Tourism is one of the economic sectors most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and this will impact especially the most vulnerable people: young people, women and migrant workers. This crisis is having a devastating impact on the global economy and employment and has paralysed the tourism industry, devastating economies that are largely dependent on it. Measures such as travel restrictions, flight cancellations and the closing of tourism businesses have had an immediate impact and have significantly diminished the supply of, and demand for, domestic and international tourism services. At the same time, tourism is a strong drive for recovery after the crisis, with strong potential for economic growth and job creation. If not well managed, however, tourism can also contribute to destroying our unique cultural assets, harming the environment and disturbing social structures. As such, the sector may play a key role in reinvigorating the global economy and in moving the society forward towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through the “Building back better” in the post-pandemic period.
Even prior to the COVID-19 crisis, rural areas frequently found themselves in situations of economic decline, as a consequence of the fall in agricultural production, the loss of a part of their human resources (who emigrate to the cities), and the thin infrastructure endowment. . Therefore, in order to maximize tourism’s positive impact and mitigate its potential risks, the entire tourism community – including policymakers, companies, tourists and other tourism stakeholders, as well as the development community at large – need to work together to promote responsible and sustainable tourism across the world. Governments need to develop effective and robust policy frameworks for sustainable tourism development. The private sector needs to demonstrate its full commitment to sustainability in core businesses models with enhanced action; and the international community needs to pursue a more favourable and holistic approach to financing for tourism so as to realize its full potential as a driver of sustainable development and the achievement of the SDGs.
Towards a Solution
For the International Labour Organization (ILO), sustainable tourism is made up of three pillars: social justice, economic development and integration of the environment. The ILO is committed to fostering local progress by maximizing the contribution of tourism to the economic prosperity of the destinations. The tourism industry also should generate revenue and decent work for the workers without affecting the surroundings and the culture of the place of destination and should ensure the viability and competitiveness of the destinations and the companies, so that they may continue to prosper and to generate long-term benefits. Promotion of sustainable tourism in rural areas may be an instrument for development that permits not only protection of heritage, environment and promotion of the cultural identity of the community, but also diversification of the economy and creation of new jobs that help to settle the population and improve the quality of life. This approach entails strategies that base the tourist offering in the development of the natural and cultural resources of the territory, including its agricultural and agro-livestock products and the traditional livelihoods.
The Training Programme on Sustainable Tourism and Local Development in Rural Areas through South-South and Triangular Cooperation, supported by ILO, was especially designed for policymakers, senior technicians and key socio-economic actors in the development of tourism at local and regional levels that carry out their activities in public and private institutions, in civil society organizations or international cooperation related to the subject of the course. The classroom course presents the approach of sustainable tourism as an instrument of local development in rural areas that allows diversifying the rural economy and creating employment in areas that are frequently in situations of economic decline and depopulation, also protecting cultural and natural heritage and promoting the identity of rural communities. Specific learning outcomes of the training programme are:
- Analyze COVID19's impacts on the tourism sector and identify strategies for recovery focusing on measures to support businesses and safeguard jobs by following ILO guidelines on decent work
- Reflect about responses to face the challenges in the short and medium-term: promotion of domestic destinations, sanitarian measures, digital solutions, short supply chains for food, recovery of tourist confidence.
- Identify strategies that promote tourism to stimulate prosperous and inclusive development in rural areas.
- Analyze the opportunities that the tourism sector can offer to the most vulnerable rural populations, in terms of creating productive and quality work in the Global South.
- Know and value the different components that make up the tourist offer of a rural territory through the application of specific techniques and tools and approach the concepts of marketing and destination management.
- Share strategies that can empower rural communities in national and international tourism value chains;
- Promote the exchange of experiences through South-South and triangular cooperation (SSTC), with a focus on sharing initiatives to the tourism sector recuperation after the pandemic.
The ILO Partnerships and Field Support Department (PARDEV) and the ILO International Training Centre (ITC-ILO) work jointly to facilitate the participation of institutions from the Global South (with scholarships provided for tourism practitioners in public and private institutions, as well as civil society organizations) and enhance the SSTC mechanisms and procedures among these institutions. The purpose of this collaboration is to promote the potentialities of South-South and triangular cooperation between institutions on the design and implementing strategies of sustainable tourism as a vehicle for decent work, economic growth and sustainable development.
The Sustainable Tourism and Local Development in Rural Areas course was based on a peer-learning methodology, with continuous exchanges between students, through an applied and participatory approach, giving prominence to concrete experiences based on the vision of sustainable tourism. Due to the limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the course was first launched virtually, with online learning modules, a discussion forum and regular webinars to share experiences among participants.
The course included a module on SSTC, focusing on its existing and potential contributions to sustainable tourism, how participants can engage with SSTC and exchanging knowledge and good practices. Seventeen participants from Morocco, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Costa Rica and Argentina, working for local and national governments, NGOs, trade unions, academia and private sector engaged in exchanges through the ILO’s SSTC platform South-South Meeting Point, in the platform’s thematic subspace for sustainable tourism and rural development. The course included a strong peer-learning dimension: all participants were requested to present good practices in SSTC for decent work and sustainable tourism, highlighting successful practices that are already in place in their institutions and countries and/or potential for future SSTC exchanges in a SSTC webinar. The good practices shared by participants include examples such as a Rafting Guide Training Programme between Costa Rica and Colombia for former guerrilla (FARC) combatants and the design of a Training Programme between Bolivia and Peru on Community-Based Rural Tourism for Decent Work with the support of Switzerland. All good practices were collected for a forthcoming publication.
The Training Programme on Sustainable Tourism and Local Development in Rural Areas through SSTC contributed to building a network among tourism practitioners across Latin American countries and Morocco through the ITC-ILO online learning platform e-campus and the South-South Meeting Point thematic space. Beyond promoting peer learning, the programme ensures that knowledge and experience sharing reaches a wider audience through the collection and dissemination of good practices. The online format of the programme makes it widely accessible and easily replicable in other regions. Having a common language facilitates communication and ensures smooth exchanges between participants.