How government can boost the local economic impacts of tourism. The second in this series of posts.

The poor can participate in the tourism industry in many ways – as workers, entrepreneurs, and neighbours. They gain new opportunities but also face constraints. They earn incomes, but also suffer costs of tourism. These impacts vary enormously from destination to destination. Enhancing the opportunities and impacts for the poor is the concern of this new series of posts.

OPPORTUNITY TWO: Boosting employment opportunities of the poor

Employment in the hospitality sector is generally the most widely recognised contribution of tourism to local livelihoods. Local wages can be the largest, most desired, and most tangible benefit from tourism.

Jobs in hotels are widely sought after and despite poor pay, may be enough to lift a household over the poverty line. But can poor people access these jobs? When they do, are they exploited? What can governments do to increase the wage flow and enhance working conditions for the poor?

Expand the tourism sector and expanding employment

The first issue is the most obvious: as the tourism sector expands, as new hotels come on line, total employment increases. So long as poor and local people can access a good share of the jobs, this can have a substantial impact on the local economy. Tourism usually has a high percentage of jobs available for women and relatively unskilled people, such as in cleaning, gardening, and laundry.

The impact is greatest when tourism develops in places that are remote.

Invest in hospitality skills of unskilled & semi-skilled people


Training the poor so they can take up tourism jobs is critical. Investment in hospitality skills can have substantive impacts over the long term. But it may be hard to fund in the short term.

A country or district with strong hospitality skills is more likely to be able to develop its own businesses, keep employment local, and adapt to changing markets.

Employment Skills are a basis for much else

If the poor want jobs, and if they are to progress to better pay, they must have the skills. What’s more, local people who work for a while in hotels, lodges, and tour operators, often then become the entrepreneurs best able to set up small enterprises in tourism. Skill and jobs are the stepping stone to other linkages.

Include the un-skilled and facilitate job progression

It is important to ensure that that training includes those with less education, and not just school graduates. Skill development for those who have a job but want progression is important.


Training can be hard to fund, but needs long-term commitment. A common way to fund training is through a levy applied across the industry, or via donor funds. However, these funds can be fiercely contested and sometimes flop.

More and better jobs for local people

The proportion of tourism jobs that are secured by local people is a major variable affecting the impact of tourism on a local economy. Anything to increase the proportion helps. Aside from getting more poor people into jobs, working conditions also need to be addressed.

Government can:

  • Target training at poor people and poor areas so that they are qualified for hotel jobs.
  • Assess working conditions in hospitality.
  • Set standards for hotels than tackle exploitation without taking jobs out of reach of un-skilled people.
  • Encourage concessionaires and operators to employ local people when operating in rural areas, rather than transport their own staff. If necessary contribute towards their initial costs of training up local people or facilitate cost-sharing between hotels in an area.
  • Ensure government’s own policy in protected areas maximises opportunities for local people and relatively un-skilled people, including women, to access employment.
  • Assess the employment impact of different types of tourism, and what determines the number and type of jobs, so that labour-intensive tourism can be encouraged.

Future blogs will deal with ‘Boosting local craft and tourist shopping’, ‘Boosting local inputs into the hotel supply chain’, ‘Stimulating micro and small tourism enterprises’ and more.

Contact Lorton Consulting about diversifying your village, town or region’s tourism offering to generate benefits to the poor — we would be more than willing to advise you.

With acknowledgement to UNWTO, SNV and ODI


  1. An excellent article offering real solutions to eradicate poverty. As part of our philosophy as a tour company we use lodges like the Kiboko Lodge in Tanzania that is run by former street children or the Sapana Lodge in Chitwan, Nepal that give directly back to the local Tharu population. We also support local restaurants that train former street children in the hospitality industry or contribute to local projects and orphanages in the area. Most people don’t realize that by making different small choices when they travel they can truly enrich and improve local lives. I am happy to see this movement towards being a more conscientious traveller as it is vital for the future of all.

  2. It’s often said that folks living in poverty want a ‘hand up’, not a ‘handout’, with which I wholeheartedly agree. Getting people involved in such a fashion promotes a sense of ownership in a sense, making long term involvement more likely, and the entire project more likely to succeed.

Leave a Reply