The Living World
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How Tourism Can Help Reduce the Development Gap

Tourism is a great way of bringing in money for LICs (Low-Income Countries) and MICs (Middle-Income Countries) that possess tropical climates, unique geography and great ecosystems.

Tourists are beneficial for encouraging employment and spending their money for an experience that differs from their own country, which can be a huge boon for LICs and MICs.

Jamaica Case Study

Jamaica is located in the West Indies, with a population of approximately 3 million people. The island country is a producer of crops that thrive in the country’s warm climate, such as sugar, as well as products like rum and natural resources like oil.

Tourists love Jamaica’s climate, beaches and heritage, which makes it a popular tourist destination.

Growth of Tourism

Jamaica’s tourism trade began in the late 19th century and was limited to the very wealthy, who could afford to make the trip. Between 1920 and 1950, as global transportation improved at a rapid rate, annual tourism to Jamaica increased from a few thousand to 104,000 per year. By the 1990s, Jamaica was receiving more than 1 million tourists every year, which is still the case today.

As the use of cruise ships and planes has increased during the 20th century, so too has Jamaica’s appeal to tourists. Infrastructure to support privileged tourists is centred at tourist hotspots, leading to the creation of beach resorts and golf courses.

Managing Tourism

Foreign investment into Jamaica is well-received. Infrastructural improvements are created near hotels and resorts, such as ports, shopping centres, roads and internet access. The better infrastructure attracts more investors, which increases the amount of revenue generated by tourism, and so on.

Ecotourism plays a big part in Jamaica’s tourism industry, with an emphasis on the conservation of natural areas as well as water treatment to reduce pollution from tourist hotspots.

Impact of Tourism

Tourism provides a massive amount of employment for Jamaicans, with more than 300,000 people employed in areas such as hotels, restaurants, shops, transport, attractions and banking. Tourism has generated a great multiplier effect in Jamaica, with a GNI (Gross National Income) per capita that has mostly grown since the 1970s to sit at $5,670, making Jamaica a Middle-Income Country.

Relying on tourism leaves Jamaica vulnerable to global economic crises and pandemics. In 2020, the GNI per capita in Jamaica dropped from $5,500 to $4,900 because of the COVID-19 pandemic that halted much of the tourist trade.

Many Jamaicans live in poverty. Those who live and work in Northern tourist areas such as Montego Bay and Ocho Rios experience a comparatively high standard of living, while many struggle with food costs, health care, and access to fresh water. Added to this, many workers are laid off in the off-season, with 25% of hotel workers with no income between May and November.

Maldives Case Study

The Maldives is a collection of almost 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean, with many of the islands remaining uninhabited. Fishing and tourism are the Maldives’ main economic contributors, with tourism accounting for an estimated 28% of the country’s GDP.

Tourists visit the Maldives for relaxation, tropical scenery, and luxurious package holidays.

Growth of Tourism

The Maldives opened its first tourist resort in 1972, and tourism has increased consistently since then. The coral reefs, blue seas, white beaches and tropical weather attract many Europeans.

Since 2013 (with the exception of 2020), more than 1 million tourists have visited the islands every year, making the tourism trade worth $200m per year to the Maldives.

Managing Tourism

The government has established the Ministry of Tourism, which keeps detailed records of tourism figures and manages the number of tourists on the uninhabited islands with protected ecosystems.

Tourists are seen as crucial to the economy, but the Maldives government also acknowledges the role they have in protecting the islands from tourist activity. Tourists cause pollution, produce waste, and damage environments in large numbers. The Maldives is on track to have 20% of its islands as resort islands within 20 years.

The Ministry of Tourism has created rules for the industry to help manage the spread of tourism, such as:

  • For every island resort, one must be left alone as a reserve
  • New resorts can only be two stories high
  • 20% of an island may be built upon, no more

Impact of Tourism

The GNI per capita is increasing, with 11% of the Maldives population employed in the tourism industry. Approximately $600m per year is generated, which makes up 90% of the taxes paid to the government. This consistent injection of cash into the government has led to broad improvements in infrastructure, with life expectancy now sitting at 78 years.

Although foreign investment has brought a lot of money to the islands, the same companies remove a large amount of that wealth from the Maldives to their country of origin. There is also a huge wealth divide in the Maldives, with wealthy Maldivians owning resorts and sitting on vast wealth, while poorer Maldivians struggle with poverty. School enrolment is decreasing, rather than increasing, and the country is almost $7bn in debt.

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