Sustainable Tourism

Tourists visiting a marine protected area in the Dominican Republic.
Tourists visiting a marine protected area in the Dominican Republic.
Jerry Bauer, USFS

Tourists spend more than $200 billion dollars in developing countries every year, placing tourism in the top five export income-earning categories for 83 percent of developing countries.  Because of its income and employment-generating potential and other economic multipliers, tourism encourages govern­ments and communities to value and protect the resource base on which tourism depends.

The World Tourism Organization defines sustainable tourism as “…management of all resources in such a way that economic, social, and aesthetic goals can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, and biological diversity and life support systems.”  Sustainable tourism is a platform for achieving development objec­tives in several sectors, including economic growth, environmental conservation, gender mainstreaming, education, and good governance.  

USAID has increasingly incorporated tourism into its development activities to:

  • Reduce poverty through market responsive enterprise development and sharing of profits within communities;
  • Provide higher education and economic opportunity through the training and capacity-building that accompany tourism development;
  • Promote gender equality by involving women in tourism activities, providing them with access to credit and training, and supporting women-owned businesses;
  • Ensure environmental sustainability and the vitality of the resource base on which tourism depends; and
  • Develop global partnerships by collaborating with developing countries, other donor agencies and private partners in development activities.

With USAID Assistance:

  • In Brazil, community forest enterprise management was strengthened and a regulatory framework created to improve sustainable tourism, leading to reduced deforestation in protected areas in the Amazon.
  • In Tanzania, Mozambique, and Rwanda numerous parks and reserves were supported with new infrastructure development, monitoring, and law enforcement training, as well as new networks of nature conservancies created in Namibia and Kenya to support community-based sustainable tourism.
  • In the Dominican Republic, expertise and funding for climate change adaptation efforts will reduce the impacts of weather-related disasters on important tourism zones, such as storm surges and beach erosion in coastal areas and landslides and seasonal flooding in watersheds.
  • In the Philippines, new eco-lodges, dive destinations, and other tourism-related businesses are practicing improved fisheries management and protecting important coastal and marine resources.

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