How government can boost the local economic impacts of tourism. The third 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 series of posts.

OPPORTUNITY THREE: Boosting local craft and tourist shopping

Tourists want to shop and buy presents. Even the business tourist is not expected to return home empty-handed. Buying souvenirs and curios can substantially increase the amount of money that stays in the local economy, and particularly with women. Thus, ensuring that poor people can take advantage of the opportunity offered by these customers, and that tourists have ample opportunity to spend their money, is a critical part of boosting local economic impacts.

Many of the points pertinent for tourism service providers also apply to craft makers – such as the need for credit, training, business support, mentoring, and infrastructure. In addition, there are some actions particularly relevant to crafts and shopping.

Upgrade product quality, supply and fit with tourist tastes

If local products are not of good quality, no amount of marketing will help. Training for artisans is often essential if they are to sell to tourists. This may be done by NGOs but should be supported by government. It is not just the quality, but producers also need to understand tourist tastes, and also what size or weight, they can carry, what packaging or transport they need and what pricing they will regard as value for money.

Develop locally distinctive products

Tourists want to buy products that are unique to their destination. Government and non-government agencies can work with producers to develop these and ensure tourists are informed. Information on where it was made, by whom, and how, adds significantly to the value of a product, and thus the price.

Government can support and oversee development of a ‘made local’ brand. This brand can be applied to a range of goods and services, giving the products higher value and giving the tourist more information and satisfaction. For example, in Jamaica, government and the private sector collaborated in establishing ‘Taste of Jamaica’ branding, which helps promote local foods.

Create sales venues

One of the easiest ways to boost market access for local producers is to establish, equip and promote market sites where vendors can sell and tourists can shop in safety. Tourists need an accessible place where they feel secure, and about which they have information. Vendors need a place with reasonable transport access, particularly if their wares are bulky, and a rental system that is affordable even for part-timers. A government-supported site is one important way forward. Sales in and around protected areas are often important. Instead of having vendors compete for sales at the gate, an organised site inside or just outside the park can be open to all.

Competition for the best selling spots is inevitable, particularly if they are in short supply. The question is whether government leaves this to the bigger sellers to sort out, or sets us up a mechanism which increases access for the many, particular the poor, women, and the craft-makers themselves.

The location of such sites matters a great deal. They should, of course, be at points that are on a tourist route or easily accessible. The crafts must come to where tourists congregate. But craft producers will earn more if they can sell to tourists directly rather than sell to a wholesaler who transports the products to towns or parks. Furthermore, some tourists spend more if they are buying directly from a producer, particularly if they can watch and photograph the product being made. Therefore it is invaluable to establish craft markets that are accessible to producers as well as tourists.

Ensure tourists have information, incentives and capacity to spend more locally

Tourists should not return home with loose change in their pocket or disappointment at their shopping. The local environment should encourage them to spend more, rather than leave them feeling restricted in their browsing and spending. There are many factors in the local environment which government, particularly local government, can influence.

How much tourists spend is influenced by:

  • Safety and security in the local environment. Local police should collaborate with shop owners, residents, youth and hoteliers to ensure this, to the benefit of all.
  • Low levels of tourist hassle.
  • Easy money-changing facilities.
  • Easy transport to local sites.
  • Good sites for shopping and browsing – with some shade, sale of drinks.
  • Information about local products, or a ‘made local’ brand.

Future posts will deal with ‘Boosting local inputs into the hotel supply chain’, ‘Stimulating micro and small tourism enterprises’, ‘Facilitating destination-level partnerships’ and more.

Contact Lorton Consulting about boosting local crafts and tourism shopping to generate benefits to the poor — we would be more than willing to advise you.

With acknowledgement to UNWTO, SNV and ODI


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