Held on 10-11 May in Istanbul, Turkey within the framework of the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC-IV-see box), the 2011 World Export Development Forum (WEDF) brought together high-level tourism experts from the private and public sectors to address the theme of 'Private Sector Engagement with Least Developed Countries (LDCs) for Tourism-led Growth and Inclusive Sustainable Development'.
As ITC's flagship event, WEDF provides a forum for discussion, sharing of best practices and an opportunity to work towards solutions in trade challenges faced by developing countries and economies in transition. ITC chose the theme of tourism for the 2011 WEDF because 30 out of 49 LDCs identified, through their Diagnostic Trade Integration Studies, that the development of the tourism industry is a feasible way to participate in the global economy and thereby reduce poverty. ITC consulted with public- and private-sector partners, including the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), ITC's supporting partner for WEDF, to identify the best ways in which it can work towards tourism development.
In most LDCs tourism is already a major export earner, but the growing significance of the industry worldwide (see page 06, The Big Picture) highlights the opportunity for further job creation and economic growth, In her opening address, ITC Executive Director Ms. Patricia Francis said tourism is one of the top contributors to job creation and can be of direct local benefit if a high percentage of purchases are made locally and communities are constructively engaged.
As Turkey hosted LDC-IV and is itself an example of a tourism development success story, Turkish officials provided success stories and lessons learned from the country's point of view. In his keynote speech Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Ali Babacan described the development of the country's tourism industry over the past 30 years, noting that today twice as many people are employed in tourism as in manufacturing. Turkey is now the eighth most important tourist destination in the world with nearly 29 million visitors annually. However, Mr. Babagan also highlighted the importance of protecting the cultural and physical environment on which tourism depends.
Key topics explored at WEDF included partnership-led sustainable tourism development, ethical investment, engaging women vendors in the tourism supply chain, resource management, recovering tourism after a crisis, and strategies for inclusive tourism development and linkages to other sectors, including handicrafts and agriculture.
Ms. Francis highlighted that despite a decade of global attention since LDC-III in Brussels in 2001, the state of LDCs had undeniably worsened. There are more LDCs now, and they are more impoverished. From a trade point of view, the evidence produced in ITC's 2010 Market Access, Transparency and Fairness in Global Trade report shows that the 33 LDCs reviewed retained on average only 14 cents out of every US$100 of export earnings.
Public-private partnerships and the right conditions are essential
One of the key messages to emerge from WEDF was the important role that public-private partnerships play in tourism development.
'Tourism-led growth is possible for many least developed countries. The variety of goods and services involved in the tourism supply chain leads to a broad impact in terms of poverty reduction. But it also requires a commitment from the private sector and the public sector to work together in the development of sustainable tourism for local benefit,' said Ms. Francis.
'Policymakers, private sector investors, and community players all must be involved to create the right kind of framework to have the right kind of investment,' said Ms. Francis in emphasizing the necessity to think about different approaches and the importance of the private sector in generating growth and creating jobs. …