Global Tourism As A Catalyst For International Harmony & Prosperity
There’s no doubt that global tourism is big business, generating around 5% of the global economy. Over 1.3 billion people travelled internationally during 2017 and 2018 looks set to exceed these figures already.
Many countries rely heavily on tourism as a significant source of income. For example, revenue from tourism makes up more than 8% of GDP for countries like Malta, Croatia, Thailand, Jamaica and Iceland. In Africa, the percentages are even higher, with tourism contributing 8.9 % of GDP to the South African economy during 2017.
For the most part, tourism has an overwhelmingly positive effect on host nations in the following ways:
Job creation is by far the most positive contribution that tourism has in any country, both indirectly and directly.
Not only does the industry create jobs for hospitality employees but it also has spin-offs for food, conservation, leisure, transport and cultural operators too. The more tourists there are, the more accommodation, activities, nature reserves and restaurants are needed.
Infrastructure must be improved to cope with the additional load, creating jobs in the construction industry. Training in tourism is also essential, which benefits educational institutions.
Increased Regional Prosperity
This web of positive effects spreads even further by giving tourism employees money to spend. Their wages are used to purchase provisions, food, clothing, fuel, medical services and other daily necessities.
In this way, local businesses profit indirectly from tourism too. The trend towards buying local means that local artisans and farmers are also getting their slice of the tourism pie.
Tourists themselves spend money on curios, local crafts, food, transport and other essentials, once again benefitting local businesses and craftsmen.
In turn, these suppliers have more money to spend and so on and so on, as the web spreads wider and wider.
In areas where tourism is not the main industry, it can still serve as a back-up in times of hardship. For example, if the harvest fails in an agricultural area, tourism earnings can keep the community going during this difficult spell.
This creates less reliance on a single industry in one area.
Greater earnings and spending means more taxes collected. These funds can be used to improve the existing infrastructure and provide valuable social services to members of the community. In turn, improved roads, airports, hospitals, parks and other facilities attract more visitors.
Social and Cultural Advantages
By showcasing their unique local landmarks and way of life, communities are instilled with a sense of identity and pride in this identity. This helps them to keep in touch with what makes them unique and to preserve their natural culture and heritage.
Without cultural diversity to enjoy, tourists may as well stay at home. In this way, tourism plays a key role in preserving the customs and history of an area. Likewise, familiarity with other cultures and nationalities promotes peace and understanding worldwide.
The environment is a touchy subject when it comes to tourism. Building tourist infrastructure in sensitive ecological areas can be harmful to the environment. However, when carefully executed, touristic ventures help to highlight these fragile areas and create an awareness of the need to conserve them.
Tourism has worked wonders in countries like Namibia where local folk have realized that living animals generate income continually, whereas the buck stops with poaching. Whale watching tourism has almost single-handedly saved the whale from certain extinction.
Tourism brings hope and vigor to flagging communities. Local entrepreneurs are encouraged to think of new ideas to generate income from tourists, children can be better educated, and businesses can grow and flourish.
Bringing tourists into a community gives it new life and creates opportunities for entrepreneurs to establish new services and products, or facilities that would not be sustainable based on the local population of residents alone. Tourists are all potential customers, and with the right approach can be targeted in a business strategy that allows for fantastic success.
Drawbacks of Global Tourism
Like any industry, tourism that is carried out selfishly and with short-sightedness causes more harm than good.
Inconsiderate tourists cause litter, pollution and fires. Their sheer numbers can place an unbearable load on ecosystems and infrastructure. Monuments and historic sites are defaced, or damaged, and fragile plants are stomped on and uprooted along the way.
Over-commercialization of an area can cause it to lose its appeal, and cultural showpieces can become little more than human circus acts for the amusement of the masses.
Often tourists are unaware of, or insensitive to local customs – disregarding matters of courtesy, tradition or common decency during their visit.
The seasonality of tourism can have a devastating effect on local workers during quiet periods. Some staff are employed only during peak season, and tips certainly decrease considerably during off-peak times. In this regard, tourism is often an unreliable source of income.
Money earned from tourism sometimes does not make its way back into the community but rather into the pockets of dishonest foreign hoteliers or government officials.
Working for the Good
It is evident that the global tourism industry is on board with keeping the industry sustainable. Funds are being allocated wisely to ensure benefits to the local communities who are the lifeblood of the industry. The environment is starting to take priority during construction and operation of touristic endeavors, and new developments are becoming increasingly innovative about ways to nurture and preserve their environment.
In this way, tourism has enormous potential to continue growing, thriving and contributing positively as a global industry with massive benefits for humanity as a whole.