Trade Forum Features

Tourism and Least Developed Countries

25 July 2011
ITC News


Tourism is an economic engine that has huge potential to drive sustainable growth in developing countries, especially least developed countries. Although its origins exist in the often unplanned practice of exploration and discovery, its future lies in highly structured, well planned and managed execution.

Tourism is also a lot more than just an industry. It represents a diverse, multi-dimensional supply chain across different sectors. As the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Mr. Pascal Lamy, says, ‘it looks simple, but it is very complex’.

ITC’s World Export Development Forum, held in Istanbul on 10-11 May 2011 as a side event of the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, presented a view into the complexity, but achievability, of sustainable tourism development, along with the growing importance that the role tourism is playing in helping to build a better future for communities in developing countries, especially in least developed countries. It has been an important step in moving towards a better integrated approach to tourism across agencies and with the private sector.

Many countries in which ITC works are increasingly dependent on tourism for their long-term economic survival. For instance, we have already seen the vital role it plays in small island economies in the Pacific and the Caribbean. In many of these countries it is the life blood of the community.

The successes of planned structural intervention and support for tourism in countries such as Turkey, where the industry is acting as a key agent for social and economic transformation, have paved the way for others to follow. We need to look to these and other countries’ successes and learn how to translate their achievements for others.

Because of the complex supply chain considerations and highly competitive marketplaces, individual businesses inevitably struggle without support from industry bodies, government agencies and multilateral organizations such as the World Tourism Organization and ITC. The challenges for all of us are integration and long-term partnering.

Sitting alongside this is the challenge of funding. The most unique, interesting and potentially highly sought-after destinations in the world cannot achieve a positive long-term economic outcome for those communities without the right investment at the right time, delivered in the right way.

The UN Steering Committee on Tourism for Development (SCTD) is helping to define an innovative approach to ‘delivering as one’ for tourism. It is putting in place a new institutional framework for sustainable development, aiding in the creation of models to measure progress and real output so each agency can mobilize specific support in a coordinated, complementary and country-driven manner. The Enhanced Integrated Framework can also play a key role in tourism development projects. The private sector of course is constantly on the lookout for investment opportunities, but the facilitation of their involvement in an inclusive and sustainable manner is critical to success.

The success of tourism will also be built on how effectively we link sustainable supply systems into local communities. This focus on ‘inclusive tourism’ is about ensuring that there is the maximum opportunity for local producers, manufacturers and service providers to supply a tourism operator. It is about local employment and skills development. It is about deeply embedding local cultural experiences, and creating innovative and sustainable practices to support lasting environmental outcomes. And it is about ensuring that local communities are engaged with and benefit from tourism development in the long‑term.

We are seeing successes with this approach in many countries in which we work – but we must sustain our effort, our collaboration, and our commitment to this sector to help realize its long-term potential.