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The Importance of tourism | Understanding the tourism industry

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(Last updated on: 11/05/2020)

The importance of tourism is demonstrated throughout the world. From the economic advantages that tourism brings to host communities to the enjoyment that tourism brings to the tourists themselves, there is no disputing the value of this industry.

The importance of tourism can be viewed from two perspectives: the tourism industry and the tourist. In this article I will explain how both the industry and the tourist benefit from the tourism industry and why it is so important on a global scale.

The Importance of tourism

What is the importance of tourism?

When many people think about the tourism industry they visualise only the front-line workers- the Holiday Representative, the Waiter, the Diving Instructor. But in reality, the tourism industry stretches much, much further than this.

As demonstrated in the infographic below, tourism matters in many different ways. The tourism industry is closely interconnected with a number of global industries and sectors ranging from trade to ecological conservation.

The Importance of tourism
An infographic highlighting why tourism matters

Importance of tourism to the tourist

When we discuss the importance of tourism it is often somewhat one-sided, taking into consideration predominantly those working in the industry and their connections.

However, the tourist is just as important, as without them there would be no tourism!

Below are just a few examples of the importance of tourism to the tourist:

Enhanced quality of life

Taking a holiday can greatly benefit a person’s quality of life. While different people have very different ideas of what makes a good holiday (there are more than 150 types of tourism after all!), a holiday does have the potential to enhance quality of life.

Ability to broaden way of thinking

Travel is known to help broaden a person’s way of thinking. Travel introduces you to new experiences, new cultures and new ways of life.

Many people claim thatchy ‘find themselves’ while travelling.

Educational value

The importance of tourism can be attributed to the educational value that it provides. Travellers and tourists can learn many things while undertaking a tourist experience, from tasting authentic local dishes to learning about the exotic animals that they may encounter.

Ability to ‘escape’

Tourism provides the opportunity for escapism. Escapism can be good for the mind. It can help you to relax, which in turn often helps you to be more productive in the workplace and in every day life.

This is another way that the importance of tourism is demonstrated.

See how tourist habits have changed over the years.

Rest and relaxation

Rest and relaxation is very important. Taking time out for yourself helps you to be a happier, healthier person.

Enhanced wellbeing

Having the opportunity for rest and relaxation in turn helps to enhance wellbeing.

Importance of tourism to stakeholders

Who are tourism industry stakeholders?

There are many people who work either directly or indirectly with the tourism industry and who are therefore described as stakeholders. You can read more about tourism stakeholders and why they are important in this post- Stakeholders in tourism: Who are they and why do they matter?

Stakeholders in tourism

The benefits of tourism are largely related to said stakeholders in some way or another. Below are some examples of how stakeholders benefit from tourism, organised by economic, social, environmental and political gains; demonstrating the importance of tourism.

The importance of tourism: Economic gains

Perhaps the most cited reason in reference to the importance of tourism is its economic value. Tourism can help economies to bring in money in a number of different ways. Below I have provided some examples of the positive economic impacts of tourism.

This video provides some interesting statistics about the scale of the global tourism industry and future predictions before the Coronavirus outbreak occurred.

Foreign exchange earnings

The importance of tourism is demonstrated through foreign exchange earnings. 

Tourism expenditures generate income to the host economy. The money that the country makes from tourism can then be reinvested in the economy. How a destination manages their finances differs around the world; some destinations may spend this money on growing their tourism industry further, some may spend this money on public services such as education or healthcare and some destinations suffer extreme corruption so nobody really knows where the money ends up! 

Some currencies are worth more than others and so some countries will target tourists from particular areas. Currencies that are strong are generally the most desirable currencies. This typically includes the British Pound, American, Australian and Singapore Dollar and the Euro. 

Tourism is one of the top five export categories for as many as 83% of countries and is a main source of foreign exchange earnings for at least 38% of countries.

Contribution to government revenues

The importance of tourism is also demonstrated through the money that is raised and contributed to government revenues. Tourism can help to raise money that it then invested elsewhere by the Government. There are two main ways that this money is accumulated. 

Direct contributions are generated by taxes on incomes from tourism employment and tourism businesses and things such as departure taxes. 

According to the World Tourism Organisation, the direct contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP in 2018 was $2,750.7billion (3.2% of GDP). This is forecast to rise by 3.6% to $2,849.2billion in 2019.

Indirect contributions come from goods and services supplied to tourists which are not directly related to the tourism industry. 

There is also the income that is generated through induced contributions. This accounts for money spent by the people who are employed in the tourism industry. This might include costs for housing, food, clothing and leisure Activities amongst others. This will all contribute to an increase in economic activity in the area where tourism is being developed. 

Employment generation

The importance of tourism can be demonstrated through employment generation.

The rapid expansion of international tourism has led to significant employment creation. From hotel managers to theme park operatives to cleaners, tourism creates many employment opportunities. Tourism supports some 7% of the world’s workers. 

There are two types of employment in the tourism industry: direct and indirect. 

Direct employment includes jobs that are immediately associated with the tourism industry. This might include hotel staff, restaurant staff or taxi drivers, to name a few. 

Indirect employment includes jobs which are not technically based in the tourism industry, but are related to the tourism industry.

It is because of these indirect relationships, that it is very difficult to accurately measure the precise economic value of tourism, and some suggest that the actual economic benefits of tourism may be as high as double that of the recorded figures!

Contribution to local economies

The importance of tourism can be further seen through the contributions to local economies.

All of the money raised, whether through formal or informal means, has the potential to contribute to the local economy. 

If sustainable tourism is demonstrated, money will be directed to areas that will benefit the local community most. There may be pro-poor tourism initiatives (tourism which is intended to help the poor) or volunteer tourism projects. The government may reinvest money towards public services and money earned by tourism employees will be spent in the local community. This is known as the multiplier effect. 

Overall economy boost

Tourism boosts the economy exponentially. This is partly because of the aforementioned jobs that tourism creates, but also because of the temporary addition to the consumer population that occurs when someone travels to a new place. Just think: when you travel, you’re spending money. You’re paying to stay in a hotel or hostel in a certain area – then you’re eating in local restaurants, using local public transport, buying souvenirs and ice cream and new flip flops. As a tourist, you are contributing to the global economy every time you book and take a trip.

For some towns, cities and even whole countries, the importance of tourism is greater than for other. In some cases, it is the main source of income. For example, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, tourism accounts for almost 40% of the Maldives’ total GDP. In comparison, it’s less than 4% in the UK and even lower in the US! In the Seychelles the number is just over 26% while in the British Virgin Islands it is over 35% – so tourism is vastly important in these nations.

The importance of tourism: Social gains

The importance of tourism is not only recognised through economic factors, but there are also many positive social impacts of tourism that play an important part. Below I will outline some of the social gains from tourism.

Preserving Local Culture

It is the local culture that the tourists are often coming to visit and this is another way to demonstrate the importance of tourism.

Tourists visit Beijing to learn more about the Chinese Dynasties. Tourists visit Thailand to taste authentic Thai food. Tourists travel to Brazil to go to the Rio Carnival, to mention a few…

Many destinations will make a conserved effort to preserve and protect the local culture. This often contributes to the conservation and sustainable management of natural resources, the protection of local heritage, and a renaissance of indigenous cultures, cultural arts and crafts. 

Strengthening Communities

The importance of tourism can also be demonstrated through the strengthening of communities.

Events and festivals of which local residents have been the primary participants and spectators are often rejuvenated and developed in response to tourist interest.

The jobs created by tourism can also be a great boost for the local community. Aside from the economic impacts created by enhanced employment prospects, people with jobs are happier and more social than those without a disposable income. 

Local people can also increase their influence on tourism development, as well as improve their job and earnings prospects, through tourism-related professional training and development of business and organisational skills.

Provision of Social Services

The importance of tourism is shown through the provision of social services in the host community.

The tourism industry requires many facilities/ infrastructure to meet the needs of the tourist. This often means that many developments in an area as a result of tourism will be available for use by the locals also. 

Local people often gained new roads, new sewage systems, new playgrounds, bus services etc as a result of tourism. This can provide a great boost to their quality of life and is a great example of a positive social impact of tourism. 

Commercialisation of Culture and Art

Tourism can see rise to many commercial business, which can be a positive social impact of tourism. This helps to enhance the community spirit as people tend to have more disposable income as a result. 

These businesses may also promote the local cultures and arts. Museums, shows and galleries are fantastic way to showcase the local customs and traditions of a destination. This can help to promote/ preserve local traditions.

Revitalisation of Culture and Art

Some destinations will encourage local cultures and arts to be revitalised. This may be in the form of museum exhibitions, in the way that restaurants and shops are decorated and in the entertainment on offer, for example. 

This may help promote traditions that may have become distant. 

Preservation of Heritage

Another reason for the importance of tourism is the preservation of heritage. Many tourists will visit the destination especially to see its local heritage. It is for this reason that many destinations will make every effort to preserve its heritage. 

This could include putting restrictions in place or limiting tourist numbers, if necessary. This is often an example of careful tourism planning and sustainable tourism management. 

Empowering communities

Tourism can, if managed well, empower communities. While it is important to consider the authenticity in tourism and take some things with a pinch of salt, know that tourism can empower communities.

Small villages in far off lands are able to profit from selling their handmade goods. This, in turn, puts food on the table. This leads to healthier families and more productivity and a happier population.

The importance of tourism: Environmental gains

Whilst most media coverage involving tourism and the environment tends to be negative, there are some positives that can come from it: demonstrating the importance of tourism once again.

Protecting nature

Some people think that tourism is what kills nature. And while this could so easily be true, it is important to note that the tourism industry is and always has been a big voice when it comes to conservation and the protection of animals and nature. Tourism organisations and travel operators often run (and donate to) fundraisers. 

As well as this, visitors to certain areas can take part in activities that aim to sustain the local scenery. It’s something a bit different, too! You and your family can go on a beach clean up walk in Spain or do something similar in the UAE. There are a lot of ways in which tourism actually helps the environment, rather than hindering it!

The importance of tourism: Political gains

Lastly, there is something to be said for the political gains that can be achieved through tourism.

The tourism industry can yield promising opportunities for international collaborations, partnerships and agreements, for example within the EU. This can have positive political impacts on the host country as well as the countries who choose to work with them.

The importance of tourism: To conclude

Tourism is a remarkably important industry. As you can see, the tourism industry does not stand alone- it is closely interrelated with many other parts of society. Not only do entire countries often rely on the importance of tourism, but so do individual members of host communities and tourists.

If you are studying travel and tourism and are interested in learning more about the importance of tourism, I recommend you take a look at the following texts:

The importance of tourism: Further reading

  • An Introduction to Tourism: a comprehensive and authoritative introduction to all facets of tourism including: the history of tourism; factors influencing the tourism industry; tourism in developing countries; sustainable tourism; forecasting future trends.
  • The Business of Tourism Management: an introduction to key aspects of tourism, and to the practice of managing a tourism business.
  • Tourism Management: An Introduction: gives its reader a strong understanding of the dimensions of tourism, the industries of which it is comprised, the issues that affect its success, and the management of its impact on destination economies, environments and communities.
2 Comments
  1. zamir malik

    very detailed and informative post. keep it up

    Reply
  2. LORELYN L. SEVILLA

    Very helpful for researchers…thank you!

    Reply

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