The world is experiencing transformative change with technology developments, demographic changes, changing consumer habits, environmental and climate change. So to build for the future a new emphasis is needed. Local initiatives to support local people
These together with continued inequalities and the immense impacts of the COVID-19 have created a new approach, the ‘AlUla Framework for Inclusive Community Development through Tourism’.
The pandemic has re-emphasised the importance of, and the need to develop and promote domestic, regional and local tourism that is inclusive and takes the wellbeing of the communities to heart for all stakeholders involved. COVID-19 serves as a timely reminder to consider the role of tourism in building a fairer, equitable, more inclusive, resilient and sustainable society.
Tourism is one of the fastest-growing and most resilient socio-economic sectors of our times. Tourism accounted for 7% of global trade, outpacing the world economy over the past decade, in 2019. As the ultimate person-to-person sector, it also generates millions of jobs both directly and indirectly, including jobs for women, youth and those living in rural communities. However, tourism’s many benefits have still to be fully realised.
The sector is not just a leading source of employment. It also promotes territorial cohesion and socio-economic inclusion for the most vulnerable. Tourism helps communities hold onto their unique natural and cultural heritage, supporting conservation, safeguarding endangered species, and keeping traditions and flavours alive.
So to build for the future new emphasis is needed.
- Capacity building for jobs and opportunities: building capacities (especially in areas such as digital literacy, financial literacy, marketing, or languages) among local communities, in particular for youth, women and ethnic, indigenous and other minority groups, to obtain employment in tourism companies, supply goods and services to tourists and tourism enterprises and establish competitive small and medium-sized tourism enterprises, is critical for generating income and equitable distribution of wealth.
- Promoting the role of women in communities: Women make up 54% of the tourism workforce, compared to 39% in the broader economy. It is therefore particularly important to unpack gender dimensions at the community level in rural and urban areas in terms of education, employment, leadership, the provision of health care, social norms, legal frameworks and access to financial resources. A gender-responsive, sustainable approach to tourism planning and management should consider women’s needs at a community level, generate opportunities for women to be entrepreneurial through diversified income-generating activities and help to integrate gender equality at all levels of the sector. Most importantly, it will shine a light on what women want to achieve and how to achieve it.
- Fostering innovation, digitalisation and entrepreneurship, including the digitalisation of the whole tourism ecosystem. A change is needed along with social entrepreneurship support with local businesses is critical to empowering and developing communities. This will provide them with competitive advantages and access to the markets at both national and regional levels. Innovations in product development, marketing and services help multiply the tourism potential of communities and accelerate their inclusion into the tourism value chain with a particular focus on digitalisation.
- Empowering of local communities: The inclusion of organisations especially young people, women and ethnic, indigenous and other minority groups, in co-leading the processes of consultation and decision-making for planning, developing and managing the ‘destination’ should take top priority. Community development through tourism should start and end with the community’s wellbeing – economic, social, cultural and environmental – at the core.
- Providing infrastructure and services: Community development through tourism offers an opportunity to use the sector as a means to support services and infrastructure-related development and maintenance. An improved transport infrastructure not only plays a significant role in attracting tourists, but it also improves the quality of life of residents. Furthermore, it can generate additional funding/demand for the development and better maintenance of primary healthcare and educational infrastructure, public spaces, cultural attractions and convention centres, which all contribute to the attractiveness of destinations.
- Communities as champions of nature and heritage preservation: With awareness-raising and capacity building, local communities can play a critical role in environmental, social and cultural protection, which is an essential precondition to generate long-term benefits from tourism development. At the same time, tourism brings opportunities for local communities to earn income from natural and cultural assets thus increasing their desire to preserve those assets.
- Tourism for all: Developing accessible environments, infrastructure and services in communities benefits the local community and creates a more inclusive society for all while opening new market opportunities. 8. Decent work and formalisation: Other essential issues to be considered include adopting policies to improve the implementation of tourism-related regulations and providing incentives to formalise/register tourism businesses that operate in the informal sector (especially in low- to middle-income countries).
- Public/private/community development, towards a new governance model: It is critical to ensure a close collaboration between governments at all levels, the private sector and the civil society, particularly communities and residents, as well as the full engagement of tourists, to make the tourism sector work for community development.
I wrote about trying to include local Oman experiences in a guide book and again about cultural tourism experiences here
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