UN urges tourism financing for developing countries

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Villagers sell their products to tourists in the Vietnamese town of Sapa (photo by Lauren Ava)
Villagers sell their products to tourists in the Vietnamese town of Sapa (photo by Lauren Ava)

The UN has called for greater investment in tourism projects in developing countries.

Speaking at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, which was held in Addis Ababa from 13-16 July, Tabeb Rifai, secretary-general of the UN World Tourism Organization, said that the tourism industry is “under-represented” in terms of international financing, and that more investment is needed to maximise the industry’s ability to reduce poverty.

The UNWTO cited data showing that while tourism accounts for 6% of total global trade, the sector receives just 0.8% of the total Aid for Trade (AfT) disbursements and less than 0.1% of the total Official Development Assistance (ODA).

“For an increasing number of developing countries tourism means jobs, poverty eradication, community development, and the protection of natural and cultural heritage,” said Rifai.

“Yet, in order to maximise tourism’s contribution to the development objectives, it is critical to address the disparity between the sector´s capacity to foster development and the low priority it has been given so far in terms of financial support in the development cooperation agenda.”

The UNWTO said that tourism is “crucial” for the world’s least developed countries (LDCs), with the world’s 49 LDCs generating US$18 billion in international tourism receipts in 2013, or 8% of these countries’ total exports of goods and services. This rises to 12% among non-oil producing nations.

“2015 is the year for action. As we move forward to adopt a new sustainable development agenda, we have a unique opportunity to raise the level of assistance in tourism to further harness its vast potential for stimulating green growth and inclusive development worldwide, particularly for the countries most in need,” Rifai added.

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