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Tourism: A Potential Force for Good

Tuesday, November 07, 2017 11:33 AM | Emma Hill

Tourism is undeniably powerful: it moves people, money and ideas around the world, and in increasingly greater numbers. It has the potential to encourage economic development in far flung places and encourage mutual, positive understanding between people who would never otherwise meet. However, it also has the potential to waste or destroy natural resources, and the wealth gap between locals and visitors in some places might accidentally create exploitative situations. (7,9,10)

Fortunately, a vibrant community of international tourism organizations and travel agencies strives for an ethical balance of the diverse needs in this growing, global industry.

In fact, every fall, World Responsible Tourism Day celebrates over a decade of advocacy for beneficial and regulated tourism around the world. This year, the theme is sustainable development. In the past, it has focused on eco-tourism and poverty reduction. This year’s theme of sustainable development, focuses on both ecological sustainability and economic sustainability- encouraging initiatives that don’t strain the environment and have a good chance at continued economic success after an initial support period. (1,2,3,7)

Advocates for ethical and responsible tourism tend to focus on areas with sensitive ecosystems or significant poverty. Yet tourism can bring benefits and challenges to any environment. Take Paris, France for an example. A wealthy city in a first-world country which is regularly flooded with tourists (some well-mannered, some not) who contribute to the city's severe congestion and other infrastructure strains. 2017 might even be a record-breaking year for tourists pouring into the city, despite concerns about terrorism. Even though tourism presents diverse challenges for the city’s infrastructure, resources and security, it remains a leading economic force, creating significant employment and business opportunities.(4)

These and other strains are also felt by newly invigorated tourism industries in developing countries and rural regions, but these areas often lack the experience, resources and existing infrastructure to meet sudden increases in demand if a location suddenly surges in popularity. Tourists' interests can be seasonal and fad-driven, creating an unreliable or volatile source of income. (5,10)

Therefore, every year, international tourist organizations gather to celebrate successes and discuss areas which need improvement or protection. Governmental agencies also focus on tourism, especially harnessing the revenue provided by tourism to fuel ecological projects and infrastructure development. The Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE), organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), convened recently to review how the expansion of the tourism sector could help support and promote Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and fuel nation-specific economic goals. (SDG are internationally promoted goals to encourage specific kinds of growth in developing regions.) (11) An example of harnessing tourism for the greater good can be found in can be found in Tanzania, where the Responsible Tourism Tanzania (RTT) organization focuses on the nation’s unique cultural, social and economic needs. (5,8)

One such recent success story is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA)’s recent nomination for registration as a Global Geopark of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco). Dr. Freddy Manongi, director general of NCAA, stated that the area would soon get its registration as a 'Unesco Geopark.' (6)

Unesco Global Geoparks' are unified geographical spaces where sites and landscapes of international significance are holistically managed to protect, educate and sustainably develop the area. There are currently 127 Unesco Global Geoparks in 35 countries. (6)

UNESCO Global Geoparks empower local communities with opportunity to develop the common goal of promoting the area's geological interests, historical trends connected to geology, or natural beauty. These geoparks are built with a grass roots prosses, involving all regional stakeholders. Dr. Manongi reported that the area gets approximately 600,000 visitors annually, about half of those local. This official registration is a chance to further local and national pride in the region and attract more international tourists. In many ways, the registration serves to validate an area, certifying it’s natural, historical and sustainable merits, so international visitors get an extra ‘feel-good’ boost for supporting a good cause and giving back to the local area. More pragmatically, the registration also provides greater international exposure. (6) Dr. Manongi and other regional leaders are hopeful that the new registration will















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