International Experience and Debates Surrounding Pro-poor Touris

According to Roe and Urguhart (2001) tourism is one of the world’s largest industries, generating an estimated 11% of global gross domestic product (GDP), employing 200 million people and transporting nearly 700 million international travelers per year- a figure that is expected to double by 2020. Roe and Urhuhart made several observations about pro-poor tourism and made the following summary:- developing countries currently have only a minority share of international tourism market (approximately 30%) but this is growing, international tourism arrival in developing countries have grown by an average of 9.5% per year since 1990 , compared to 4.6% worldwide and tourism industry makes important contributions to the economies of developing countries, particularly to foreign exchange earnings, employment and GDP ( Roe and Urguhart, 2001: 01).

Hence this essay provides a critical and comprehensive survey of existing writings on pro-poor tourism strategies focusing on international experience from a South African perspective. It mainly focuses on current pro-poor debates and practice in tourism at an international level and the impacts on the South African tourism industry.

The essay aims to address the advantages and disadvantages of those experiences. The debates and experiences are assessed in terms of the three basic pro-poor tourism strategies, namely: - strategies focused on economic benefits, strategies to enhance other (non-cash) livelihood benefits and strategies focused on policy, process and participation (PPT Strategies, Sheet No.2). The essay achieves all this objectives by firstly trying to explain and define PPT in broader terms. Then the rest of the essay is dedicated on a comprehensive and detailed critical analysis of the application of the three strategies for pro-poor tourism.

Pro-poor tourism: Broader definition

Pro-poor tourism is defined as tourism that generates net benefits for the poor (Roe and Urguhart, 2001). Roe and Urguhart argue that benefits may be economic, but they may also be social, environmental or cultural. As such pro-poor tourism cannot be a special product or sector of tourism, but an approach to the industry. The most common and distinctive feature of pro-poor tourism is that it puts poor people and poverty at the centre. Then it focuses on tourism as one part of the household, local and natural economies and environment that affect them. According to Ashley et al. (2001) pro-poor tourism overlaps with, but is different from, the sustainable tourism agenda.

Sustainable tourism has tended to “focus on environmental concerns. However the concept is now broadening to include social, economic and cultural aspects but benefits to local people are generally of secondary importance. In contrast, pro-poor tourism aims to expand opportunities, and places net benefits to the poor as a goal in itself, to which environmental concerns should contribute” (Deloitte & Touche, 1999:14). PPT focuses more on countries of the South, not on mainstream destinations in the North. Poverty is the core focus, rather than one element of (mainly environmental) sustainability.

Roe and Urguhart (2001) maintain that current sustainable tourism debates start with mainstream destinations as priority and targets environmental concerns with social issues towards the periphery. Hence they argue that “current approach to ‘sustainable tourism’ fails to take into account the links between poverty, environment and development. In a world of growing inequality, there can be no doubt that attacking poverty is a critical component of sustainable development” (2001: 05).

It is inevitable that given the definition of PPT, strategies for making tourism pro-poor focus specifically on unlocking opportunities for the poor within tourism, rather than expanding the overall size of the sector (Roe and Urguhart, 2001). It is for this reason that Ashley et al. (2001) argue that a wide range of actions are needed to increase benefits to the poor from tourism. These go well “beyond simply promoting community tourism, although at the grass-roots level to develop enterprises and local capacity is one key component. Efforts are also needed on marketing, employment opportunities, linkages with the established private sector, policy and regulation, and participation in decision-making” (2001: viii).

Ashley et al. argue that the focus and scale of PPT interventions vary enormously, “from one private enterprise seeking to expand economic opportunities for poor neighbours, to a national programme enhancing participation by the poor at all levels. Strategies can be grouped into three types: expanding economic benefits for the poor; addressing non-economic impacts; and developing pro-poor policies (2001: ix).

Strategies focused on economic benefits
The main objective of PPT is to ensure that tourism generates benefit for the poor. To this end Roe and Urguhart (2001) identify three key goals. Expanding business opportunities for the poor through small enterprises, particularly in the informal sector; expanding employment opportunities for the poor and enhancing collective benefits through collective community income. However tourism is often seen as an industry where foreign interests dominate, a view which is considered a misrepresentation in many ways by the 1999 Deloitte & Touche report on sustainable tourism and poverty elimination study. The report concludes that overall tourism is characterized by small and medium sized business.

The diagram below illustrates the structure of how the international tourism industry can contribute to pro-poor strategies; the make up of domestic tourism is very similar to the role of intermediaries between the customer in the originating market and the supplier of various products. Hence services in the destination is of critical importance for pro-poor tourism to flourish.

Fig. 1: Structure of the International Tourism Industry (after Deloitte & Touche, 1999, 7)
One threat to PPT is foreign influence through customer requirements. Many developing countries package their tourism products according to international standards and regulations, which means they have to satisfy the needs and aspirations of the international tourists irrespective of the local needs. This brings us to the debates about economic significance of donor to developing countries.

Donors and Tourism

It is a fact that in most if not all developing countries “external funding [for tourism] may be required and justified to cover the substantial transaction costs of establishing partnerships, developing skills and revising policies” (Ashley et al., 2001: ix). The Deloitte & Touche report (1999) maintains that donors have influenced the way in which the industry has developed in the last 20 years, with support traditionally focused on macro-economic objectives- particularly maximizing foreign exchange earning through international tourism. However the report argues that what counts as pro-poor strategy must be able to “tilt the tourism cake” (2001:13). Such strategy could be at the grassroots, national policy or international levels. The problem is that while many donors are involved in tourism activities few see it as a key development sector. The report maintains that only some donors specifically address finance institutions and others with specific mandates that can be linked to tourism.

As far as donors are concerned it is clear that there are two contrasting views on the relevance of tourism to poverty elimination. The Deloitte & Touche report concludes that a number of donors whose aim is poverty alleviation do not consider that tourism compares with other sectors such as agriculture, primary health and education as a means for poverty alleviation. On the other hand there are “some donors who argue that tourism will have a major impact on the livelihoods of poor people and that intervention is essential to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs for poor people, or even that tourism has substantial to contribute to broader based growth, which will not be realized without intervention” (Deloitte & Touche, 1999: 16).

Economic significance of tourism to developing countries

According to Ashley et al. (2001) developing countries currently have only minority share of international tourism market but their share is growing. International tourism arrivals in developing countries “have grown by an average of 9.5 per cent per year since 1990, in aggregate across developing countries, compared to a growth of 4.6 per cent in arrivals world-wide” (Deloitte & Touche, 1999:08).

Goodwin (2000) argues that tourism is the principal export for one third of developing countries. Tourism brings “relatively powerful consumers to Southern countries, potentially an important market for local entrepreneurs and an engine for local sustainable economic development (Goodwin, 2000:01). According to the Deloitte & Touche (1999) report tourism’s contribution to GDP varies from 3-5 per cent in Nepal and Kenya to 25 per cent in Jamaica, contribution to employment is estimated at 6-7 per cent in India and South Africa.

There is consent that “tourism data does not provide full picture of its economic significance. Statistics cover the contribution of international tourism to national GDP. They hide the substance of domestic tourism (and may under-estimate regional tourists traveling by land), and the importance of tourism to a local economy” (Deloitte & Touche, 1999: 09). This is an interesting point when looking into the current South African tourism portfolio. The majority of South Africa’s arrivals (72%), of which 92% originate from SADAC come by road ( Hence in analyzing South Africa’s tourism growth strategy (2002) both air travel out of Africa as well as the road travellers’ different behaviours were taken into consideration. It was for “the first time the South African Tourism Organization rolled out survey at eleven land border posts to attempt to understand these land travellers better. The key finding from the land traveler work was that these travellers should not be ignored and are important source of revenue for many of the provinces. In fact for many of the provinces, the land travellers account for more than 50% of their annual revenues” (ibid.). However it is a fact that for pro-poor tourism to flourish it takes more than economic benefits, non-economic impacts are also critical.

Strategies focused on non-economic impacts

Pro-poor tourism should not just only be pursued in commercial or economic benefits to the poor, but environmental or ethical concerns must also be considered. Hence capacity building, training and empowerment of the poor; mitigating the environment impact of tourism on the poor and addressing social and cultural impacts of tourism are very important in pro-poor strategies (Roe and Urguhart, 2001:06). Most of these objectives are captured through donor activities in tourism.

It is a fact that donors have influenced the way tourism has developed in the last 20 years, with support traditionally focused on macro-economic objectives. According to the Deloitte & Touche report (1999) environmental and social issues have received increasing attention and three trends have emerged:

• Since the 1992 Earth Summit there has been an enormous amount of activity focused on ‘greening’ the tourism industry.

• An increase in community-based tourism focusing on nature-based tourism in and around protected areas as a mechanism for biodiversity conservation.

• Cultural heritage initiatives such as those initiated by the World Bank, have increased, both in response to concerns about the threat which globalization poses to communities who place a high value on their local and cultural identity and as part of programmes for broadly-defined environmental and social sustainability.

(Deloitte & Touche report, (1999: 13).

Although several donors now have poverty elimination as their overall goal, tourism interventions are mainly driven by other sub-objectives such as private sector growth or conservation rather than seen as a pro-poor tourism activity.

Impacts of tourism on the poor

Goodwin (2000) argues that assessing the livelihood impacts of tourism is not a matter of counting jobs or wage income. Tourism affects the livelihoods of the poor in multiple ways- economically, environmentally, socially and culturally (Deloitte & Touche report, 1999). Impacts on livelihoods and not just income need to be assessed along with the variety of positive and negative affects, According to Goodwin (2000) waged employment can be sufficient to lift a household from insecure to secure but it may only be available to a minority, and not to the poor. Goodwin maintains that work as a tourist guide, although casual, is often of high status and relatively well paid.

Tourism can have both positive and negative impacts. On the positive side, “tourism can generate funds for investment in health, education and other assets, provide infrastructure, stimulate development of social capital, strengthen sustainable management of natural resources, and create a demand for improved assets (especially education). On the negative side, tourism can reduce local access to natural resources, draw heavily upon local infrastructure, and disrupt social networks (Goodwin, 2000: 03).

In most cases tourism affects the livelihoods of the poor by giving them access to assets and infrastructure which were previously not available. “A participatory assessment of livelihood impacts revealed that impacts on natural capital, particularly grazing resources, and access to physical infrastructure are more important to most members than the nearly 50 new jobs” (Goodwin, 2000:03).

However, there are various instances where local residents lost access to local natural resources. “A comparative study by Shah and Gupta provides a range of examples. On Boracay Island in the Philippine, one quarter of the Island has been bought by outside corporations, generating a crisis in water supply and only limited infrastructure benefits for residents. Similarly in Bali, Indonesia, prime agricultural land and water supplies have been diverted for large hotels and golf courses while at Pangandaran (Java, Indinesia) village beach land, traditionally used for grazing, repairing boats and nets, and festivals, was sold to entrepreneurs for a 5-star hotel” (Ashley et al. 2001:23).

Tourism can also have positive or negative cultural impacts on the poor. According to Goodwin (2000) socio-cultural intrusion by tourists is often cited as a negative impact. Certainly sexual exploitation particularly affects the poorest women, girls and young men. Goodwin argues that tourism can also increase the value attributed to minority cultures by national policy-makers. The overall balance of positive and negative livelihood impacts will vary enormously between situations, among people and over time, and particularly in the extent to which local priorities are able to influence the planning process (ibid.). It is of critical importance that government must recognize and acknowledge the input of all stakeholders in tourism development. Hence government must include tourism development at governmental policy framework.

Strategies focused on policy/process reform

Strategies focused on policy reform can best be summarized as building a more supportive policy and planning framework to address poverty and promoting participation from the poor and to bring the private sector into pro-poor partnerships. Despite all these unambiguous strategies there are still some sections of society where tourism is only seen as belonging to the private sector.

However experience has suggested that successful sustainable requires close collaboration between government and the private sector. Ashley et al. (2001) argue that government, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, community organizations and the poor themselves all have critical and very different roles to play in PPT. The private sector can be directly involved in pro-poor partnerships. According to the Deloitte & Touche report government need to work with the private sector in “establishing national and regional parameters for the industry (e.g. via tourist boards, service provision and controlling it (e.g. via land use planning)” (1999:21). There is much that only government can do, so a leading role for government in PPT is of pivotal importance and a great advantage.

It is of critical importance that government commits itself in taking tourism at a higher and policy framework level. This means that government must integrate tourism into planning at the national level if it is to fulfill broad-based development objectives. However the Deloitte & Touche report (1999) concludes that many governments see tourism as a means to generate foreign exchange rather than to address poverty. Hence it is critical that governments take tourism seriously and intervene at local, national and international level when developing tourism policies.

At local level government can support small Micro enterprises by giving support to community tourism initiatives through SME support (credit, training, non-financial services) (Delotte and Touche, 1999:16). Government must encourage tourism development in rural areas, through technical assistance, funding local programmes, or infrastructure. In many cases this support is driven by conservation objectives- a focus on protected areas and biodiversity inevitably leads to a rural focus” ( Ashley et al., 2001: 32). Government must also make it possible for joint ventures between communities and private operators to take place and blossom through policy and legislation.

At national level government must create a policy framework for private-sector driven tourism development which is broad-based, creating employment and empowerment in the depressed regions. According to the Deloitte & Touche report “key policy elements include: the use of planning to encourage private investors to expand linkages; granting tenure over land to communities via land claims or leases; and close integration with other sectors such as infrastructure” (1999:17).

At international level governments throughout the world try to work together for the alliances for sustainable tourism. In 1996 the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), World Tourism Organization and the Earth Council, joined together to launch an action plan entitled “Agenda 21 for the Travel & Tourism Industry: Towards environmentally sustainable development”- a sectional sustainable development programme based on the results of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992” (WTTO & IHRA, 1999:03). The agenda was adopted by 182 governments which adopted a comprehensive program of action that provide a global blueprint for accelerating sustainable [tourism] development (ibid.).

The most common and distinctive feature of pro-poor tourism is that it puts poor people and poverty at the centre. Pro-poor tourism aims to expand opportunities, and places net benefits to the poor as a goal in itself. It focuses more on countries of the South, not on mainstream destinations in the North. It is obvious that the success of pro-poor tourism lies on its strategies, which are expanding economic benefits for the poor; addressing non-economic impacts; and developing pro-poor policies.

It is of critical importance that government commits itself at incorporating tourism at policy framework level. However by and large pro-poor tourism requires close collaboration between government and the private sector. The government, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, community organizations and the poor themselves all have critical and very different roles to play in PPT.

Reference list

Ashley, C., Boyd, C. and Goodwin, H., 2000: Pro-poor Tourism: Putting Poverty at the Heart of the Tourism Agenda, Natural Resource Perpective 61, Overseas Development Institute, London.

Ashley, C., Goodwin, H. and Roe, D., 2001: Pro-poor Tourism Strategies: Expanding Opportunities for the Poor, Pro-Poor Briefing Paper 1, ODI, London

Ashley, C., Roe, D. and Goodwin, H., 2001: Pro-poor Tourism Strategies: Making Tourism Work for the Poor- A Review of Experience, Pro-Poor Tourism Report No.1, ODI, London

Cattarinich, X., 2001: Pro-poor Tourism Initiatives in Developing Countries: An Analysis of Secondary Case Studies, PPT Working Paper 8, ODI, London.

Deloitte & Touche, IIED and ODI, 1999: Sustainable Tourism and Poverty Elimination Study, Report prepared for the Department for International Development, London.

Goodwin, H., 2000: Pro-poor Tourism: Opportunities for Sustainable Local Development, Development and Cooperation, No. 5, 12-14.

Roe, D. and Urguhart., 2001: Pro-Poor Tourism: Harnessing the World’s Largest Industry for the World’s poor, IIED’s work in preparation for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg 2002).

Shah, K. and Gupta, V., 2000: Tourism, the Poor and Other Stakeholders: Experience in Asia, Overseas Development Institute, London.

South African Tourism, 2002: Tourism Growth Strategy, Illovo

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