The power of sustainable tourism has perhaps never been appreciated more than it is today, as has been highlighted by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) 2017 Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, and the recent World Bank’s Memorandum of Understanding with Airbnb to enhance rural tourism.
The UNWTO have consistently promoted the values of a vibrant and all-encompassing global tourism industry, whereas the World Bank has had a less positive track record.
In particular during the 1970s and 1980s they misguidedly assisted destinations focusing on a high density large-scale mass tourism model. They offered support – through aid packages – to countries encouraging what have subsequently proved to be damaging mass-tourism projects. Spain, Morocco, Tunisia, The Gambia and Bali, among others, have lived to rue these decisions.
Furthermore the World Bank still faces a US$4bn hotel investment issue, directly linked to their mass-development years.
By comparison, this month’s announcement that the World Bank is engaging in a leaner, more dynamic, Tourism Knowledge Exchange is cause for celebration. The hope is that by embracing the expanding sharing-economy as a large-scale project, the benefit to local communities will be both substantial and long lasting.
As Airbnb’s business model continues to spider-web itself across the globe, the positive benefits to local communities are being realised, engaged with and maximised on. Not only does a local community directly benefit economically from tourists going beyond the old-style holiday hot-spots, but the proceeds also have the potential to enrich the local culture.
The greater the understanding of a local culture, the more chance that culture has of not simply surviving, but thriving.
So while tourist dollars are essential, when managed well they can go further, to benefit previously disengaged communities.
Tourism presently accounts for 10% of global GNP, the majority of which income benefits old-style tourist spots. With an expansion in rural tourism via the sharing economy, that figure should grow, benefitting many more stakeholders.
The potential for a widening of host communities across tourism is enormous.
So here’s hoping the powers that be (World Bank and UNWTO) are able to assist in the positive development of a dynamic all-embracing future tourist industry. Through Airbnb or any other sharing economy partner.