Worldwide, over 200 million people are unemployed, and tourism provides 292 million jobs
Jobs give people income and improved standards of living through food, shelter, goods and services. Yet by 2019, more than 212 million people will be unemployed, up from the 201 million in 2015, as global economy growth slows, widening inequalities and turbulence, especially in areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia which account for three quarters of the world’s vulnerable employment. (ILO, 2015). At the same time, tourism provides 292 million (2016) or 1 in 10 of all jobs in the world (WTTC, 2016).
Tourism is one of the driving forces of global economic growth worldwide. By giving access to decent work opportunities in the tourism sector, society –particularly youth and women – can access and benefit from increased professional development and skills.
For this reason, Goal 8 of the UN 17 Global Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is:
SDG #8 "Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.”
Tourism’s contribution to job creation is particularly recognised in this Global Goal’s Target 8.9 “By 2030, devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products”.
Tourism is also a vital contributor to GDP in those most vulnerable employment regions of the world like Sub Saharan Africa, South East Asia and also Latin America, important to Target 8.1, “Sustain per capita economic growth in accordance with national circumstances and, in particular, at least 7 per cent gross domestic product growth per annum in the least developed countries”
All over the world, people scrape a living. Keeping them in a cycle of poverty are multiple interlinked issues which need to be considered to break the cycle.
Livelihoods: Impacted by severe weather such as droughts and floods, facing shortages and lack of state support, shocks, trends and seasons can all be unstable and physically exhausting and affect someone’s ability to earn money.
Equality and female empowerment: ‘Full and productive employment and decent work for all’ means including men and women, youth and the less abled, with equal pay for work of equal value. This is not only important for equality, but also greater purchasing power for groups previously unequal in the workplace, leading to economic growth in different sectors to previously.
Hunger: Working in agriculture and fishing, people struggle to make earn enough money from their subsistence farming to feed themselves and their families.
Health and Well-being: Sick days don’t exist in rural farming communities – if you can’t work, you don’t get paid and then you can’t feed your family. Then they get sick too. Very quickly, illnesses very treatable in the West can have huge repercussions for people’s health in impoverished areas: not washing hands can lead to diarrhoea; no money or access to medicine to chronic dehydration, malnutrition and even death.
Work-related disease or workplace injuries can cost also business in lost productivity and talent. A lack of employment and poor health are highly interlinked, also with lack of education and gender equality, resulting in a cycle that keeps people in poverty.
Education: Although child labour has declined by one third worldwide since 2000, there are still 168 million children affected, with more than half in hazardous work. Child labour also limits their education, which then combined can lead to increased vulnerability and poorer job prospects (ILO). Youths aged 15-24 have also been particularly hit since the start of the global crisis in 2008, with global youth unemployment at a rate of almost 13 % in 2014.
Conservation: A livelihood is not sustainable if it undermines the natural resource base. However, conservation can prove a challenge too, at times at odds with local needs, because to protect the environment you also need to consider the people who depend on those resources on a daily basis.
Human rights: The world needs to eradicate unsustainable unethical workplace practices: forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour. Policies also need to be in place for health and safety to prevent workplace disease and accidents, and support safe and secure environments for all workers and labour rights.
What's that got to do with Tourism?
Creating decent jobs is a fundamental way tourism can generate economic value to support growth and sustainable development, linked to export revenues, enterprise and infrastructure development that provide tourism benefits to a much wider range of indirect beneficiaries.
The UN World Tourism Organisation and World Travel and Tourism Council publish international tourism data regularly which shows how tourism has experienced continued development to become one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the world.
The economic impact of travel & tourism is huge:
- 292 million jobs (2016) - 1 in 10 of all jobs in the world.
- 10.2% of global GDP when direct, indirect and induced impacts are taken into account.
- US$7.6 trillion worldwide
- 6.6% of total world exports
- 30% total world services exports
- Rank third after fuels and chemicals and ahead of food and automotive products as exports.
- Ranks as the first export sector in many developing countries.
- 6th consecutive year of above-average growth following the 2009 global economic crisis.
- Market share of emerging economies increased from 30% in 1980 to 45% in 2015; expected to reach 57% by 2030, equivalent to over 1 billion international tourist arrivals
- International tourism accounts for more than 1.186 billion overnight visitors
This brings many jobs, throughout a country (compared to, for example, extractive industries where jobs are geographically intensely focused), importantly spreading the indirect benefits of tourism widely.
Negative events can have an adverse effect on destinations, though tourism can recover well and relatively quickly, thankfully for those whose livelihoods depend on tourism in these destinations. But it also raises alarms over negative impacts, such contributing to climate change.
As UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said, “As we celebrate 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, we welcome the continued development of tourism and recall that with growth comes increased responsibility to ensure tourism can contribute to sustainability in all its three pillars – economic, social and environmental. Growth is never the enemy and it is our responsibility to manage it in a sustainable manner”.
How can tourism help solve unemployment problems?
By 2027, tourism is expected to generate more than 11% of the world’s GDP and employ a total of 380 million people, with one quarter of all jobs created in the next decade supported by travel and tourism (WTTC).
Work opportunities in tourism, particularly for youth and women, not only provide income and livelihoods, but also increased benefits in professional development and transferable skills to help support other challenges in life.
Tourism can offer jobs in construction, hospitality, management, finance, IT, marketing, guiding, well-being, entertainment and onwards in the supply chain for décor, energy, food and beverages, linens, cleaning, florists, gardening…
Organisations can choose to do this responsibly, ethically and sustainably.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play a key role in job creation, providing two thirds of jobs in developing countries and up to 80% in low income countries, as well as being an important source of innovation and creativity. Access to financial services and micro-finance is key.
Community-based tourism: Supports local livelihoods, brings empowerment to local people and enables them to share benefits of tourism.
- In Floreana, the first set up in the Galapagos means local islanders get tourism's positive, not just be affected by its negative, impacts.
Women's empowerment can support sustainable development:
- In Malawi take part in a village banking initiative which aims to empower women by offering small village financed loans and education projects.
Sustainable livelihoods: In Madagascar, “Average annual income for an agricultural household in Anosy is 686,000 Ariary (approximately £170) – among the poorest in the country” (INSTAT, 2010) and the country currently ranks 120th out of 128 countries listed on the Women’s Economic Opportunity Index (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2012)
- SEED Madagascar works to develop business opportunities for local people, providing them with skills that can be passed on to future generations.
Its Stitch Sainte Luce project, now a thriving independent business, trains women in producing and selling high quality embroidered products, language and business skills to provide a sustainable livelihood. The products take inspiration from the diverse local wildlife and environment, linking consumer demand to local desire for conservation. As a result, the women are buying better food for their families, going to the doctor more often, and sending their children to school. With true community spirit, they are also financially supporting others in the village – an average of 11 extra people per woman.
For the men, lobster fishing is core income generating activity for 80% of households. The lobster fishing project Oratsimba aims to have a positive impact on sustainable lobster stocks through No Take rules. This creates sustainable livelihoods, directly supporting 850 fishermen and impacting the lives of 4,250 people dependent on fishing income, and so helps hunger and health.
Bee-keeping training, which creates a valuable income stream, reduces pressure on natural resources, and actively supports biodiversity conservation.
Further projects for rural livelihoods can also help with health and nutrition, such as teaching the importance of hygiene, construction of latrines and sanitation, distributing fuel-efficient stoves and fruit trees.
Cultural identity can also help support and preserve livelihoods
- At Nikoi Island in Indonesia, The Island Foundation has established a retail brand (Kura Kura) to help sell traditional arts and crafts, such as by the indigenous Orang Laut community.
It’s also helped establish several local businesses, such as car hire and alang-alang (ylang ylang) supplier for grass roofs, beneficial to the community, operations and guests, with financial support.
Training in tourism and associated skills to overcome livelihood challenges can also mean significant lifestyle changes:
- At Nikoi Island, there is great investment in staff training, Whether it be rock climbing, scuba, sailing, windsurfing, tennis, cooking, wine, mixology, first aid and massage, its resulting high staff retention and loyalty translates to experienced staff and great guest experience.
- When Chumbe Island Coral Park was set up, local fishermen’s livelihoods were integrated with illegal over-fishing and dynamite-fishing, decimating the coral and marine life, the very attraction the place. The only way to change behaviour was to ensure a win-win of sharing the benefits of marine conservation ecotourism by offering livelihoods through which they could gain more than illegal fishing, with greater longevity:
First, education was required to create awareness about and value of corals.
Then, a no-take zone of no-fishing, no-anchorage implemented: not easy for local fishermen to agree, until they witnessed the beneficial ‘spill-over effect’ of the fish nursery created on the area outside its zone. With that, they got more harvest and respected the park’s rules.
Finally, Chumbe Island trained fishermen to be guides, teaching language and on-the-job skills to help educate the fishermen on ecotourism, providing capacity building, jobs and sustainable income, with the locals becoming powerful guardians and advocates of their natural resources.
Many of Earth Changers' Places appreciate the importance of supporting education in their localities, to support their community gain skills for better jobs in the future and as a long term empowerment tool. They help with construction of schools, provision of equipment, bursaries for students, and finance for teachers’ salaries, for example at Lapa Rios in Costa Rica and Jicaro Island Ecolodge in Nicaragua.
- SEED Madagascar offer volunteer teaching placements to contribute to the sustainability of local English teaching by training teachers and thereby building capacity to help local business people and other members of the community in improving their spoken English to boost trade and tourism.
Volunteers also have an opportunity to create resources that support sustainability for future English lessons and collaborate with conservation and construction programmes to provide English lessons in more rural communities, contributing to the development of one of the most economically and environmentally fragile countries in the world.
- Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge take their responsibility for education very seriously. Not only supporting the local school, but educating staff in sustainability and responsible tourism. The also make the important point of tourists not giving directly to local children, to not encourage begging but also to not skip school.
- The Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust have employed 56 certified teachers and 12 school support staff in 22 schools, with over 8000 students and a scholarship program for 47 students thus far, as well as providing school supplies and support for extra-curricular activities, school clubs and sports clubs. Maasai elders are also employed to assure Maasai lore is transmitted to pupils in school.
Conservation education is also important in areas of ecotourism, such as where human-wildlife conflict exists.
- The Maasai have hundreds of years history as pastoralists, protecting their cattle by eliminating threat from wildlife. Campi ya Kanzi’s innovative ‘Wildlife Pays’ program incentivises the Maasai herders for good behaviour of not killing wildlife, by rigorously assessing and fairly compensating for claims for livestock killed, to a maximum quarterly budget, fully funded by its nightly Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) conservation fee.
Additional local livelihood support for local communities comes through the first REDD+ Carbon Project for Maasai communities: a UN climate change mitigation program through active forest / deforestation / degradation protection.
Health livelihoods and facilities are also supported by tourism incomes:
- In Kenya, MWCT supports the Maasai with employment of the only doctor and provision of the only ambulance in the area.
This enables outreach to remote areas for greater child immunisation, prenatal care, early disease detection and treatment for cancers.
Responsible business will protect human rights in operations and supply chains, essential to a motivated workforce and good reputation.
- At Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge, the majority of the staff formed part of the original workforce who built the lodge; They value and invest in the staff as a key asset , their employment practices far exceed any Nepali legislative requirements: with priority recruitment for locals, women and the disadvantaged; free board and lodging; monthly payments, bonus and equally shared tips.
As a consequence, 97% of the staff have been with the lodge over 8 years, of vital importance to local tone and success of the tourism product.
Links with the other Sustainable Development Goals
Livelihoods and employment are core to the major challenges the world faces, and key to travel and tourism and inter-link heavily with these other global goals:
Goal 1 - End Poverty: Decent, fairly paid, secure employment lifts people out of poverty.
Goal 2 – Zero hunger: Supporting subsistence farmers to be able to feed themselves and their families will significantly contribute to employment and income in many developing countries.
Goal 4 – Quality education: Knowledge and skills development equip people for sustainable employment.
Goal #10 - Reduced inequalities: By supporting equal opportunities in employment, in recruitment, pay and promotion, businesses reduce inequalities and their implications.
Goal 14 – Life below water: 40% of the world's population living in a coastal area (UN, 2007), sustainable fisheries, aquaculture and tourism will be important to create jobs in marine environments, such as small island developing states, and the least developed countries.
Goal #16 - Peace and Justice: Unemployment is strongly associated with political instability, particularly with youth. Regeneration, employment and income are vital to post-conflict situations for supporting stability, socio-economic growth and sustainable peace.