Experts from developing countries and members of the Steering Committee on Tourism for Development discussed how the tourism sector links with the creative economy and can contribute to poverty reduction.
The importance of tourism for employment creation and foreign exchange earnings is well-known. According to the World Tourism Organization, in 2012 tourism accounted for one in eleven jobs worldwide and generated a staggering 6% of global exports. For twenty of the least developed countries tourism is either the number one or number two export earner.
A less researched area is how tourism is linked to the creative economy. Yet, therein lies considerable potential for poverty reduction given that a relatively high share of tourism expenditure on shopping, particularly handicrafts, reaches the poor. The production and selling of handicrafts usually includes informal sector operators in which poorer and less skilled entrepreneurs participate.
To better understand this link and identify how countries and agencies can collaborate to tap this potential, UNCTAD invited representatives from three developing countries, members of the Inter-agency Steering Committee on Tourism for Development (SCTD), a representative from the Enhanced Integrated Framework and an expert on tourism from Toulouse University, to an ad hoc expert meeting in Geneva on 9-10 December 2013.
The meeting consisted of three components:
Participants first discussed the concept of creative economy and how it links to tourism.
The Head of UNCTAD's Creative Industries Unit, Ms. Zeljka Kozul-Wright, gave an overview of the importance of creative industries, culture and tourism in development strategies, and highlighted that creativity was a dynamic process and culture a fundamental part of development.
Professor Vellas from Toulouse University illustrated in his presentation how the creative industry can influence tourism innovation, architecture, design, management, distribution, culture and gastronomy, and quality.
The country representative from Cape Verde then discussed the importance of the creative economy, and in particular culture, for the tourism sector in his country.
In the second component the members of the SCTD briefly outlined how their respective agencies can assist countries in this area.
Thereafter, representatives (Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Madagascar) shared their country experiences and described the challenges but also the opportunities that they are facing. For instance, in Cape Verde a challenge and opportunity is to enable Cape Verdeans to benefit from tourism demand for handicrafts, which is currently met by imported products.
The Ministry of Culture has created a road map for launching a network and distribution of handicraft which will enable producers to meet consumer demand (smaller and non-fragile products which can be bought in Casas de Cultura).
Finally bilateral meetings between country representatives, agencies and Professor Vellas helped identify technical assistance suited to the specific needs of each country.
The meeting format (small number of participants and space for bilateral meetings) led to a highly interactive and stimulating discussion among all participants. Several project ideas were generated during the meeting, which are being followed up.
Country representatives reported that the meeting format brought out a "humanistic approach and dimension" to the importance of culture in tourism and the creative economy. Moreover, the meeting contributed to further enhancing the collegial and constructive partnership amongst agencies, which is crucial for efficient resource allocation and efficient project implementation.