Despite its wide-reaching socio-economic impacts, tourism still receives limited attention as a tool for development. On the occasion of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 13-16 July), UNWTO calls for higher support for tourism in international financing for development flows to maximize the sector´s contribution to sustainable development across the globe.
Tourism's underrepresentation in international financing for development flows remains a critical hurdle to overcome in order to fully deploy its development potential. Despite being a high impact economic activity, a major job generator and key export sector accounting for 6% of total world trade, tourism receives only 0.78% of the total Aid for Trade (AfT) disbursements and a mere 0.097% of the total Official Development Assistance (ODA).
As world leaders gather at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai recalled that tourism has been identified by half of the world´s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) as a priority instrument for poverty reduction.
"For an increasing number of developing countries tourism means jobs, poverty eradication, community development, and the protection of natural and cultural heritage. Yet, in order to maximize 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", said Mr. Rifai.
Tourism's cross-cutting nature and multiple links to other economic sectors positions it as an effective multiplier in global development strategies as tourism often provides one of the few competitive options for developing countries to take part in the global economy. The sector is crucial for LDCs – in 2013, the 49 LDC countries received 24 million international overnight visitors and earned US$ 18 billion from international tourism. This represented 8% of total exports of goods and services of LDCs, and 12% for the non-oil exporters among them. Tourism was in fact one of the main contributors behind the graduation of Botswana, The Maldives and Cabo Verde from their previous LDC status.
"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", concluded Mr. Rifai.
Over recent years, tourism's ability and potential to drive sustainable development has been increasingly recognized – tourism is identified by half of the world´s LDCs as a priority instrument for poverty reduction and is one of the six initial programmes of the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP) designed to accelerate the shift towards sustainable consumption and production worldwide – yet the levels of financing for development in tourism are still comparatively low.
Note to editors
In 2014, emerging and developing countries received 513 million international tourists or 45% of all international tourist arrivals in the world as compared to 38% in 2000. UNWTO forecasts this share to surpass that of advanced economies in the coming years and to reach 57% by 2030.
 Source: UNWTO based on OECD.STAT - Creditor Reporting System (CRS) – reference year: 2013
- Download and share: Tourism – Driving Trade, Fostering Development and Connecting People
- UNWTO / European Commission Directorate-General Development and Cooperation Guidebook "Sustainable Tourism for Development" (available in English and French)
- Third International Conference on Financing for Development
- Infographic: Why tourism matters
- Press release: Tourism identified as key sector for high impact in Aid for Trade
- Press release: UNWTO calls for increased support for tourism in the development agenda