Tourism brings both advantages and disadvantages to a country. It can bring wealth and jobs to communities that would otherwise remain poor just as much as it can lead to social dislocation, loss of cultural heritage and ecological degradation. UNESCO claims that tourism must be sustainable for the advantages to outweigh the disadvantages.
“Tourism that respects both local people and the traveler, cultural heritage and the environment” is what UNESCO calls sustainable tourism. This form seeks to benefit the host country and local economies so that people in that country may have better lives.
Evidence shows that sustainable tourism is a great tool for development and poverty alleviation in developing countries. These are ten ways in which sustainable tourism alleviates poverty:
- “Tourism is one of the most important sources of foreign exchange earnings and job creation in many poor and developing countries with limited options for alternative economic development” according to the U.N.’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
- Tourism can be directly taxed creating the necessary funds for improving infrastructure, education and health on the ground.
- The tourism industry employs a high proportion of women, which contributes to gender equality and women’s empowerment in poor countries.
- Locally owned microenterprises ran by the poor serve as a benefit, as tourists buy a wide variety of goods and services.
- Sustainable tourism leads to employment diversification on a local level, which reduces the vulnerability of the poor.
- The UNWTO claims, “Wages can often reach $1,000 to $4,000 per worker per year.” This is enough to bring workers and their families above the poverty line.
- In 2012, the tourism industry accounted for more than 260 million jobs according to the International Labor Office (ILO). This number is expected to rise given that tourism is one of the fastest growing industries.
- The tourism industry employs a high proportion of individuals under 25. As a result, youth gain access to higher earnings and better opportunities through sustainable tourism.
- Tourism provides a vast number of jobs to people with little or no formal training.
- Working conditions are generally decent within the tourism industry as the industry depends on providing a quality service.
This list is by no means exhaustive. There are many other ways in which tourism can help the poor. As long as tourism is sustainable and wealth from tourism trickles down to the poor, the poorest countries will prosper. Given the increasing popularity of sustainable tourism, prosperity and wealth are a likely prospect for many poor countries.
– Christina Egerstrom