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Tourism is the Key to Poverty Reduction

Tourism, Investment, Sustainability

Tourism – Key to Poverty Reduction in the least Developed Countries (LCD)

The tourism industry has the potential to be a serious catalyst in the reduction of poverty. Sustainable tourism development can empower these underprivileged communities and offer a real economic escape. Evidence of this is apparent in 20 of the 48 Least Developed Countries where tourism is currently the first or second source of earnings, and it is demonstrating steady growth in at least 10 others.

Since the concept of Least Developed Countries (LDC) was initiated in the 1960’s, only three countries have graduated to developing country status, all through the growth of their tourism industries – Botswana in 1994, Cape Verde in 2007, and most recently, the Maldives in January 2011. Today, the term LDC still applies to 48 countries – 33 of which are in Africa – that exhibit the lowest indicators of socioeconomic development and the lowest Human Development Index ratings in the world. These countries are classified by having a per capita income of $905 or less per year.

As an international architecture and planning firm with nine global offices, OBM International understands the concept of using tourism to alleviate poverty in LDC’s, and recently had the privilege of being invited to discuss the topic at the 2011 Fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries in Istanbul, Turkey.

During the conference, an elite team of executives – from developed, emerging and LDC economies – along with government leaders, analyzed and discussed LDC tourism development aspirations as set out in the Diagnostic Trade Integration Studies. The study encompasses a comprehensive review of LDCs’ trade constraints, trade potential, and the priority actions required to meet trade development needs and poverty reduction programs.

The development of international tourism in LDC’s has proven to be one of the key drivers to help countries promote productivity, sustainability, and inclusion; all of which are needed to generate foreign revenue and create employment. There was roughly $2.3 billion spent daily in tourism activities worldwide in 2010, and the 11% per annum average growth rate for tourism income in the LDC’s is far higher than the global norm. This inflow of foreign currency provides jobs that require individuals to learn a trade and become educated through training.

The World Tourism Organization had estimated that by 2010, 75 million international tourists would arrive daily to Africa and 416 million in Asia. Both of these regions represent the majority of the LDC’s, giving these counties the ability to utilize the inflow of tourism dollars and raise their standard of living.

Following the same patterns as Asia, Africa is currently forecasted to be the largest international market in the world because the baseline is so low and there is so much scope for uplift. This provides a platform to citizens to start their own, local tourism enterprises, as well as empower the women of these regions to engage in socioeconomic improvements.