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Tourism in development cooperation

Especially in poorer rural areas, tourism evokes hopes of economic improvement. But to ensure that those hopes are not deceived, it is necessary to bear in mind that tourism is a complex field of economics. Tourism requires a lot of know-how and professionalism and successful projects need long-term planning. It is also necessary that the local population is involved in the development of tourism in their home area and that the majority of the revenue from tourism benefits the locals. Therefore, a lot depends on the training of the locals employed in tourism which (e.g. as guides or hotel staff) learn how to give their guests an understanding of culture and environment of their homeland.

Being in contact with guests has an important (side) effect on the locals, as the pride and joy about the home region grows. Jobs are created which takes away the pressure on young people to migrate to urban areas or even other countries in search for work.

Advantage or disadvantage
Tourism can be a great opportunity, especially for poorer rural areas. But often it is not. Particularly in the so-called developing countries, we see numerous examples of non-participatory and socially unjust tourism development. Negative consequences encompass, amongst others, resource conflicts (e.g. the expulsion of fishermen from coastal areas because these areas are attractive to investors to build huge hotel complexes), commercial sexual exploitation of children (for more information see or the unjust remuneration of those working in tourism.

Combating poverty
In international development cooperation, tourism is seen as a promising means to combat poverty. Numerous national development organisations (e.g. the German giz - Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) therefore support projects in tourism. The UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organisation) introduced the programme ST-EP ( to alleviate poverty – its efficacy remains to be seen.
When discussing combating poverty by means of tourism development, an important issue is how success can be measured. Mere economic indicators – e.g. the share of revenues of tourism in the GDP – fail to reflect the full picture, as socio-cultural and ecological costs and benefits largely remain unconsidered.




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