Implications of Emerging Trends in Tourism for Developing Countries and Societies
Profitable Tourism and the Implications for Corporates and Societies
It is a known fact that Tourism is a money spinner for any country that has abundant tourist destinations. The market for worldwide tourism runs into the Billions of Dollars and all nations are eager to grab as much market share as possible.
Further, Tourism is a sector that has knock on or trickle down effects on other sectors in terms of number of jobs created as well as the revenues that accrue to allied and secondary sectors. In addition, emerging trends such as the promotion of Medical Tourism, Green Tourism, Slow Tourism, and Exclusive Tourist destinations for the wealthy indicate that the potential for growth is indeed high for any destination that can market itself in a proper manner.
Given these aspects, it is not surprising that developing countries want to earn Hard Currency or Dollars as much as possible. However, the effect on people and communities living in and around the tourist destinations has to be discussed as well.
As we shall discuss later, tourism does have both positive and negative effects on the populations of the countries and hence, there has to be a balanced analysis.
Medical Tourism in Developing Countries and the Ethical and Moral Implications
Take the example of Medical Tourism which countries such as India are now marketing them as. Medical Tourism or the term used to describe the trend of treating foreign patients who come from abroad to get treated in hospitals in India and other Asian countries as the cost of such treatment is low in India as compared to the Western countries.
This form of tourism raises questions about how poor and the underprivileged in the countries cannot afford expensive treatments whereas patients from abroad can afford to the higher purchasing power of their currencies.
Of course, this argument is refuted by those who point to the increased revenues from Medical Tourism, a part of which can be channeled into subsidizing the treatment of those who cannot afford.
Though this might seem as cross subsidizing such treatments, the fact remains that it makes sense from a social and moral responsibility perspective. However, there are doubts about how much of this actually happens in practice and hence, there has to be monitoring as well as laws to regulate and mandate this sector.
Of course, the fact remains that Medical Tourism does result in significant revenues for the players and this can be a reason why it must be promoted and encouraged with suitable safeguards.
Effect of Tourism on Local Communities and the Environment
Again, when we measure the impact of tourism on developing countries, we find that it is a mixed bag wherein in some cases, the gains outweigh the negatives and vice versa, in other cases.
Indeed, when we consider countries such as Thailand, we find that the businesses there have gained substantially from tourism and the impact of such activities have resulted in some negatives in terms of huge sections of society depending on tourism for their livelihood, thereby reducing gainful employment in other sectors.
Moreover, in other South East Asian countries, despite the businesses prospering from tourism, there have been large scale destruction of natural habitats and the indigenous customs and practices of the local communities in and around the tourist hotspots.
This has implications from a Corporate Social Responsibility perspective which means that unless the prosperous businesses do something about such negatives, there are bound to be serious repercussions on environment and social aspects.
In this context, it is worth mentioning that rampant promotion of tourism in India too has had a negative impact on the ecosystems in the Northern Hill Regions as well as the Southern Plains.
Public Private Partnerships as a Possible Solution
Thus, to mitigate this, developing countries have to find ways and means to actualize Public Private Partnership initiatives so that the Government and the Private Sector work together for mutual as well as societal benefit.
For instance, the ongoing PPP initiative in India where corporates are being roped in to manage and maintain important historical and heritage sites is a case in point.
Despite the controversy over such measures, they can turn out to be fruitful both for the corporates as well as to tourists and more importantly, the nation as a whole in preserving legacy monuments.
Apart from this, there are other emerging trends such as Green Tourism and Slow Tourism, where the emphasis on reducing carbon footprint by using land travel instead of air travel as well as promoting a cleaner and greener approach to maintaining and preserving ecological tourist destinations are examples of how such an approach can benefit all stakeholders.
The point here is that in the race to grab market share and accrue revenues, we must kill the golden goose (to use a saying) since there are longer term impacts from a social and environmental point of view.
Apart from these trends, there are other noticeable trends such as citizen led initiatives wherein corporates work together with activists and citizen groups to promote sustainable tourism. The cumulative impact of these trends suggests a movement born out of realization of the need to be sustainable as far as possible and ties in with the larger trend to develop social and environmental consciousness.
The corporates have a huge role to play in all these initiatives since they have the financial and logistical resources that are necessary to the successful outcomes from such initiatives. To conclude, we have not inherited the Earth and instead, we have merely borrowed it from future generations and hence, we have a responsibility towards them as well.
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