Ladies & gentlemen,
Allow me first to thank the UNCTAD and the UN Steering Committee on Tourism for Development for organizing this event and for inviting me to participate. As the UN Steering Committee on Tourism for Development was officially launched last year during LDC IV Conference in Istanbul – a conference that is particularly dear to me – I am indeed deeply honoured and very pleased to be able to participate at this special event.
At the outset let me answer the question posed for this special event in the affirmative by saying that I am convinced that the tourism sector can indeed contribute towards inclusive and sustainable growth and development, particularly in LDCs and the vulnerable countries for which my office, OHRLLS, has a specific charge.
Tourism has been the main engine of socio-economic progress for many LDCs. It is believed that the sector is now the first or second source of gross export earnings in 20 LDCs, and demonstrates fairly steady growth in at least 10 others. Sustainable tourism development is fast becoming an important development objective, if not a priority, in a majority of these States. The Istanbul Programme of Action for LDCs acknowledged this as well by calling on development partners to support the LDCs’ efforts in the development of a sustainable tourism sector, in particular through infrastructure and human capital development, increased access to finance and enhanced access to global tourism networks and distribution channels.
For SIDS, with their narrow resource base, tourism is the largest sector contributing to economic growth by providing jobs and foreign income. Indicators from the period prior to the global economic and financial crisis suggested that the international tourism receipts as percentage of exports in the SIDS had averaged some 40.1% in 2007 and was at that time trending on an upward trajectory, having increased from 35.5% in 2003.
The Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of SIDS (BPOA) and its Mauritius Strategy for Implementation (MSI) all acknowledged the vital role that sustainable tourism can play in contributing to the sustainable development of SIDS. Essentially what global action plans such as the Barbados programme of action, the Mauritius Strategy for implementation and the Istanbul programme of action all agree on is the fact that these vulnerable countries need international support to develop their tourism sector.
Such global support should augment national stakeholders who also recognize the capacity of sustainable tourism development to reduce poverty – first through employment creation in the tourism industry, and secondly through the wealth of economic opportunities that arises from linkages with local suppliers of goods and services.
The impact of sustainable tourism development on the wider economy should has been recognized for sometime now as well. The elements of progress which tourism development implies, notably in human capabilities and infrastructure, are foreseen as factors of wider structural transformation and, in some cases, of convergence with more advanced economies.
It is also recognized that utmost attention should be given, from the early stages of development of the sector, to the paramount goal of sustainability, notably with regard to the preservation of cultural and environmental assets.
Indeed there is a need to fully appreciate the tourism, biodiversity and cultural nexus. For LDCs and SIDS the tourism, biodiversity and culture nexus is not an abstract concept. These linkages, with its challenges and complexities reflect the reality that is often played out on a daily basis by various actors and stakeholders, including policy makers, private sector businesses, civil society and resource owners in these vulnerable countries.
However, the need to balance this important industry, and the activities associated, with it with the need to protect the unique environment in LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS continues to be a point of concern. Environmental degradation, particularly that of the marine and coastal zones as well as inland natural environment, due to activities associated with the tourism industry, have placed coastal and terrestrial ecosystems under significant and at times overwhelming pressure.
For SIDS, they continue to demonstrate leadership in the field of environmental protection and conservation. By 2008, SIDS, recognizing the fragility of their vulnerable island biodiversity, designated a collective average of some 14.6% of their total terrestrial areas and some 3.9% of their collective marine space as protected areas.
The unique cultures that are found in LDCs and SIDS continue to play an important role in fuelling the growth of the tourism in these countries by generating demand for cultural tourism. Estimates have suggested that 37% of all international travel have a cultural element. For LDCs and SIDS, cultural tourism is an effective means by which to generate national, regional and international appreciation of indigenous island arts and popular culture as well as support the strengthening of cultural industries and enhancing local cultural confidence.
What then are the response measures that need to be taken to ensure that the tourism sector can indeed contribute towards inclusive and sustainable growth and development in LDCs and SIDS.
At the national level there is a need to: create a safe and stable enabling environment to encourage sustainable tourism development; mainstream sustainable tourism development as an important poverty reduction avenue in all national development strategy documents, and recognize the critical role which local authorities and communities, as well as other stakeholders at the local level, can play in supporting sustainable tourism development initiatives to enable them to fully benefit from tourism development; pay more attention to the preservation of environmental assets and of natural and cultural, both tangible and intangible, heritages, including through the adoption of appropriate policy and legal frameworks at the early stage of product development; build productive capacities relating to these assets for product differentiation, quality and attractiveness; Strengthen linkages and create synergies between tourism and other economic, environmental and cultural sectors for poverty reduction, including through creating opportunities for small and local suppliers of goods and services, and through establishing a process of dialogue among all national stakeholders; enhance the human resources potential for tourism activities through improved general education, vocational training and appropriate capacity-building measures.
At the international level: Support LDCs’ and SIDS efforts to access knowledge and relevant and environmentally-friendly technology to protect and develop their biodiversity, cultural and natural heritages, and to mitigate and adapt the adverse impacts of climate change; encourage decentralized cooperation options through which sub-national authorities in partner countries would share their experiences with LDC authorities on sustainable tourism initiatives, including through innovative partnerships such as, for instance, South–South and triangular North–South–South exchanges of best practices; encourage regional or subregional integration programmes of direct relevance to sustainable tourism development for the benefit of the LDCs. Initiate and promote cooperation and synergies among stakeholders at local and national as well as at regional and international levels;
In many ways many LDCs and SIDS are, to a certain extent, already embarking upon some of the above measures, including policy measures. And in many ways they are already doing so within a green economy or sustainable development context.
But these measures, as I alluded to above, will need the continued support of development partners, including governments, IFIs, regional banks, private-sector and civil society.
I thank you the organizers again for inviting me and I thank you all for your kind attention.