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WEDF 2014 session report: Plenary 4 - Tourism for development: Opportunities for SME trade

  • Plenary 4


    • Hon. Alain St. Ange, Minister for Tourism and Culture, Seychelles
    • Hon. Abdou Jobe, Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, The Gambia
    • Mr. Márcio Favilla L. de Paula, Executive Director for Operational Programmes and Institutional Relations, UNWTO
    • Ms. Marjorie Straw, Executive Chairperson, Caribbean Network of Service Coalitions, Jamaica
    • Mr. Pascal Lamy, Chairman, World Committee on Tourism Ethics, UNWTO
    • Mr. Davidson M. Mugisha, Managing Director, Wildlife Tours, Rwanda
    • Moderator: Ms. Shada Islam, Policy Director, Friends of Europe, Belgium


    The tourism value chain offers SMEs the opportunity to participate in trade by selling goods and services to hotels, restaurants, tour operators and a myriad of other service providers directly involved in tourism.

    The panel discussed best practices to integrate local suppliers into tourism value chains, thereby supporting income generation in communities. They also explored developing country opportunities in new niche tourism offerings such as Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) tourism.


    • International tourism, constituting 30% of the global trade in services, is the lifeblood of many economies, driving much of the economy and benefiting the population directly and indirectly. It is especially valuable for development. It has trickle down effects, reaching deep into the local economy and multiplying the growth impact from trade.
    • Local value addition and quality standards are key to achieving sustainability in tourism. This is true in both urban and rural areas, as well as in all-inclusive mass tourism and in more niche community-oriented travel options such as eco-tourism, adventure-tourism and cultural, heritage and festival tourism.
    • To maximize the development impact from tourism, policies require a high degree of consultation and buy-in from the private sector, including foreign investors and lead firms in the tourism value chain.


    • The African Union needs to work in concert with other international organisations such as UNWTO to create and develop a brand for African tourism.
    • Africans need to be the ultimate ambassadors of their continent – travel within Africa and advocate for the continent.
    • Promoting standards is an easy way to capture value addition. If SMEs in the industry get certified, more business will come to them.
    • Institutions like ITC can help promote tourism by helping countries identify the weak links in the value chain that hold the whole industry back, and help strengthen those links.

    Speakers' key messages

    • Minister St. Ange 
      Diversity and culture are Africa’s strengths. Culture in particular is its unique selling point – “its own DNA”. The continent has everything to offer from a tourism perspective. This diversity offers the opportunity for visitors to have “the holiday of a lifetime” and it needs to be embodied in any branding strategy for the continent.
    • Minister Jobe 
      There are many ways to encourage deeper penetration of tourism into rural areas. The Gambia is using community groups to encourage ecotourism in partnership with the private sector. The private sector brings in the capacity building element and skills transfer, and ownership is transferred to the communities themselves. Peace and security are required throughout the country to allow the sector to thrive.
    • Ms. Straw 
      The Caribbean has a successful and established tourism brand based on sun, sea and festival. Yet more can be done to expand and diversify. Opportunities exist in wellness and spa packages, sports and environmental tourism, among others. The challenge is to differentiate a destination in a global sector that is fiercely competitive. And to achieve an effective regional brand, connectivity between each country in the region becomes all important.
    • Mr. Lamy 
      There is the bright side of tourism – development, job creation, trade expansion. But there is also the dark side – environmental degradation, destruction and displacement of communities, child labour and proliferation of sinister activities, such as sex tourism. As a result, UNWTO decided around 10 years ago to adopt a global code of ethics for tourism. This code is distinct from other private codes that exist in that it levels the playing field for the global industry. Countries can become certified by incorporating the code into their corporate social responsibility (CSR) framework through a process overseen by UNWTO. Rwanda is now in the process of opening consultations as part of the certification process, which is a testament to the value of forums like WEDF.
    • Mr. Mugisha 
      Rwanda’s brand of tourism is increasingly “pro-poor tourism,” i.e. moving away from an excluisive focus on up-market gorilla trekking holidays to using community tour cooperatives to make the sector more inclusive. The idea is that “someone’s life is another person’s adventure.” At the same time, there are challenges. It will take time for communities to understand the business model, gain the necessary ICT capacity and overcome Western perceptions of ‘primitive Africa.’
    • Mr. Favilla 
      The link between tourism and development is not in doubt. The sector creates one out of every 11 jobs; women hold 55% of all jobs; barriers to entry are few and therefore many entrepreneurs can get involved immediately. This is why tourism is part of the post-2015 UN agenda on sustainable development. But Africa only accounts for 7% of the global industry and to increase this share, negative perceptions of the continent need to change. For instance, the current ebola outbreak in West Africa is having a profound negative impact on tourism on the entire continent.


    A delegate from Tanzania observed that much of the discourse on tourism is focused on attracting long haul tourists: Regional tourism in Africa is the key to the sustainability of the sector. The challenges of intra-regional tourism in Africa were also noted: visa facilitation; logistics – it is easier to fly to other regions than within Africa. The continent may still need to focus on tourists with “the deepest pockets,” said Mr. Lamy, if it is to capture the most value addition. What matters is how much tourism spend remains in the local economy.

    A good way to promote community-based tourism is to develop discrete strategies that can fit into the overarching policy for the sector. Dominica has adopted such an approach, and it can by replicated in other countries.


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