WASHINGTON, July 10, 2017 — Travel and tourism impact the world in multiple ways. There is the obvious economic impact: Global tourism is a $1.4 trillion industry. The U.S. alone brings in over $220 billion in tourist spending from abroad, and Americans spend $146 billion abroad. Directly and indirectly, travel and tourism are 10 percent of global GDP.
But there are also social and cultural impacts. Travelers expand their worldview, seeing how other people live and experiencing some of the many things that connect us. They bring home bits of foreign culture and a hunger for foreign goods, at the same time leaving some of their cultures behind.
Jamaican Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett visited Washington, DC at the end of June to speak to people involved in the tourism industry. He spoke with representatives from both the government and private sectors about the impact of tourism as an economic driver of the global economy and a tool to reduce poverty.
Bartlett met with representatives from the financial sector, including Anabel Gonzalez, the senior director of the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice of the World Bank Group. There were also people like Airbnb’s Clark Stevens, Director of Government Affairs and Strategic Partnerships.
The tourism sector goes well beyond hotels and airline tickets. It extends to the restaurant and agriculture industries, is a direct driver of cruise ship construction and operation, an important indirect driver of the civilian aerospace industry, and is crucial to the survival of native and minority arts, crafts, music, and cuisine. Numerous micro-businesses and entire communities depend on tourist spending money in their community.
These micro-businesses are often owned by women, and they typically hire a lot of young people. They are a first step to escape from generational poverty.
Tourism Knowledge Exchange 2017 reports that the travel and tourism sector not only accounts for nearly 10 percent of the global GDP; it also employs 227 million people. Worldwide, one in every 11 jobs is tied to tourism. So is 7 percent of global international trade.
And these numbers will grow. In 2016, international tourism was worth $1.2 trillion; it is expected to be worth $1.8 trillion yearly by 2030. It will continue to account for more than 10 percent of global GDP, and will grow to include 30 percent of the world’s trade in services. This is according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the Government of Jamaica, and the World Bank Group Conference on Jobs & Inclusive Growth: Partnership for Sustainable Tourism.
UNWTO predicts that there will be 1.3 billion international arrivals per year by 2020. Arrivals in emerging economies account for half the total, rising from 250 million in 2000 to 550 million in 2016.
The numbers above all say the same thing: International tourism is a huge and growing industry for wealthy nations and poor, and its impact on poor and developing nations and minorities within wealthy nations is disproportionately large. Anyone who cares about alleviating poverty and promoting development has to care about tourism.
This fact has led to the development of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that says:
“There is little doubt of tourism’s vast potential as a driving force for economic growth and national development. This is especially so for tourism-dependent nations like Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean.”
Done the right way, tourism has a tremendous capacity to create good jobs, provide opportunities for inclusion and education of minorities and young people, and contribute to preserving cultural heritage and the environment. Done the wrong way, it can do vast harm to all of these.
Sustainability is what makes the difference. Tourism can only be considered truly sustainable if it generates good jobs and raises standards of living. It must stimulate trade and linkages, and respect and protect the natural and cultural environments that draw all those tourists in the first place. Tourism stakeholders must embrace more ecologically, socially and economically sound forms of tourism.
Bartlett’s meetings with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), banks and government officials were intended to promote awareness for the upcoming “UNWTO, Government of Jamaica and World Bank Group Conference on Jobs & Inclusive Growth: Partnership for Sustainable Tourism” conference being held November 27-29, 2017 at the Montego Bay Convention Centre.
The November event is the result of collaboration between stakeholders like Bartlett and the World Bank, who have agreed to stage this historic conference. Bartlett signed the agreement to host the conference at the Palacio Neptuna in Spain in January of this year.
The United Nations General Assembly declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, and in collaboration with the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association, Chemonics and The George Washington University, the U.N. group resolution recognizes:
“The importance of international tourism, and particularly of the designation of an international year of sustainable tourism for development, in fostering better understanding among people everywhere, in leading to a greater awareness of the rich heritage of various civilizations and in bringing about a better appreciation of the inherent values of different cultures, thereby contributing to the strengthening of peace in the world.”
The UN hopes that the year will increase tourism that fosters:
- Inclusive and sustainable economic growth
- Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction
- Resource efficiency, environmental protection, and climate change
- Cultural Values, diversity, and heritage
- Mutual understand, peace and security
For Bartlett, the answer to poverty in his and other vacation destinations is to tap into those tourism dollars and provide vacationers a more authentic experience than the box resort.
“The corporate resorts are important to our tourism economy. However, as a destination, we can encourage visitors to leave the resort to visit and give patronage, to the towns of Jamaica. However, that effort goes hand in hand with stakeholders working with native persons to create safe, interesting trips to stay, eat and shop in our villages. To take advantage of the areas outdoor activities, learn about our agro-tourism, eco-tourism, and natural environment. “
And there is plenty to offer.
Tourism as an economic driver is in practice at Bluefields Bay Villas, where visits to the schools, homes, farms and women’s co-ops create a vacation experience far beyond Jamaica’s beautiful beaches and blue waters.
Bluefield Bay Villas, located in the Westmoreland Parish, has made significant efforts to bring awareness of the community, and all it has to offer, to vacationers drawn by the resort’s six, private, luxury bayfront villas. These villas are suitable both for both family vacations and corporate retreats.
Divided amongst the villas are 23 bedrooms. That translates into more than 5,000 guest nights annually with a 60 percent occupancy rate. The result is that the Jamaican-American company is able to annually invest $2,000,000 into the Westmoreland economy. According to Houston Moncure, managing director of Bluefields Bay Villas:
“As a Jamaican-American company, we have always been aware of our responsibility to the community of Bluefields Bay and Jamaica as a whole. Our entire staff of 80 persons is Jamaican, including the higher paid management positions. We use local food to make gourmet meals, and products whenever possible that come from the community, we work with the schools to increase educational resources and infrastructure.
“We are proactive about not only giving back to the community but also making sure that we help provide a framework for long-term educational and economic improvement to this gorgeous area of Jamaica.”
The November conference will highlight the importance of tourism and public-private partnerships, as at Bluefields Bay. The goal of this part of the overall effort is to enhance recognition that destination tourism demands a partnership between the public and private sectors.
Public lands—beaches, lakes, local parks, national parks—must be accessible to and maintained for vacationing tourists. The development of local, private businesses will provide enhancements, from food and regional art and crafts, to recreational equipment rentals.
Bluefields Bay is just one example of how the public sector and private enterprise can work together to bring tourism dollars to the people and spur local development. Another is Adventure Canada River Cruises, a cruise-ship operator that collects $250.00 U.S. from passengers. Those dollars are given as “mooring” fees to the communities that their ships visit to be used by the community for its development.
The cruise company briefs passengers on the people and history of the various towns they visit. It exposes them to authentic and unique quality products and services, from regional food demonstrations to heritage parks and learning environments.
These not only help to alleviate poverty, but also produce an authentic international experience for foreign tourists.