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 supports 319 million or 1 in 10 of all jobs in the world (WTTC, 2019).

Tourism is one of the driving forces of 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.

Sustainable development goal #7 clean energy #sdgs

Sustainable development goal #7 clean energy #sdgs

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

Employment-related challenges

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.

A livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets (including both material and social resources) and activities required for a means of living. A livelihood is sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks, maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets, while not undermining the natural resource base
— Ian Scoones, International Development Studies
Chumbe Island Tanzania housekeeping maintenance staff

Chumbe Island Tanzania housekeeping maintenance staff

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:

Fair pay and employment rights:  Fundamental to ending poverty but also of key importance these days to business reputation and consumer attitude.

Hunger: Working in agriculture and fishing, people struggle to make earn enough money from their subsistence farming to feed themselves and their families.

Malawi Village

Malawi Village

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.

tea picker at sunrise, Malawi

tea picker at sunrise, Malawi

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.

Location: Alternative places can sometimes offer jobs where ‘home’ does not, so lead to urban migration. However, this may not make for sustainable cities, with infrastructure and resources unable to support a burgeoning population, nor is it sustainable for remote rural areas which face a ‘brain drain’ and risk losing their culture in the process.

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. Tourism reaches into all corners of countries, enabling people throughout to be supported by the livelihoods it offers.

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.

ecotourism guide, Lapa Rios, Costa Rica

ecotourism guide, Lapa Rios, Costa Rica

The economic impact of travel & tourism is huge (WTTC, 2019):

  • 122,891,000 (123 million) tourism jobs in 2018 (3.8% of all employment).

  • 318,811,000 (319 million) - 10% - of all global jobs in 2018 supported directly, indirectly via the supply chain or induced.

  • 1 in 5 of all new jobs created.

  • Forecast 125,595,000 tourism jobs in 2019 (3.9% of total employment) and 154,060,000 jobs by 2029, an increase of 2.1% per year (WTTC, 2019)

  • Forecast 328,208,000 supported jobs (10.1% of total employment) in 2019.

  • Forecast 420,659,000 jobs supported by travel & tourism (11.7% of total employment) by 2029, an increase of 2.5% pa over the period.

  • US$2,750.7 billion ($2.75 trillion) world GDP direct contribution to (3.2% world GDP) in 2018, forecast to rise by 3.6% to US$2,849.2bn in 2019.

  • US$8,811.0 billion ($8.8 trillion) world GDP total contribution in 2018 (10.4% world GDP, includes wider impacts from investment, supply chain & induced income), expected to grow by to US$9,126.7bn (10.4% GDP) in 2019.

  • US$940.9 billion capital investment in 2018, expected to rise by 4.4% in 2019, and by 4.2% pa over the next ten years to USD1,489.5bn in 2029.

  • 3.9% growth: out-performing the wider economy (3.2%) for 8 years

  • 2nd fastest growing sector in the world, behind Manufacturing (4%) but ahead of Construction (3.4%), Retail (3.3%), Healthcare (+3.1%), Agriculture (1.8%), Financial Services (+1.7%) and Communications (1.7%)

The UN World Tourism Organisation also reported (2019) that travel and tourism in 2018 represented:

  • US$1.7 trillion exports in 2018, expected to grow by 4% in 2019 (UNWTO).

  • 7% of total world exports

  • 29% of total global service exports

  • 3rd worldwide export category, after chemical manufacturing and the fuel industry but ahead of the food and automotive industries.

Tourism is incredibly important in particular to many developing countries, ranking as the top export sector.

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.

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.

Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge, Nepal

Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge, Nepal

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?

Jicaro Island Ecolodge, Nicaragua - owner Karen with building crew and dog!

Jicaro Island Ecolodge, Nicaragua - owner Karen with building crew and dog!

By 2029, tourism is expected to generate more than 11% of the world’s GDP and jobs, with 25% of all new jobs created in the next decade supported by 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.

RSC Dropping Supplies in Malawi

RSC Dropping Supplies in Malawi

Community-based tourism: Supports local livelihoods, brings empowerment to local people and enables them to share benefits of tourism.

  • This was the reasoning behind Village Ways in India: In a beautiful part of the Indian Himalayas, where traditional life had been sustained for centuries, out-migration threatened the very existence of the beautiful stone-built villages. Now, tourism helps sustain the people, villages and culture, running alongside to support, but not displace, traditional rural livelihoods.

  • In Floreana in the Galapagos this means local islanders get tourism's positive, not just be affected by its negative, impacts.

Women's empowerment can also 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 income and skills that can be passed on to future generations.

Stitch St Luce, a project set up by SEED Madagascar

Stitch St Luce, a project set up by SEED Madagascar

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.

SEED Madagascar Bee hive Project Renitantely

SEED Madagascar Bee hive Project Renitantely

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.

energy at Campi ya Kanzi, Kenya

energy at Campi ya Kanzi, Kenya

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:

teacher training Chumbe Island, Tanzania

teacher training Chumbe Island, Tanzania

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.

volunteer teaching seed Madagascar

volunteer teaching seed Madagascar

  • 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.

Kanzi Academy, funded by Campi ya Kanzi/maasai wilderness conservation trust

Kanzi Academy, funded by Campi ya Kanzi/maasai wilderness conservation trust

  • 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.

maasai pastoralist herd Campi ya Kanzi, Kenya

maasai pastoralist herd Campi ya Kanzi, Kenya

  • 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.

MWCT Ambulance & medical staff, Kenya

MWCT Ambulance & medical staff, Kenya

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.

Human rights
Responsible business will protect human rights in operations and supply chains, essential to a motivated workforce and good reputation.

Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge team, nepal

Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge team, nepal

  • 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 2Zero 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 4Quality 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 14Life below water: 40% of the world's population live in a coastal area (UN, 2007), and almost half of the world's cities with more than one million people are sited in and around estuaries - tide-washed river mouths. Sustainable fisheries, aquaculture and tourism will be important to create jobs in marine environments, particularly 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.