At Solimar we are often confronted with the question, “Why tourism?” How do our driving passions, sustainable economic development and conservation, fit with the tourism industry?
The answer is simple. Tourism is one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the world. When developed responsibly, tourism is a powerful tool for promoting economic and social development on local, national, and regional levels. World Tourism Day (WTD), sponsored by the UNWTO, is celebrated every year on September 27th to highlight this social, cultural, political, and economic value.
This year, official WTD celebrations are being held in Guadalajara, Mexico and focus on the theme of Tourism and Community Development—exploring the ability of tourism to empower local communities with skills and resources that create positive social change. For tourism to drive community development it must be done sustainably: economically, environmentally, and socio-culturally.
According to the WTD website:
With the special focus on the community, WTD 2014 highlights how tourism can be conducive to advancing sustainable development from the grassroots level. Community based tourism involves the local population in the decision making process according to local priorities. The opportunity to become part of the tourism value chain actively involves host communities in the development process. Tourism thus becomes a catalyst of social cohesion, going beyond the immediate impact of job creation and its positive economic consequences and enhances, for instance, local governance capabilities which multiply the tourism impact even further.
You may be wondering how large the tourism sector actually is. Take a look at some of the figures:
The sector is growing in all regions of the world,
‘International tourist arrivals increased by 5% worldwide in 2013, reaching 1087 million’
- Myanmar’s tourist arrivals increased by 52%
- Peru’s tourist arrivals increased by 11%
- Morocco became the 1st African country to have surpassed 10 million international arrivals
This growth is especially evident in developing countries.
‘The market share of emerging economies is expected to reach 57% by 2030, equivalent to over 1 billion international tourist arrivals.’
Tourism is the leading export in over half of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). No other industry commands this kind of impact. Sustainable community-based tourism presents a unique and lucrative way to tackle incredibly difficult development goals in LDCs. Tourism is a labor-intensive industry, which means job creation in areas where tourism is being developed. Sustainable tourism also creates economic value for wildlife, culture, and natural resources which, in turn, incentivizes their protection. Job creation means reduced migration (from rural to urban areas) which contributes to overall political stability in an area.
The full potential of tourism’s transformative power can only be reached with everyone’s participation. The conscious traveler must be a sustainable one.Tourism’s major role in economic, social, and sustainable development gives us all important parts to play. That’s why we do what we do.
Solimar wishes everyone a happy World Tourism Day!