Redefining Tourism: Tourism-The World's Largest Industry-Is Both an Export and a Development Opportunity for Many Poor Countries

Article excerpt

It is estimated that by 2020, three times as many people will travel as do today. Developing countries are recognizing the tourism sector's potential contribution to national development goals, particularly by creating employment opportunities, stimulating small businesses and reducing poverty.

With the weakening of trade preferences and special pricing arrangements, many countries' dependence on tourism continues to grow as other traditional productive sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing industries, struggle against tough external competition.

Tourism is possible for all countries

Tourism is a commodity. Every country has something to offer--even the poorest nations can offer their heritage, traditional culture and natural sites, which today's adventurous tourists are seeking.

Despite this strong potential, countries often exclude developing the tourism sector's export capabilities within national export strategies. To be successful, each country needs to formulate and manage a tourism strategy which identifies and justifies its strategic objectives, priorities and targets. Sustainable tourism should be a key element of national export strategy of the majority of developing and transition economies.

Most tourism is dependent on private sector initiatives, with the majority of operators being small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Because the sector is very fragmented, and firms compete for business, cooperation between them doesn't come naturally. Export strategy-makers need to provide encouragement for collaboration to develop the industry. Fragmentation also means that standards vary greatly. For a country to be successful in developing a sustainable tourism industry, governments need to implement a regulatory and support framework.

Know the trends

As with all service sectors, it pays to know the market. In a report on "A New Tourism Scenario--Key Future Trends," Auliana Poon of Tourism Intelligence International identified 12 trends classified into three categories: supplier; consumer; and destination.

Supplier trends

* Cheaper, shorter, faster.

* Closer to home.

* Internet helps customize holidays without raising costs.

* Increased polarization (e.g., mega/micro, luxury/ budget, safe/unsafe) with less middle ground.

* Travel agents are reinventing themselves.

Consumer trends

* Maturing, educated travellers.

* Independent travellers.

* Rise of the "bourgeois bohemians" who spend freely for uplifting experiences.

* Travellers seek to nourish body, mind and soul.

* Value for money.

Destination trends

* Enough is enough--move away from mass tourism development to more sustainable models that preserve environment and culture.

* Travellers are moving away from products towards experiences.

These trends reveal a shift in global tourism. There are a growing number of busy travellers with a great desire to learn, with no money to waste, but much to spend. The inability of international tour operators to provide them with a more personalized service has influenced a change in behaviour. …