In a bid to help the world’s least developed countries (LDCs) fully benefit from one of their major income earners – their tourism appeal – a United Nations development agency has launched an Internet tool enabling them to sell online services that are now the preserve of foreign-based firms that repatriate much of the profits.
Noting that these so-called leakages total up to 85 per cent of profits in some African LDCs, more than 80 per cent in the Caribbean, 70 per cent in Thailand and 40 per cent in India, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has developed the E-Tourism Initiative, with the aim of helping developing countries to make the most of their tourism potential.
“This situation is an obstacle to development. In order to minimize leakages and to promote sustainable growth and poverty alleviation, it is now essential for tourism destinations and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to increase their autonomy, and to include all local tourism stakeholders,” the agency said in a news release.
It noted that overall tourism generates 11 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP), employs 200 million people and transports nearly 700 million international travellers a year – a figure that is expected to double by 2020. It is one of the main exports of the 50 LDCs, it added.
“The idea, based on public/private sector collaboration, is to give developing destinations the technical means for marketing and selling their own tourism services online,” said the agency, whose mandate is to promote the development-friendly integration of developing countries into the world economy.
“Tailor-made, easily replicable platforms are created for this purpose, complemented by training, online value-added services, such as reservation, and a good business model aimed at ensuring long-term financial viability,” it added, noting that one of the most important factors behind the continuous growth of the tourism industry is the Internet.
“But most information on tourism opportunities in developing countries is generated and maintained by service providers in developed countries, who also conduct most of the sales transactions.” It called the Internet one of the most effective tools for remedying the imbalance, allowing countries to take charge of their own tourism promotion, generate more jobs and revenue for the local economy, and keep up with the competition.