19 February 2010

More on Tourism and Poverty

Matt and Ranil make some good points about the distribution and poverty-incidence of tourist spending in poor countries. This I completely accept, but I am still stunned by the aggregate figures. Even a small proportion of this going into the hands of poor people is going to be significant, and something worthy of a bit more study and attention to see how the impact can be increased. Jonathan Mitchell and Caroline Ashley from ODI look at these issues in various papers (which I am yet to properly read), but they are in a minority. I have TWO degrees in development economics and have been taught loads about aid, but next to nothing about the poverty impacts of tourism.

Inspired by David Roodman here are a couple of graphs showing the approximate relative size of resource flows to poor countries, and the attention these issues get from academics interested in poverty (measured by Google Scholar hits).

Maybe just a little bit unbalanced?


e pop said...

These are significant numbers but it is also worth considering how many of those tourist dollars come from the pocketbooks of development workers, volunteers, and the like who are there under the auspices of charity. I have been told that, for the US, 80% of development dollars actually end up in the hands of Americans. If they live in a foreign country full time, it stands to reason that excepting the absurd amount of goods they ship in with diplomatic pouches, they spend a lot in the host nation - safaris, drawing friends and family to visit, rent (which is skyrocketing in development hubs across Africa), domestic staff and so on. I have long suspected that the only notable impact on nations' economies targeted by donors is that of those donors' staff dollars injected into the local economy outside the office.

Unknown said...

The effects of tourism is poverty-stricken countries do not stop at the distribution (or lack of distribution) of foreign dollars in the destination country. Someone else made a comment about hospitality jobs in Zanzibar being filled by Tanzanian mainlanders (not to mention Kenyans who have more advanced English than locals in Zanzibar). Instead of being properly employed within the industry, residents who find hotels popping up in their villages look for other ways to earn income from the industry which, often leads young school children to leave their studies to do menial jobs for the hotels, or sell random items along the beach to tourists. With tourism in remote villages comes an increase in drop out rates.

In addition to this comes the issue of land being sold out from under people by local governments to foreign investors or local families selling off their land (their inheritance) as a way to make a chunk of money right now, with nothing to fall back on in the future. In the end they can turn into workers on what was once their land.

Environmentally speaking, no tourist is going to drink local water in a place such as Zanzibar which, means they will be buying bottled water. Zanzibar has little, if any, waste disposal infrastructure and NO recycling capabilities whatsoever. Plastic bottles and plastic bags litter the Island and are overtaking the ecosystem and the very landscape that draws tourists to the Island.

Pro-poor tourism initiatives are currently taking place on the Island working to engage the local community with the tourism industry in a legitimate manner to “unlock the potential” within the tourism industry so that the community may benefit positively. Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle that the PPT initiative has found is that though there is high interest from the community, there is little interest from the tourism sector.

e pop said...

What you're saying is indirect economic development via tourism is detrimental to a countries long-term economic growth - especially if tourism is to play a major role in that economy. Do you suggest a realignment of the development paradigm to take advantage of these massive tourist dollars, "leveraging" as the Dev. kids like to say, in a way that curbs some of the destructive "collateral damage" of the existing tourism milieu? But HOW? A decrease in the existing development budget in any realignment that would place a greater focus on the leveraging of tourist dollars, would necessarily remove a large sector of tourist income that comes from the Development Set. I think this is certainly worth exploring, not least because I support capitalist methodology as opposed to handouts.

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