Eco-tourism 5 - Money matters
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Date: 12 October, 2002


Southern India - Vegetable Market. Photo: Andre Shine
'Overseas investment is the Goose that lays the golden egg of infrastructure, jobs and hard currency - so how much benefit trickles down to the locals?'

In episode five of her six-part series on eco-tourism, Andre Shine urges responsible travellers to spend their holiday money with the locals wherever possible.

Buy local
At 6 am, no sooner had I emerged from the Sree Devi Hotel than I heard a rickshaw driver shout 'where are you going?'. I stood wondering, 'is no hour of day, or place, sacred?' Once again my personal space had been invaded by what felt like a nation in the grip of the hospitality, transport and retail.

At times, notably in developing nations, the ratio of local tradespeople to tourist is extreme - competition can be high. But in truth the local economy receives only the crumbs from the large investor's plate.

Foreign leakage
Tourism is often seen, by less developed nations, as a panacea for the domestic economy. Overseas investment is the Goose that lays the golden egg of infrastructure, jobs and hard currency. So how much benefit trickles down to the locals, whose lives are often adversely affected by the impact of tourism?

Profits produced by international investors can be as high as 70 or 85% according to Tourism Concern - a charity campaigning for fair trade and human rights within tourism. Yet in Nepal only 1.2% of revenue, generated by tourism, remains within some mountain communities that host trekking parties.

The great divide…
Although research shows that package tourists budget more per day than backpackers, spending habits differ.

The nature of backpacking has leant itself to penetrating locations with minimal tourism infrastructure. As a result their daily budget is spent within the local community - including family run hostels. Backpacker accommodation tends to be built by local craftspeople, whose supplies are sourced locally. Investment is more affordable, and therefore more likely to evolve from within the community. Consumables such as cooking ingredients, and cleaning detergents, are generally bought from nearby markets.

…package tourists
Conversely, from the construction materials and technical expertise to the branded drinks stocked behind hotel bars, vast amounts of money leak overseas through imports. And back into the pockets of the tourist's home nation. Holiday-makers are often encouraged to spend their budgets within the resort complex, cutting out local tradespeople.

Whose job?
Imported skills - Larger resorts require skilled professionals, employed from elsewhere, to manage the day to day business. Travel reps and tour guides may also be recruited externally. And transport services are often contracted out to large companies, based outside the locality.

Local job opportunities - Once again the crumbs are offered to locals. Opportunities may include cleaners, bar staff, kitchen assistants and laundry staff.,

By contrast to package resorts, locally owned hostels tend to be family run. Other support services used by backpackers, such as local transport, restaurants and tour guides, will also be supplied by people who live close by.

In a word
As well as supporting the community, buying locally produced goods and services frees you from the chains of pre-booking. It also provides the flexibility to make decisions when you've reached your destination and you've discovered what there is on offer.

This article is part of a series - use these links to view the other eco-tourism articles
Eco Tourism 1
Eco Tourism 2

Eco Tourism 3
Eco Tourism 4
Eco Tourism 6



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