It accounts for a huge 6% of the World’s

It can be argued that tourism is a potential solution to poverty around the world. As one of the strongest influences of world trade and profitability, the tourism industry has both the colossal challenge and opportunity to alleviate one of the greatest global challenges, despite facing turbulent times of its own. A huge US $1.4 trillion from 1.3 billion international visitors was generated in 2016, just short of Australia’s entire gross domestic product in the same year. The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) has published statistics (when?) stating the industry contributes 5% of the World’s Gross Domestic Product; accounts for a huge 6% of the World’s exports in the service industry, ranking fourth largests after automotive products, fuels & chemicals. For smaller, less developed nations, tourism can contribute up to 25% of the GDP. As such, tourism has and continues to enable massive amounts of development through foreign exchange income and the creation of employment, both direct and indirect. Approximately 260 million jobs have been created in response to the booming industry, equating to one in every 12 positions worldwide, according to the International Labor Office. It’s been proven that regardless of economic stability produced by situations such as the major political changes occurring in North Africa and the Middle East in 2011, the rate of international arrivals continues to grow. During that period, a huge 4% growth in international arrivals was recorded, taking the total from 939 million in 2010 for 982 million one year later.Tourism is both the main source of foreign exchange earnings for many countries and most viable economic development option. If managed effectively, the tourism product can prove very lucrative for poorer nations, as curious minds will always want to explore every corner of the world, preferably lead by a local. From here, the options are expansive, with income being spread between communities, creating jobs for local people within the realm of tourism enterprises, products and services, the construction of accommodations, amenities and maintenance of attractions. The World Tourism Organisation has suggested tourism in recent years can be characterized by two main trends, which detail the distribution of travel around the world. The first is the consolidation of traditional tourism destinations, those that have been extensively traveled in the past and will continue building popularity in the future, inclusive of countries in Western Europe and North America. The second category is a pronounced geographical expansion, which explores the notion that many new destinations, often developing countries, are being discovered and explored as new tourist destinations. Developing countries and emerging markets documented a significant increase in their tourist arrivals in 2011, amounting to 459 million and 46% of the total international arrivals. Upon reviewing the world’s 48 least developed countries, the tourism industry ranks as the first or second source of export earnings for 20 of them, exposing just how great the opportunity is for poverty alleviation through tourism. The World Tourism Organisation has identified various principles for pursuing poverty alleviation through tourism.  The need for all tourism businesses and sectors to be actively engaged and concerned about the topic hits the top of the list. Through government involvement, poverty alleviation as a central aim can be introduced in all tourism strategies and action plans. Whilst businesses remain competitive, developing nations will continue to economically benefit from their success, as without this drive to be improve, economic stimulation will decrease. A point of vital importance is the need for tourism businesses to be aware of the impact of their attraction, activities or services on the environment and local communities currently, in the future and on a global scale. The WTO has noted businesses must aim to benefit the poor through their actions. The distribution of income from tourism within a community must be regularly examined, as a mismanaged system may result in larger corporations or companies financially benefiting from the influx of tourists, rather than funds being channeled into the correct avenues. Through effective planning, opportunities to produce income in poor communities, family groups, townships etc can be identified. The opportunity may be as simple as a choir group performing to tour groups each time they pass through the rural town, as they’ll receive tips that can be used to develop the infrastructure in which they perform, their training materials etc. Through effective monitoring, progress on these principles can be carefully reviewed to enable the greatest results moving forwards. The Conversation, an independent source of online news and views from the academic and research community, has outlined both the advantages and disadvantages tourism presents to a country. It’s evident all sources agree with the need to create jobs and stimulate local economies, who otherwise would remain poor, however many publications do not touch on the potential social dislocation, decline in preservation of cultural heritage and the environment facing degradation to an extreme degree in some locations. Whilst both views can be argued, UNESCO has simplified the conversation by stating that tourism “must be sustainable for the advantages to outweigh the disadvantages”. UNESCO defines sustainable tourism as “Tourism that respects both local people and the traveler, cultural heritage and the environment”. So is it as simple as that- tourism organisations must provide only sustainable tourism practices, preventing the risk of causing more damage than wealth, which in turn will at least progress the concept of alleviating poverty through tourism? Perhaps rather than stating simply tourism can alleviate poverty, the words sustainable tourism should be used? This way, wealth generated will be distributed between the poor, allowing the poorest countries to become more developed. When the system is managed properly, tourism is directly taxed, inevitably creating funds that can be directly injected into the necessary infrastructure, improving health and continuing to educate the local people involved in providing products and services to international arrivals. Of those employed in the industry, a significant number are women, which is hugely important for gender equality and to empower women in countries where they aren’t usually seen to be apart of the workforce. There’s also a high proportion of workers under 25 years of age, providing greater opportunities to youths. Given the industry relies so heavily on providing high level service to its clients, the working conditions are consequently quite good. The WTO has projected between $1,000 to $4,000 is generated per worker per year in poorer nations, which is sufficient in bringing both workers and their families above the poverty line, a figure that shows the importance of the tourism sector focusing on marketing developing countries in order to increase the number of international arrivals year on year.The current International Poverty Line, as decided by the World Bank, is $1.90 as of October 2015, an increase from $1.25 in 2008. The amendment was as a reflection to the increased costs of living, meaning the real value of $1.90 is the same as $1.25 was in 2005. It is projected that in 2013 767 million people lived in extreme poverty, a terrifying figure, however one that’s down from 1.85 billion in the year 1990, when four in 10 people were living under the International Extreme Poverty Line.Poverty is often explained in monetary terms, however Sen (1999) details the reasons why people find themselves in such a situation, arising due to a lack of key capabilities including income, education, health care, security, self-confidence, freedom of speech and a sense of power and responsibility. The publication ‘Tourism and Poverty Reduction: Principles and impacts in developing countries’ explains the abundance of natural and cultural assets that currently exist in many of the poorest areas of the world. These assets provide an incredible opportunity to build wealth and stimulate development, redistributing wealth from those countries with a steady influx of tourists contributing huge amount to the GDP, to those whose inhabitants live close to or under the International Poverty Line.Wilderness Safaris located in Southern Africa, providing luxury safari holidays to affluent tourists, sought to better understand the impact of their company providing employment to the local people. A socio-economic impact analysis was carried out, which produced interesting results. Over 200 staff and 600 community locals who lived and worked around tourism lodges in Namibia, Botswana and Malawi were interviewed to determine what salaries were spent on. Synman of Wilderness Safaris discovered the salaries of around 300 employees were channeled into supporting 2,300 dependents in surrounding areas. Interestingly 81% of staff interviewed agreed that the tourism industry was alleviating poverty to a certain extent within the local area. We must consider the opinions of the remaining 9%- did they not agree due to the absence of tangibly witnessing the income in the community or were funds purely benefitting the lodges and not surrounding areas? According to the Minister of Environment and Tourism, published in Vision 2030, tourism has played a significant role in Namibia’s economic growth, with the industry being identified as one of the few that are able to directly contribute to economic development and poverty alleviation in rural regions. Having personally spent time in Namibia in September 2015, I can absolutely attest to this statement as a result of seeing more advertising campaigns, marketing for tours and content splashed across all forms on social media- Namibia has become the next hot tourism destination, despite being one of the wealthiest countries in Africa, with many poor people. Unevenly distributed income has resulted in around 50% of the population living below the poverty line of $1.90 per day, with 20% of deaths among infants under five attributed to HIV and AIDS. Between year 2000- 2010 there was a mere four doctors and 28 nurses per 10,000 people- unacceptable figures given one in five adults was infected by HIV/ AIDS by 2000. (WTO)Namibia’s international arrivals are only likely to increase after Donald Trump’s latest comments about the country being one of the worst in the world. Whilst bad publicity, they do say any is better than none. The clever tourist board of Namibia have utilised the negative comments and turned them into a video promoting the country, it’s certainly worth a watch- 27% of Namibia’s employment being generated directly through tourism in 2013, a huge 24,000 jobs were created, attributing over N$3 billions or approximately 3% of the GDP. Due to the nature of the environment in Namibia and many African countries, a large number of communal conservancies exist, which act to protect wildlife and habitats from poachers and monitor wildlife numbers. As more tourism is driven into developing regions, additional staff will need to be hired, providing greater opportunities for locals. Dispersion of income is quite possibly the most important factor to enable sustainable tourism to alleviate poverty. A study was carried out by researchers from the University of Surrey and Griffith University, who produced a Global Sustainable Tourism Dashboard, able to measure tourism’s impacts and contribution to the United Nations 2015-2030 Sustainable Development Goals. By monitoring whether tourism is really redistributing wealth, we’re able to gain an understanding of why countries who receive a substantial number of international visitors still remain second or third-world countries. Thailand for example received US$54 billion from international visitors in 2016, making it the fourth most popular tourism destination in the world, yet it’s still a very poor country. Cash injections from tourists don’t always equate to development of products and servicers, as many developing countries lack the resources and goods required to deliver what tourists demand. When upkeep for hotels & attractions, courier fees for products and wages for services continue to rise, local governments aren’t necessarily left with surplus funds to stimulate the local economy, or so they think. Economists have called this leakage and have identified it occurring in developing countries such an India and Mauritius. A method in reducing leakage is by governments creating strategic spending plans, focusing of local business development and investing in educating locals who will work in the industry. Through government assistance with creating businesses, marketing products and services and education on how to deliver a service, Samoa has grown its tourism income from US $73 million in 2005 to US $141 million in 2015. The second element of leakage is that of foreign investors who accumulate income in developing nations and take it back to their Western country. This often exists with cruise lines, whose home based is North America or Europe. Whilst they do generate wealth in each country or region they visit, the majority of spending from clients occurs on the ships. This is where it’s important that individuals claim responsibility for who they book with and whether they’re making ethical travel decisions. By using only local, certified responsible providers, tour companies and services, income stays in the developing nation’s economy. It’s evident sustainable tourism is vitally important in stimulating economies, whose majority of inhabitants live below the International Poverty Line. Whilst arguably sustainable tourism cannot solely be held accountable to alleviate poverty, the industry does have an opportunity to be a force for change should governments, individuals and companies actively participate in the movement. Tourism boards and government organisations must be strict in implementing policies and procedures that encourage only sustainable tourism practices and the need to consider poverty alleviation as a key aim of the business. Rather than focussing on individual company income, directors must have a broader outlook on the potential affects their actions can have on the natural environment, local community and on a worldwide scale currently and in the future. Through careful planning and execution, jobs within the tourism sector can be created, providing the opportunity for locals to generate wealth, diversify their skill set and ultimately, to live above the International Poverty Line. With an industry growing at an incredible rate of at least 4% per year since the 1960’s (WTO), now is the time to encourage tourism to developing countries.