusiness, skilled labor, tour operations and wholesale enterprises.

Success in Bangladesh, India

The St. Martin Islands of Bangladesh have also implemented PPT. A qualitative research study reveals local residents now have more access to markets. Hence, there are more opportunities to sell products. In addition, natives of all ages participate in various activities involved in tourism operations.

The study also reports that local residents receive direct benefits of sustainable tourism. Local residents participate in the transaction of crafts, local resources, entertainment events and the production of infrastructure. Consequently, locals now have access to medical facilities, nontoxic water and hygiene services. Only 20% of locals interviewed believe tourism did not alleviate poverty in their community.

The application of Pro-Poor Tourism reform benefits the lives of native residents by increasing economic opportunity while maintaining culture and preserving the environment. Areas must plan and apply strategies of Pro-Poor Tourism appropriately per context. It is also important for governments, agencies and donors to apply PPT strategies with the growth of poor communities as the soul of the operation.

John Brinkman
Photo: Flickr

Ecotourism in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is notable for having a stronger democracy than the United States and being the least impoverished nation in Central America. Twenty-five percent of the country is national parks – some might say that leaving all that land unfarmed means losing productivity. The national parks also contain untouched forests, which create economic incentives to develop that land into a pasture or city. However, since it is doing better than its neighbors at economic and social development, there must be some other reason Costa Rica is successful. A large part of that answer is the amount of ecotourism in Costa Rica.

History of Ecotourism

Ecotourism in Costa Rica started in the 1960s when only 25% of the once entirely forested country remained untouched. Entrepreneurs were curious about how the country could preserve the forest in a way that earned more money than logging it. They built lodging near newly-founded parks and worked with foreign retailers such as Any Mountain to make specialized outdoor gear to handle the terrain. Entrepreneurs also encouraged the government to produce web pages that emphasize the positive environmental impacts of ecotourism.

Benefits of Ecotourism

As a result of these investments, Costa Rica attracted 3.14 million tourists in 2019. The direct and indirect benefits of these tourists are:

  1. Money: Costa Rica earned $3.4 billion in just one year— around 5% of the country’s GDP—due to visitor spending. That money can increase the number of people in the middle class and help Costa Ricans avoid the poverty that affects neighboring countries.
  2. Sustainability: If Costa Rica’s businesses decided to use the remaining 25% of the forests for lumber, there would be none left now. Ecotourism can exist as a source of income indefinitely. In the long run, that can create lasting prosperity and health for the citizens of the country.
  3. Protected Biodiversity: Places closest to the equator like Costa Rica contain the most species per unit area. Those species have the potential to cure diseases. They act as a harbor of life in the developed world where many are going extinct.
  4. Proof of Concept: Costa Rica was one of the first countries that had visitors to admire ecological, not historical, sites. People first created the term ecotourism, then, to describe the focus of the visitors. Many places in Africa such as Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Benin established national parks in an attempt to reap the same rewards as Costa Rica.

The Future of Ecotourism

Ecotourism in Costa Rica and in other parts of the world is a way to satisfy both the ecological and economical needs of people. This leads to stable and robust governments that can stand up to disturbances like natural disasters. They can also serve their constituents better by preventing vast swaths of the population from sliding into poverty.

That is not to say that it is a perfect solution. Historically, leaders have uprooted indigenous communities to make the parks for ecotourism. Other sectors like Costa Rica’s computer parts manufacturing can use it as a false front to justify unnecessary pollution. Diseases like COVID-19 can reduce traffic, leaving many without jobs. However, under normal circumstances, the positives outweigh the negatives. Countries around the world should at least consider integrating ecotourism into their economies and the lives of their citizens.

– Michael Straus
Photo: Flickr

Tourists at Kawah Ijen
In Indonesia, 9,000 feet above sea level, on the Kawah Ijen volcano crater, one can see two kinds of people: sulfur miners suffering backbreaking labor in toxic conditions, and tourists wealthy enough to afford gas masks and enjoy the rugged beauty of the landscape.

Background

The miners are locals of the region. They trek up the steep cliffs, carrying 80 kilograms of sulfur per trip for compensation of about 7 cents per kilogram. PT Candi Ngrimi employs them and processes the sulfur into powder, slabs and granules for sale to manufacturing companies. In particular, sugar processing companies use sulfur to refine and whiten sugar crystals.

Despite working next to the most acidic lake in the world and within the toxic fumes of the volcano, the workers have virtually no equipment to protect themselves from hazards. Most wear only a thin piece of cloth over their nose and mouth.

Unlike the miners, who have been active since 1954, the tourists at Kawah Ijen are a new addition to the volcano. East Java was rather obscure until 2010. Then, Abdullah Azwar Anas became regent of the Banyuwangi Regency (the city in which the volcano is located). Upon his election, Azwar developed fervent promotions for tourism, and now millions of people visit Banyuwangi yearly.

Benefits of Tourism

The economic impact of tourism is immense for many countries around the world. For instance, Maldives has shifted from a least developed to a developing country largely because of tourism, which is the dominant economic sector for that country.

Tourism is a growing economic force for Indonesia, too, as it accounts for 5.2% of GDP and 3.7% of total employment. Tourists at Kawah Ijen create the potential for public and private sector cooperation. This relationship could build infrastructure to support tourism, ultimately increasing employment and income.

Tourist attractions like the Kawah Ijen crater rely on the environmental and cultural health of the area. Thus, the governments and corporations in Banyuwangi have the motivation to preserve these aspects. Although there may be increased infrastructure development in the area, it is unlikely that there will be large-scale changes that would alter the natural and cultural beauty of Banyuwangi.

Consequences of Tourism

The primary concern of tourism at Kawah Ijen is that the sulfur miners become an attraction, much like the alluring blue fire, yellow sulfur and acidic lake of the volcano’s crater. Tourists reflect this concern by taking selfies with miners who are about to begin their trek back to base for their daily $5. Despite their popularity, the miners have not seen any monetary rewards during Banyuwangi’s tourism boom, barring small fees for photographs. Their wages remain as they have for decades.

Tourists at Kawah Ijen are not an inherently bad thing, of course. However, the sulfur miners are a big reason that the volcano is a tourist attraction at all, yet they continue to live in poverty. It is an extreme example of exploitation without compensation.

So popular is the hardship of the sulfur miners’ lives that they are documented on a database of “dark tourism.” Dark tourism, according to the website, is “travel to sites that are in some way connected to death or disaster.” Kawah Ijen received a 10/10 on its “dark-o-meter” rating, alongside memorials to the Hiroshima bombing and the Rwandan genocide.

How to Ensure Positive Development

There are ways that tourism can theoretically provide a positive experience for host communities. These ways not only avoid voyeurism but seek to alleviate some of the challenges host communities experience.

One example of this is voluntourism, which melds volunteer service work with tourism. Tourists could plant trees resistant to sea-level rise on the coast of East Java. They could help build a road to make the miners’ travels easier. Voluntourism, however, is a potentially deleterious activity that can strip local communities of their agency. If implemented at Kawah Ijen, officials would have to monitor voluntourism with extreme caution and attention to detail.

Another example is pro-poor tourism, which aims to create a net benefit for impoverished communities in host countries. This often takes the form of governments or private companies training impoverished populations to take part in the tourist industry, perhaps as a travel guide or an education specialist.

Because of tourism’s growing economic importance in Banyuwangi, tourists themselves have indirect political power in the region. Considering this, tourists at Kawah Ijen have an opportunity to become activists. If they demanded that miners received just compensation for their work, the regency or PT Cambri Ngimri may oblige. This is called justice tourism, and although it may seem idealistic, it could produce a serious change in places like Kawah Ijen, if it were done correctly.

Sublime photos of Kawah Ijen’s sulfur mines and blue fire continue to circulate on the internet. It is clear that the volcano’s popularity is not dwindling. Governments and companies, then, should try and discover ways to make tourism socially sustainable. This practice is necessary not just in Indonesia, but in any place that is worth visiting and celebrating.

Christopher Orion Bresnahan
Photo: Flickr

Economic Development in Developing Island Nations
Island nations such as Fiji and Tonga are isolated paradises largely cut off from global markets. As tourism increases through the year however, these countries’ economies thrive. While ecotourism in developing island nations increases employment rates and the development of other important sectors, it has to be done with the land and its people in mind.

What is Ecotourism?

Ecotourism in developing island nations is an economic development tool that involves bringing local communities and travelers together in an environmentally friendly way. The main benefits include the preservation of native lands, increases in local employment rates and increased funds for continued conservation. If not kept in check however, ecotourism has the potential to exploit an island’s natural resources and populations, so it must be implemented in the most sustainable way possible. Once nations see improvements in their tourism industry, they can easily become vulnerable to large corporations wanting to create new—and potentially damaging—markets there.

Why Tourism is Important to Developing Island Nations

The World Bank has identified 11 Pacific Islands (PIC 11) that will benefit immensely from increased tourism. These islands are: Papua New Guinea (PNG), Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati, Palau, Marshall Islands (RMI), Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Tuvalu. These countries received over 1.3 million visitors in 2014 and are renowned for their beautiful landscapes, diverse cultures and incredible natural resources. Of this group, countries with the highest tourism rates also have the highest employment rates. The industry employs 15% of the population in Tonga, 18% in Samoa, 50% in Palau.

The Caribbean is one of the most popular tourist destinations, with many of its nations’ economies heavily or completely reliant on tourism industries. The World Bank has started initiatives within the region to establish “blue economies” that take both economic development and environmental effects into consideration. Since 2010, the region’s GDP has increased alongside the growth of island tourism. Unfortunately, these changes have come with an increase in plastic marine debris and the destruction of coral reefs. The main focus of these “blue economies” is to establish a balance between the ocean and the economy so everyone benefits.

Ecotourism Efforts to Support

There are many organizations working to make ecotourism in developing island nations a reality. Ecotourism Belize hires local workers in the Toledo District as guides for tours through the Belizean jungle. They also have a group of bird specialists and traditional healers hired. All employees are of Mayan descent so they are able to give honest representation of ancient Mayan culture and convey how it has been passed down through generations. All of Ecotourism Belize’s profits fund conservation efforts within the Maya Golden Landscape.

In 2017, Palau became the first country to require an “Eco-Pledge” by visitors upon entering. Over the past several years it has seen tourist rates grow seven times larger than the region’s native population. Home to beautiful natural ecosystems, Palau knew it had to mitigate the rise in the destruction of its land due to increased tourism. The country’s government found this destruction was due to a lack of education. By introducing visitors to a localized way of thinking about the environment, the government has taken an important first step towards successful ecotourism.

Keeping Things Balanced

Ecotourism in developing island nations has the potential to help eradicate poverty in these regions. Done correctly, it allows locals to hold onto their culture while protecting their resources and ecosystems at the same time.

Stephanie Russo
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Malta
Considerable progress has been made in addressing poverty in Malta. Malta has experienced substantial increases in its GDP, with a real GDP growth rate of 6.7% in 2017. The unemployment rate in 2018 was also relatively low at 3.7%, exhibiting a -2.5% change from 2012, compared to the European Union average of 6.8%. Malta has further experienced a positive improvement in almost all of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including no poverty and zero hunger. In addition, Malta is among one of the fastest-growing economies within the E.U., further exhibiting their ability to effectively address poverty.

What Is Being Done?

The government of Malta is fighting poverty through its National Strategic Policy for Poverty Reduction and for Social Inclusion 2014-2024. The strategy works to address poverty in Malta through a focus on income and benefits, employment, education, health and environment, social services and culture.

The national strategy has been successful in that it has led to continued increases in the figures for At Risk of Poverty and Social Exclusion (AROPE). Progress addressing poverty in Malta is also being measured by the World Bank, which found that from 2010 to 2015 the income of the bottom 40% in Malta experienced a 3.6% increase, a growth rate faster than the average of the total population.

Pushing Forward Further Progress

While Malta has experienced considerable improvements in addressing the 2030 SDGs, progress has stalled in addressing sustainable consumption and production, inequality and climate change. Malta has put forth policies to push forward progress with regard to these stalled SDGs.

The reform package measure “Making Work Pay” works to address inequalities through the introduction of a guaranteed minimum pension, reduced income tax and introduction and extension of in-work benefits. The success of these measures is evident through the country’s low unemployment rate and rising GDP. Additionally, gender inequalities continue to persist in terms of employment. However, the rate of women in employment has seen a considerable increase in recent years. The fact that the gender employment gap has reduced by 4.6% from 2015 to 2018 demonstrates this.

Despite the fact that progress addressing climate change in Malta has stalled, when compared to other countries within the E.U., Malta is among the countries with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per capita. Malta’s Sustainable Development Vision for 2050 addresses the lack of progress in regard to climate change, as well as envisions the eradication of poverty and social exclusion.

Tourism in Malta

The Maltese government is also using tourism, a major contributor to their economic development, as a means of pushing forward the green economic transition and progress towards sustainable consumption and production and climate change. The restoration of historical and cultural sites in the country is making this progress possible. One such example is the restoration of the Grand Master’s Palace in Malta. Tourism contributes to the alleviation of poverty in Malta by increasing economic opportunities and generating taxable economic growth which can be used towards poverty alleviation.

While work is still needed in Malta in areas such as climate change and the gender employment gap, poverty in Malta is well on its way to meeting its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr