The problem with too many tourists – and too few
For the month of May, Econ Extra Credit invites you to watch “The last tourist available for free streaming on Kanopy or for rental or purchase on several platforms.
Although tourism can be a great distributor of wealth, it often doesn’t work that way. Rather than ending up in the pockets of local communities, visitors’ money is often intercepted by foreign companies. Economists have even given it a name: leak.
The effects of leakage are more pronounced in developing countries. The United Nations estimates that for every $100 spent on a holiday tour by a tourist from a developed country, an average of only $5 stays in the the economy of the developing country of destination.
“This is the reality for many emerging tourism destinations in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Judy Kepher-Gona, senior consultant for Sustainable Travel & Tourism Agenda. Kepher-Gona, who has spent two decades promoting responsible and inclusive tourism in Africa, told ‘Marketplace Morning Report’ host David Brancaccio that the leaks persist because tourism was never meant to be. attract African investors or marketed to African travellers. Recently, however, she has seen a move towards more inclusive tourism in places like Kenya’s Masai Mara, a popular safari region.
“We have seen an increase in local employment for the Masai after the European Union built a local guiding school in the Masai Mara train Masai to be employed as guides in the Masai Mara. This had a huge improvement in the livelihoods of many young Masai Maras, who for a long time had watched…other people [tell the] stories from their land,” Kepher-Gona said.
“Now here [are also] direct income to households, thanks to a conservation model introduced in the Mara in the mid-2000s, where the Masai have set aside land for tourism and they are paid on a monthly basis, a ground lease for their land, directly from tourism revenues.
For countries that rely on tourism as a significant part of their gross domestic product, there is often a tension between the desire for additional tourists and the desire to limit the effects of too many. For cities and countries struggling with overtourism, the pandemic has presented an opportunity to reset.
Barcelona has seen tourism decline by up to 76% during the pandemic. Now it is returning to “normal” levels, reigniting familiar tensions between tourists and locals. In response to overtourism, Barcelona has cracked down on illegal rentals and limited visits to a maximum of 15 people.
Venice is installing electronic turnstiles and forcing day visitors to pay what amounts to a tourist tax. These visitors will need to book a pass and scan it at various entry points which will help control the number of people on its narrow canals and historic squares.
Airbnb now allows users to search by accommodation type, not just destination. If someone wants to rent a cabin by the sea, their search will now show them several places, some of which they might not have thought of for their vacation.
The collapse of ecotourism during the pandemic has been a disaster for conservation initiatives and livelihoods in Kenya, where government support for biodiversity protection remains weak.
Japan’s currency, the yen, is at its lowest in two decades, which should normally attract an increase in foreign tourists eager to take advantage of cheaper prices. But Japan has yet to reopen its borders to tourists, exacerbating the economic pain of a cratering currency.
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