SUSTAINABLE TOURISM ~ ELIMINATING POVERTY (ST~EP)
At the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, South Africa in August 2002, the World Tourism Organization (WTO), supported by UNCTAD, took a global lead in this field, launching the concept of ‘Sustainable Tourism as an effective tool for Eliminating Poverty’ (ST~EP), and beginning the process of putting a program in place to implement the concept. This initiative linked the longstanding WTO pursuit of Sustainable Tourism with the United Nations leadership on Poverty Alleviation that was the focus of the WSSD in Johannesburg. ST~EP may be seen as a response by the global tourism industry under the leadership of WTO to the United Nations Millennium Development Goal to halve extreme poverty by 2015. PPT/ST~EP is not a new form of tourism. It is not a new kind of tourism product. It is an approach to tourism in which the tourism cake is tilted so that benefits are specifically directed towards the poor. As a new field of endeavour for development assistance bureaux and international funding agencies there is no established track record on which they can draw to consider implementing their own policies. Hence a major component of the WTO program on ST~EP is to facilitate research and identification of best practice models.
Because tourism is often seen in narrow terms as purely a private sector undertaking, its constellation of backward and forward linkages into all other areas of economic activity, into society and culture, into the environment and into Government, are often ignored. However, once tourism is understood as a complex system its capacity to work as a positive tool for poverty reduction is enhanced. In this context, the role of Government is crucial because without pro-active Government intervention empowerment of impoverished and disadvantaged segments of populations will be difficult to achieve. It is argued that for empowerment to succeed, measures to improve the lot of the poorest segments of a population must be backed by legislation for without a supportive legal framework vested interests will always be able to challenge affirmative action towards the poor and any pro poor activity will not be sustainable.
ST~EP is defined as tourism that generates net benefits for the poor. ST~EP strategies aim to unlock opportunities for the poor, rather than to expand the overall size of the tourism sector. As the overall tourism sector of a country grows, ST~EP interventions attempt to involve the poorest sections of a nation in the industry in ways which will alleviate their poverty. It is not a form of tourism. It is not a tourism product, although new products may be initiated. It is an approach to tourism which accepts that the so-called ‘trickle-down effect’ is often minimal or non-existent and that more direct action is required if the most disadvantaged sections of a population are to realise benefits from tourism growth. ST~EP focuses on ‘tilting’ the cake at the micro, meso and macro levels towards the poor rather than expanding the cake. ST~EP opportunities may extend beyond purely economic ones and encompass other livelihood benefits or engagement in decision-making (Roe & Urquhart, describing PPT, 2001).
Strategies for ST~EP
A review of PPT/ST~EP literature over the past 3-4 years, following the work of authors such as Ashley, Goodwin,Holland, Meyer, Roe, Urquhart and others (see reference list) provides a set of twelve main strategies in three main categories defined by Ashley, Roe and Goodwin (2001) which have been utilised inattempts to harness tourism for poverty alleviation. They are as follows:
Expanding economic benefits and opportunities through:
• Introducing new business opportunities (including micro-enterprises); • Expanding existing business opportunities;
• Expanding employment opportunities; and
• Enhancing collective benefits.
Managing non-economic aspects...
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