THE United Nations designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, due to tourism’s capacity to enhance economic growth, through job creation, attracting investment, fostering entrepreneurship, the preservation of ecosystems and biodiversity, the protection of cultural heritage and the promotion of the empowerment of local communities.
Even at international and national levels, policymakers have come to recognise the potential of tourism, and this knowledge is reflected in the laws and policies being formulated.
Beyond just enhancing inclusive growth and economic development, it is time for Namibian authorities to acknowledge that tourism can complement development strategies, aimed at fostering economic diversification and structural transformation, within the right policy context.
Essentially, tourism has the potential to significantly contribute to a nation’s GDP, employment and export earnings. The sector is fairly job-rich, employing a comparatively high share of women and youth. On a global scale, women make up between 60 and 70 percent of the tourism labour force, and half of its workers are aged 25 or younger.
Also, considering that globally, most international travel takes place within a traveller’s own region, and with a rising African middle class, continental disposable incomes are increasing, there is a greater scope for boosting continental and intra-regional travel in Africa, and local tourism should be able to draw from this pool.
Without doubt, tourism helps to generate and spread incomes, and has strong spill-over effects for poverty reduction, through stronger linkages. These stronger linkages propel a multiplier effect that can generate economic benefits at a national level and employment opportunities and poverty reduction at a local level.
Sadly, in Namibia, tourism linkages remain weak and underexploited. As a result, the foreign investors, international tour operators and foreign airline companies are benefiting most from the value added in the sector, while very limited benefits are available to the destination country and there is very little financial flow to the poor.
If linkages between tourism and other productive sectors are enhanced, tourism can then promote economic diversification and structural transformation. Unlocking the potential of intersectoral linkages will contribute to structural transformation, the alignment of cross-sectoral issues and their inclusion into policy frameworks at national, regional and local levels.
Tourism has a critical role to play in the fight to reduce poverty and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
No doubt, it will generate economic benefits and boost productive capacities. Beyond these, tourism can foster inclusion by creating employment opportunities among vulnerable groups, such as the poor, women and youth.
Due to the increase in continental and intra-regional tourism in Africa, and the opportunities it offers for economic and export diversification, it is also essential to state that African countries are bound to benefit, if they made significant progress with the free movement of persons, currency convertibility and liberalising air transport services.
This would enhance greater access to tourism destinations and boost the competitiveness of destinations. Regional economic communities and countries, therefore, need to comprehensively plan for intra-regional and continental tourism.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015