Tourism: What's good for you depends...


(c) Earth Times News Service

Tourism is good. Right? Almost three years ago, attending a World Bank conference in Washington, DC, I was riveted by a presentation, showing how tourism was the fastest growing industry in the world and the millions of additional jobs it was generating worldwide. Well, much the same figures are coming out here. Earnings from international tourism are expected to grow from $443 billion in 1997 to a phenomenal $2 trillion in 2020. But there is a difference. Serious questions are now being asked if tourism is really benefiting society. "It is already an established fact that in some developed countries, more than two-thirds of the revenue from international tourism never reaches the local economy because of high foreign exchange leakages. It is a lucrative industry, but only for those who dominate it, i.e. the transnational corporations (TNCs). To further increase its control and profits, industry has increasingly pressurized governments around the world to eliminate all barriers to the growth of the industry. This has been at the cost of economic, environmental and social problems in the developing countries."

This passage is from "Tourism, Globalization and Sustainable Development," a report containing five articles brought out by Third World Network (TWN) for CSD7. The report is nothing less than a broadside against tourism in general, with the usual suspects, the TNCs, being targeted as the main devils. Tourists, mainly from the West, are out to destroy the culture, the morals, the ecology of the developing world, with the help of the evil TNCs, says, in effect, TWN. An American film, with actor Leonardo DiCaprio, being shot on a Thai island and which apparently requires a change to the landscape of that island, is cited as an example of what terrible things are being done in the name of tourism. Sorry, I cannot agree. And I am from the developing world. The movement of more and more people from one country to another - and I don't mean refugees - is one of the most heartening aspects of our times.

It has not led to the destruction of cultures and monuments, rather to their greater appreciation and preservation. It has also been a huge factor for peace. Mutual antagonism comes from ignorance. Travel and the exposure it brings to different societies helps to remove ignorance and prejudice. Tourism also creates jobs, plenty of them. There may be leakages - and they should be plugged - but quite a bit of money gets left behind for the locals and for small service industries. Tourism is good? Yes!

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