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Tourism, a powerful tool to tackle the crisis

The sector is expected to create over five million jobs this year alone. However, there is a darker side to tourism that needs to be addressed.

Article | 26 June 2012
GENEVA – Tourism is one the most dynamic industries in the global economy and can play a major role in battling the employment crisis that has cost tens of millions of jobs worldwide, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

“We do believe that the tourism sector is part of the solution,” said Alette van Leur, who heads the ILO Sectoral Activities Department. “It is essential for employment creation, it is very labour-intensive and a significant source of development and social inclusion.”

Tourism is expected to create over five million new jobs this year alone. With about half its workforce made up of young people, the sector is particularly relevant at a time when 75 million youth are jobless.

In 2011, tourism generated – directly and indirectly – almost 255 million jobs, and contributed about US$ 6 trillion to the global economy. This represents about one in every 12 jobs and 9 per cent of global GDP.

The number of jobs in the tourism and related sectors is forecast to grow 2 per cent to over 260 million this year. By 2022, tourism should be providing 328 million jobs, or one in every 10 on the planet, according to forecasts by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

Tourism is becoming a major source of growth and employment in many developing countries, including in rural areas and for those with limited access to the labour market such as women, youth and migrants. It is the leading services export in least developed countries, representing 33 per cent of LDC’s exports, and as much as 65 per cent for island LDCs.

A recent meeting of G20 Tourism ministers in Mexico described the sector as “a powerful engine for economic growth and poverty reduction.”

The dark side of tourism

But the sector also has its dark side. At present, working conditions are frequently poor and irregular, with low pay, long working hours and limited opportunities, as well as casual, temporary and part-time contracts that lead to job insecurity.

Poor working conditions lead to high staff turnover, which can be costly for employers in terms of employee training.

The ILO believes that the impact on national economies can be further improved by ensuring that jobs in the sector comply with decent work standards.

Decent work and social dialogue, especially at the workplace level, are particularly important in the tourism sector, as job satisfaction directly influences service, client satisfaction and labour quality,” says the ILO’s hotel, catering and tourism expert Wolfgang Weinz.

Sustainable tourism creates jobs, stimulates the development of new infrastructure and enterprises and provides incentives for local people to learn new skills, such as foreign languages.

The ILO has published a training manual to help stakeholders in the industry – including governments, trade unions and industry representatives – achieve poverty reduction through decent work, while mitigating the negative impacts of tourism.

Also see: The ILO Toolkit on Poverty Reduction through Tourism