Sustainable and inclusive protected-area tourism can contribute to a country’s recovery from the economic fallout of the pandemic, address long standing development challenges, and conserve biodiversity. This is the crux of the World Bank’s recently launched report ‘Banking on Protected Areas.’ The report assessed the economic impact of protected area tourism on the local economy.
The report finds that jobs are created directly through tourism activities and indirectly by stimulating the local economies. In Zambia, tourism in protected areas generated jobs for 14 and 30 percent of the working age populations around the Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa Parks, respectively.
In Nepal, tourism-related jobs around Chitwan National Park are held by 3 percent of the working age population, while in Brazil’s coastal region this figure is 12 percent. Similarly, tourism in Fiji’s Mamanuca Islands created 8,304 jobs, employing 13 percent of the local population in the Mamanucas and adjoining coastal areas.
The study accounts for jobs such as hotel employees, tour operators, and restaurant workers, and those employed as a result of the increased demand for goods and services catalysed by tourism in sectors such as retail, services, and in some instances agriculture, livestock, and fishing. The study finds income multipliers from tourism ranging from 1.53 to 1.83 in all the country case studies, implying that each additional unit of money entering the local economy through tourist spending changes local household incomes by significantly more than one.
This finding suggests that local market linkages are strong and amplify tourist spending. Tourism benefits households directly involved in the tourism sector and those indirectly linked with the sector. Households benefit indirectly through production and income linkages – when tourism operators hire local people and buy local goods, and when households spend wages or businesses spend profits earned through the tourism sector.
In fact, as a share of the population, tourism appears to benefit the poor more in all but one country. The study shows that for every dollar governments invest in protected areas and in promoting tourism, the economic rate of return is at least six times the original investment. Importantly, this shows that protected areas are not financial sinks but rather engines of growth. It also reveals the potential of these protected areas to promote economic recovery and support sustainable development.
Significant job opportunities, high income multipliers, and high returns on public investments are three key ingredients of any economic recovery strategy. With the added outcome of biodiversity conservation, promoting sustainable protected area tourism qualifies as a green recovery.
According to the report, the governments should place these tremendous natural assets proactively into their development plans and strategies and harness the potential of protected areas to promote a green and inclusive recovery.