Participants at a major United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XIII) have underscored the role of tourism as a vital service sector, contributing to GDP and employment in developed and developing countries alike (Doha, Qatar, 21-26 April 2012).
The theme of UNCTAD XIII, Development-Centered Globalization: Towards Inclusive and Sustainable Growth and Development, focuses on how the global economy can spread its benefits more inclusively and sustainably, creating jobs and raising living standards for poor people and nations.
Currently ranking among the top three export sectors for nearly half of the world’s least developed countries (LDCs), tourism has emerged as one of the economic sectors best able to address these concerns. With tourism growth rates in developing countries currently outperforming those in developed countries, tourism today is one of the most promising and viable options for global development.
“It is encouraging to see that the contribution of tourism to development, poverty reduction and economic growth is increasingly recognized. This can only be achieved by better policy coherence between and among the various ministries and government departments that provide the enabling environment for tourism to flourish,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General, Supachai Panitchpakdi.
At two separate events UN officials, high-level policy-makers, representatives of the tourism private sector and other stakeholders, gathered on the sidelines of UNCTAD XIII to deliberate on the critical role of tourism in national development strategies.
The Global Services Forum – organized to discuss developments in the services sector, which currently accounts for 50% of the GDP of developing countries – pointed to the many growth and employment opportunities of tourism as a major internationally traded service.
“Tourism has its place in the green growth agenda, as an important economic sector for many developed and developing countries and an extremely promising development perspective for the coming decades, contributing to a sustainable planet, a growing economy and a better life for all,” said UNWTO Executive Director for Competitiveness, External Relations and Partnerships, Márcio Favilla.
An event organized by the Steering Committee on Tourism for Development (SCTD), Towards Inclusive and Sustainable Growth and Development: What Can the Tourism Sector Contribute, convened countries at different stages of tourism development – including the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Commerce of Cambodia and the Ministers of Tourism of Lesotho and Paraguay – to present the policies and measures needed by developing countries to spur internationally competitive tourism strategies in the framework of the promotion of service exports.
“The implementation of support measures in sustainable tourism at the level of policy makers, institutions and enterprises, particularly in the services sector, will be crucial for the beneficial integration of developing countries and LDCs in the world economy,” said Mr. Favilla.
The event was also an opportunity to draw attention to what UNWTO and other member organizations of the SCTD are doing to assist developing countries in maximizing tourism’s development impact.