Tourism and Economic Responsibility

From how you recruit and pay employees, to your purchasing behaviour and business relationships, your economic practices will have a substantial impact on the local economy.

As a responsible tourism operator, you should try to minimise the revenue that “leaks” out of your local area. Employing and purchasing locally and setting up business relationships with local people will help to create employment, stimulate entrepreneurial activity, increase investment in infrastructure and boost the overall standard of living in your region.

Local communities who have a vested interest in a tourism operation will actively seek to sustain it and contribute to a positive tourism experience. Supporting local economic growth is therefore key to long-term success.


• Recruit and employ staff transparently, aiming to create a diverse workforce in terms of gender, ethnicity, age and disability. Clearly describe how positions are advertised, the criteria for selecting new staff and your human resources policies.
• Set targets to increase the number of local people you employ and the percentage of your wage bill going to local residents (e.g. 50% of the wage bill going to people living within 50 km of your enterprise, with a 5% increase per annum).
• Provide appropriate skills training programmes for your staff.
• Draw up a community labour agreement with local representatives, setting out targets for employment and skills training.
• Pay above the minimum wages for your area and link wages to positions and experience.
• Provide staff with incentives and bonuses linked to performance or service levels.

• Set targets for the percentage of services and products you buy from local enterprises (e.g. 15% of services and products sourced from enterprises located within 50km, increasing by 5% per year for 3 years).
• Set a target for the proportion of locally made furniture, crafts, clothing and other goods that you buy. Assist local producers to achieve the quality and quantity you need.
• Encourage guests to buy locally made goods. Set up a craft sales area, which showcases local products.
• Create contracts with local entrepreneurs who provide good service.
• Buy your basic supplies locally or enable local store owners to buy products for you.
• Encourage local suppliers to provide handcrafted packaging for soaps, menus, courtesy gifts etc.
• Pay fair prices for goods and services sourced locally. Try to establish the time taken and the cost of materials to help local entrepreneurs arrive at a price, which exceeds their costs.
• Apply fair practices when marking up goods and explain how your markups are applied.

Product Development
• Provide visits to local places of interest, such as village taverns, restaurants and homes. Market local festivals and visits to nearby markets. Offer guests traditional food, cultural events and opportunities to buy locally made arts and crafts.
• Help local enterprises source credit and seed capital by putting them in touch with SMME support agencies. Consider providing micro-loans to local enterprises you work with.
• Let local craft producers know about the range, size, weight and style of crafts that would be attractive to your visitors. Provide craft suppliers with feedback from clients.
• Market local products in your brochures and on your website. Put tour operators and foreign businesses in direct contact with local producers.

This is another of our short blogs on Responsible Tourism that deal with everything from ‘Evaluating your commitment’ to ‘Motivating Guests to be Responsible’ and from ‘Economic responsibility’ to ‘Environmental responsibility’. Come back soon!

With acknowledgement to South Africa’s 2002 Responsible Tourism Manual and Responsible Tourism Handbook.


  1. Hi.i have to say reading this article has really opened my eyes to so much in terms of sourcing locally,gainful employment for the locals. I just started a tourism website and am about to launch out to the tour aspect of it. Armed with this new information I can tell I will be making a lot of impact because most of this tourist spots in NIGERIA has a large population of unemployed people and from hiring them as local tour guides to providing security and selling there crafts a lot of development would come to there areas. Thanks for this write up.cheers. Michael

    • Darryl Lombard

      Michael, I am so happy you found this information to be useful. If only we could get everyone involved in tourism to accept that this is the only route to go. I wish you good luck and great success with your new enterprise.


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