President Bill Clinton, speaking at the World Travel and Tourism Council summit in Abu Dhabi yesterday, said many positive things about the ability of travel and tourism to make the world a better place. According to the Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/9983729/Bill-Clinton-praises-tourisms-power-for-peace.html) Clinton “said the travel industry was ‘good for the earth, the children and the future.’ The former politician, who was the US head of state from 1993 to 2001, said that tourism could be used to foster stability and peace.”
I agree completely with the former President. Tourism done right can have a number of positive impacts on the world. When the money tourist’s spend goes into the local economy (as opposed to going into multinational corporation’s pockets), and when the tourism is designed to protect local environments and cultures, it can be hugely beneficial. Additionally, the more people from different cultures learn about each other, the more harmony there is in the world.
On the financial side, tourism can be a huge source of income for developing nations, and people in remote, ecotourism destinations. According to the World Tourism Organization (WTO), international tourism accounts for 30 percent of the world’s exports of services and it generated US $1,030 billion in tourism receipts in 2011. This constitutes 3–10 percent of GDP in advanced economies and up to 40 percent in developing economies. Tourism supports 7% of the world’s workers.
Add to that that 75% of international tourists depart from high or upper-middle income countries, and 40% of these journeys end in developing country destinations. In 2007, foreign travelers spent $297 billion in developing countries; that number will have gone up substantially since then. According to the United Nations Enfironent Programme, tourism is one of the top five export categories for as many as 83% of countries and is a main source of foreign exchange earnings for at least 38% of countries.
On the cultural side, the power of tourism to promote world understanding and harmony is so great that at the Global Ecotourism Conference in Norway in 2007, it was proposed that there should be a Nobel Peace Prize for tourism. I think that is a great idea.
It is also important to remember, however, that tourism done wrong can actually have a negative impact on the planet, it’s people, and it’s ecosystems. Travel involves burning carbon fuels, which add to global warming, so tourism already starts with a net negative on the planet. Thus, we must choose travel that has enough positives – poverty alleviation, cultural understanding, protection of valuable ecosystems and cultures, etc – to overcome this negative to make tourism a positive for the planet.
We’ll have more on this subject soon, but please feel free to leave your thoughts on the value of tourism