By Carlos Menendez
For all of us, travel is a way to escape from the day-to-day grind, whether it’s on a boat, car or even in a private jet. Yet, for nearly 300 million people across the globe – representing one in every 10 jobs – travel-related activities provide work and income, making the tourism industry one of the largest global employers.
Over the last 50 years, the industry has invested billions of dollars in destinations – often laying the foundation for broader economic development. As the world has become smaller and as almost every corner of the globe is more accessible for many, the UN Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development is a reminder that more work is needed to channel the positive forces of travel and tourism.
Tourism is already a vital sector for development across all continents. In countries like the UK, Greece and Thailand, it accounts for between 3.4 to 9.2 percent of GDP, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). However, the economic benefits of tourism are not always shared equally – it is the big cities or those with the main tourist attractions that reap most, if not all, of the benefits. Anyone interested in promoting tourism as a development strategy should consider ways to more equitably spread the benefits throughout a country. Looked at through this lens, Sustainable Development Goals such as responsible use of natural resources, the broad creation of quality jobs and poverty reduction are all closely related.
Image: A view of Sveti-Stefin, near Budva on the Adriatic Coast. The old houses have been modernized and converted into a hotel-village in which accommodations are now available for tourists. [July 1969] UN Photo/Bijur