Stepping up: creating a sustainable tourism enterprise strategy that delivers in the developing world

Stepping up: creating a sustainable tourism enterprise strategy that delivers in the developing world

Sustainable tourism as an effective poverty reduction strategy

Pointing to the link between conservation and poverty alleviation, this paper assesses the potential of sustainable tourism or ecotourism as an effective poverty reduction strategy. The central thesis of this paper is that the only way to genuinely address poverty and successfully conserve more landscapes on a grander scale is to generate new wealth in rural areas where the poor reside, while at the same time working to limit wherever possible the environmental impacts of this wealth creation.

The report highglights that:

  • the traditional economy, i.e. the village-based way of life found in the rural parts of most developing countries, is the key to effective poverty reduction
  • there is a need to tackle the lack of infrastructure, credit, collateral and legal protection and also increasing pollution, depletion of natural resources, in order to make the traditional economy work more effectively
  • so-called sustainable global enterprises represent a private sector-based approach to development that creates profitable businesses in the traditional economy that simultaneously raise the quality of life for the world’s poor, respect cultural diversity, and conserve the ecological integrity of the planet for future generations
  • sustainable tourism and its subset ecotourism have been cited as a sustainable enterprise industry that can indeed meet many goals for both poverty alleviation and conservation while also helping to contribute directly to the income of the rural poor and create more incentive to stay on the land
  • sustainable tourism should create new wealth for people in developing countries who are dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods while contributing to conservation of the earth’s resources at the same time.

If sustainable tourism is to become one of the important enterprise development alternatives presently being considered on the world stage that can deliver in the developing world, the following next steps have to be considered:

  • implementation mechanisms must be much better defined
  • small and medium enterprises need to be given a stronger incentive to lead, as the risks for creating new markets in traditional economies is much higher than in the safe, world of the money economy
  • strategic alliances between business, governments and NGOs at the destination level will also be critical to ensuring that appropriate regional planning takes place to prevent the inappropriate growth of tourism in sensitive ecosystems
  • altogether a wide variety of new initiatives can emerge that meet the goals of the global community if the focus of new investment in sustainable tourism is on:
    1. expanding sustainable tourism business opportunity and investment on a larger scale
    2. increasing sustainable planning of tourism
    3. targeting assistance to regions where traditional economies are in genuine need and the sustainable tourism economy can break new ground.