Supporting Global Development through Sustainable Tourism

Thursday, 12 June 2014 00:00

The Economic Impact of Tourism Development

Written by Natalie Clark

What’s the world’s number one export? No, it’s not oil, food, or electronics.

It’s tourism.

Tourism is of tremendous economic importance worldwide. As mentioned above, tourism is a huge sector of both goods and service exports- 6% of goods ($1.4 trillion USD) and 29% of services. Tourism jobs also represent one in eleven jobs globally, and the industry comprises 9% of global GDP, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) finds that tourism generates 4.4% of total investment globally.

In numerous economic sectors; including accommodations, food and beverage, retail, recreation, entertainment, and transportation; tourism has both direct and indirect effects on production, jobs, wages, and taxes (according to Tourism Economics). By increasing the tourism in a region, economic development and growth can be spurred. More tourists means more demand, more jobs, and more revenue, including tax revenue for local and national governments.

According to the U.S. Travel Association, tourism in the U.S. alone generated $2.1 trillion USD in economic impact with $887.9 billion in direct spending and an additional $1.2 in industries indirectly affected. This accounts to $28,154 spent per second in the U.S. by domestic and international travellers. The tourism industry is one of the top employers in the U.S. supporting 14.9 million jobs and generating $209.5 billion in wages for employees directly in the travel industry.

While tourism and travel are clearly important globally, they are critical industries for much of the developing world. Tourism is the leading export in over half of least developed countries (LDCs). Some of the most unique tourist attractions, such as indigenous culture and nature reserves, are located in rural areas- where poverty is often greatest. In this, tourism offers the potential to create jobs where they are most needed and to reduce migration to urban areas. 

In 1950, there were 25 million international tourists. This number has skyrocketed since, climbing to 1087 million last year. The UNWTO predicts that this number will only continue to climb with an anticipated 3.3% annual increase from 2010 to 2030, to reach 1.8 billion in 2030. Of these, the UNWTO expects that tourist arrivals in emerging destinations will increase at twice the rate of destinations in advanced countries, 4.4% growth per year as compared to 2.2% per year. The greatest demand comes from China with 2013 travel spending equaling USD $129 billion- and this market is expected to continue growing.

Here at Solimar, we understand the incredible opportunity that tourism presents for international development. It's why we are so passionate about what we do - we know that harnessing the power of tourism for good is vital to the economic growth and stability of the developing world. Everything we do seeks to use sustainable tourism as a force to stimulate economic growth and development while conserving natural resources and cultural heritage. To learn more about how Solimar uses tourism to spur economic development, visit our page here: 

Published in General
Thursday, 31 July 2014 20:11

Solimar's Tourism Results

Written by Maria Fernanda

Results make it possible to set goals, measure progress, and to evaluate the success of any project. At Solimar, we have developed numerous projects committed to tourism development and creating positive experiences for local people, local businesses, and tourists themselves. Solimar has gained a strong reputation internationally as a leader in the field of sustainable tourism development. Since 2006, Solimar has initiated or completed 80 projects in more than 40 countries around the world. Over the past 12 years Solimar has:

  • Introduced more than 80 emerging destinations to the international marketplace

  • Assisted over 2,500 small tourism enterprises in more than 40 countries

  • Supported biodiversity conservation in more than 180 parks and protected areas

  • Created 22 Sustainable Destination Partnerships in partnership with the National Geographic Society

  • Trained more than 5,000 people in better tourism management, marketing, and environmental conservation practices

solimar map

Our clients range from small, rural villages and community-based tourism enterprises, to national hotel chains and international tourism organizations. Take a look at some of the results from two recent projects:

NGS San Andrés Colombia

san andres1 san andres2

This project began on September 2013 and is still being implemented. The Geotourism Program for the archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina is helping local communities improve their market position within the tourism sector by providing potential visitors with local knowledge of the archipelago’s unique tourism attractions. The project’s core deliverable is a National Geographic co-branded website that will motivate people to visit the region.

san andres3

So far the results of this project are:

The creation of a National Geographic co-branded website that provides information on local, authentic tourism businesses, sites and attractions in the region

  •  The creation of a strategic business plan and marketing strategy to guide the long-term sustainability of the program

  • Establishment of a Geotourism Stewardship Council of local tourism representatives to guide and sustain the program over the long-term

  • Initiated Geotourism MapGuide launch events with participatory Workshops and events held with key stakeholders to engage local participation in gathering local stories about sites, attractions and businesses.

Sierra La Giganta Corridor of Baja, Mexico

la giganta1 la giganta2

This project began on January 2013 and just finished on June 2014. Solimar developed a master plan to guide the successful implementation of sustainable tourism development in this area. See some results below.

Solimar International:

  • Created three business plans that document viable tourism concepts that can be developed in the region

  •  Promoted the business cases with potential donors and investors to secure the funding required to launch the sustainable tourism concepts

  • Developed a Destination Management Strategy that clearly defines sustainable vision (attractions, amenities, access, human resources, marketing, and pricing)

  • Helped with the development of products and services such as eco-lodges, transportation, guide services, arts and crafts that will help Sierra la Giganta appeal to a wide range of tourists and tour operators.

project1 project2

Look at our various projects and be sure to look at our tourism development consulting services and learn more about the work that Solimar is doing to support global development through sustainable tourism. Click below to download our free Tourism Destination Management toolkit!

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Published in General
Wednesday, 19 November 2014 00:28

The Importance of Measuring Tourism Impacts

Written by Carmela Otarra

Measuring tourism impacts is often perceived as a tedious and complicated task by some tourism professionals. Since tourism is integrated across numerous sectors, there are many aspects to consider when analyzing the results of tourism development. At the broadest level, tourism affects the economy through employment and investment. It also impacts the environment as many tourism destinations are in conservation areas, traveling requires creating carbon dioxide, and too many visitors can degrade natural wonders.

Measuring Tourism Impacts

For these and many other reasons, measuring tourism impacts is actually one of most important practices in achieving successful sustainable tourism development. Here are some of the reasons behind its significance:

Measuring Tourism Impacts...

1. Helps in Conservation

Determining the economic, socio-cultural, and environmental impacts of tourism development will help in conservation because it can show the positive and negative effects.

Measuring Tourism Impacts - Conservation

Is tourism development helping in the protection and growth of wildlife? Is tourism development promoting the culture of indigenous peoples? Or is tourism development negatively exploiting the natural resources and cultures of the local population?

Measuring tourism impacts on our environment will help decision-makers in creating strategies that will support rather than harm conservation. Decision-makers can use the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC) to evaluate the impact of tourism on the local community, cultural heritage, and the environment. From this evaluation, they can then establish if they should implement stronger controls, support other initiatives, or correct harmful practices.

The GSTC Partnership was initiated by the Rainforest Alliance, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Foundation, and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to promote and implement universal sustainable tourism principles around the world.

2. Spurs Investment

Sustainable tourism development often begins with investment from the government and private sector. To rationalize these investments, the government and the private sector need numbers from the tourism sector.

Measuring Tourism Impacts - Investment

How many jobs is tourism creating, both directly and indirectly? How much of the gross domestic product (GDP) is from tourism? What is the potential of tourism in creating more jobs and in increasing the country's GDP?

By measuring these important tourism metrics, investors will get the information and encouragement that they need to continue supporting sustainable tourism development.

The UNWTO, in partnership with the International Labor Organization (ILO) recently released a report on the best practices of measuring the impact of tourism on employment. This could be a helpful resource for those who want to increase employment on their communities.

3. Educates Tourists

Last year, at least one billion tourists traveled across the globe. That means one billion opportunities to teach about how tourism affects the world and how people can have more positive impacts on communities and the environment.

Measuring Tourism Impacts - Educating Tourists Gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park -Tertius Bune

How much of a tourist's expenditure go to the local economy? How can tourists reduce negative economic impacts, especially on protected areas and heritage sites? How are tourists getting involved with preservation after visiting a destination?

By measuring tourism impacts and sharing results with tourists, we can help them support sustainable tourism development. Solimar also wrote about the importance of tourism in today's economy given that it is one of the largest sectors in the world.

Measuring tourism impacts is therefore crucial for sustainable tourism development. Having the numbers and the research results with us is a powerful tool for our industry.

If you are interested in achieving sustainable goals and positive impacts for your destination, download this toolkit from Solimar.


Published in General
Tuesday, 25 November 2014 15:58

Environmental Indicators in Measuring Tourism Impacts

Written by Carmela Otarra

The task of measuring tourism impacts is often conducted by identifying certain economic indicators, such as the contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or the overall employment, and measuring their base before tourism, after a tourism project begins, and monitoring them as the project progresses. Here is an example infographic from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC):

Namibia Infographic
Source: WTTC

With sustainable tourism development, we aim to manage the consequences of tourism in such a way to maintain a balance between its economic, environmental, and socio-cultural impacts. Therefore, it is important to identify environmental and socio-cultural indicators to measure as well.

Solimar has compiled a list of possible indicators that you can use in evaluating and measuring tourism impacts particularly environmental ones. Although this list is not comprehensive, these indicators are the most commonly used and can guide you in your initial tourism planning.

Effect on Air, Water, and Soil Quality

Environmental Indicators Tourism Impacts 1

Tourism relies heavily on natural resources, so its impact on the environment is crucial when measuring tourism impacts. Ideally, tourism should be able to improve the quality of air, water, and soil in a destination. Some example questions to consider when measuring this indicator:

  • Has tourism been able to maintain the quality of water in the destination?
  • In places that promote pristine and endless strips of beaches, how clear is the water from coliform bacteria contamination?
  • Is there sufficient drinking water for the communities in the destination?

Sometimes, tourism businesses use up most of the water in a local area because of the needs of the tourists, such as providing showers in hotels. This transfers resources from the locals to the tourists and sustainable tourism developers should be wary of this.

Effect on Conservation Goals

Environmental Indicators Tourism Impacts 2

At Solimar, we believe that tourism should be able to enhance and improve the conservation efforts in a destination. When measuring tourism impacts on conservation, use these guide questions to help you:

  • Is tourism helping in protecting wildlife and other environmental resources?
  • Has the number of endangered species increased or decreased?
  • Does tourism support forest regeneration and marine conservation?

Effect on Waste

Many tourist establishments generate a relatively higher volume of waste compared to the locals' waste. Well-implemented waste management strategies are crucial to prevent negative impacts on the environment such as high levels of dangerous bacteria. Consider:

  • How much solid waste is generated by tourism?
  • Is there a proper waste management system to prevent negative environmental impacts?
  • What is the ratio of the tourism establishments waste compared to the locals?
Environmental Indicators Tourism Impacts 3

Measuring tourism impacts using these environmental indicators is helpful in sustainable tourism planning as a guide in designing strategies to achieve the positive side of these indicators. Of course, your indicators will need to be customized to your destination.

Solimar has a thorough understanding of the indicator measurement practices and worked with various clients including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the World Bank. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you in this regard, ask one of our experts.


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