Tourism and the Millennium Development Goals

The Millennium Development Goals are eight global targets which range from halving extreme poverty to combating major diseases throughout the world by 2015. How can the travel and tourism industry help to achieve them?

What are the MDGs?

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been agreed to by all the world's countries and leading development institutions and have galvanized global action to meet the needs of the poorest people on the planet.

By 2015 they aim to:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2. Achieve universal primary education
3, Promote gender equality and empower women
4. Reduce child mortality
5, Improve maternal health
6, Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
8. Develop a global partnership for development.


In January 1999 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Koti Annan challenged world business leaders to 'embrace and enact' universal environmental and social principles in the UN Global Compact!, both in their own corporate practice and by supporting appropriate public policies.

The Global Compact is the world's largest voluntary corporate responsibility initiative and its participants include UN bodies, companies, business associations, NGOs and trade unions. It comprises ten principles (all based on international intergovernmental agreements) focused on the implementation of responsible business practice in the areas of human rights, labour standards, anti•corruption and the environment.

The Global Compact is not a regulatory instrument and relies on public accountability, transparency and the enlightened self-interest and action of companies, labour and civil society. Participants are encouraged to engage in cross sector partnerships in order to develop practical solutions for meeting the broader development objectives of the MDGs which extend beyond a company's immediate workplace, marketplace and supply chain.

In September 2000, two months after the Global Compact became operational 189 heads of state ratified the Millennium Declaration' at the UN Millennium Summit in New York, USA. This significant global commitment offered a common and integrated vision on how to tackle some of the major challenges confronting the world. Its result was the eight MDGs. Specific targets and indicators have been set for each of the goals (see table 1 on page 18), to be achieved by 2015. Some have direct implications for business, others relate more broadly to the enabling framework and policy environment in which companies have to operate.

Key issues

Poverty, hunger, and sustainable development are among the issues at the very top of the agenda of world leaders. Allied to the fight against poverty are imperatives such as the prevention, treatment and eradication of serious diseases caused by lack of sanitation, awareness or economic wherewithal, and the need to equip people with the necessary education, employment and life skills to enable them to control their own destinies. Education and employment issues underlie many of the global problems highlighted by the MDGs. The latest annual global employment figures from the International Labour Organisation3 show that half of the world's 2.85 billion workers currently exist on less than the US$2 a day poverty line -the same number as ten years ago. The number of people in the world without jobs climbed to a record high of 191.8 million in 2005.

This was in spite of a 4.3% growth in the world's economy as a whole and represents a rise of 2.2 million unemployed compared with 2004 -and 34.4 million over the past decade.

Two key factors are needed in order to lift people out of poverty:

  • access to economic opportunity through employment, business linkages and other income generating opportunities, access to credit, technology and training
  • access to affordable necessities such as water. energy, nutrition, healthcare, housing and education.

These factors, combined with stable governance, rule of law, human rights, freedom from conflict and corruption and the implementation of international standards help to create an enabling framework for the fulfilment of the MDGs. There is also a need for generous and effective development assistance from donor governments, debt relief, and fairer access to global markets for exports from developing countries.

The last but equally vital, part of the MDG equation is the need to ensure the environmental sustainability of the planet. Despite greater knowledge and the introduction of systems to address environmental problems such as global warming and climate change, there remains much to be done, particularly at local level.

Land exploitation, deforestation, pollution and the introduction of invasive species all pose serious threats to the biodiversity systems on which we all depend. According to Conservation International, the world's biodiversity 'hotspots' (regions with a great diversity of endemic species that have been significantly impacted by human activity) have cumulatively lost nearly 90 per cent of their original natural vegetation'. These areas are home to more than one billion people, many of them living below the poverty level. High-priority areas for biodiversity are also key regions for tourism development, largely because of the unique species and ecosystems they contain.

Why are the MOGs important for travel and tourism?

The travel and tourism industry depends upon economic, social and environmental sustainability -and issues such as poverty alleviation, employment quality and social equity are closely linked with this. There is a strong business case for engaging with these issues'. Tourism's economic viability (and therefore its ability to generate income for communities) depends upon the quality of the local environment and cultural assets being preserved. Many tourism initiatives can help towards meeting more than just one of the MDGs. For example, measures to address poverty can also help make it financially possible for communities to improve their overall quality of life through access to basic necessities such as clean, fresh water and better nutrition.

What is the travel and tourism industry doing?

In September 2005, government, industry, UN agencies and civil society leaders met in New York at the invitation of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UN WTO) on the eve of the Special UN General Assembly and adopted the declaration 'Harnessing Tourism for the Millennium Development Goals". This recognises the role that tourism plays in most of the developing, least developed and small island states 'as the main, and sometimes the only, means of economic and social development on a sustainable basis, with meaningful linkages to other productive sectors such as agriculture and handicrafts'. There are many examples where the travel and tourism industry can and is contributing towards MDG fulfilment. Broadly they fall into three areas:

  • compliance with international voluntary agreements and initiatives that address global issues
  • developing partnerships and industry-specific initiatives
  • individual action at local level variously involving tourism businesses, their staff and clients.

What actions are being taken?

1. Poverty and employment

The contribution that tourism can make towards local economic development was asserted at the seventh session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (C5D-7)' in New York in 1999. Delegates called for poverty and local and indigenous community benefits to be addressed according to the Rio Declaration framework laid down in 1992 after the Earth Summit, which emphasises the importance of addressing sustainable development.

The CSD-7 declaration urged governments to 'maximize the potential of tourism for eradicating poverty by developing appropriate strategies in co-operation with all major groups, and indigenous and local communities'. December 2001 saw the adoption of the Global Code of Ethics' by the UN WTO. Its article 5 states that Tourism policies should be applied in such a way as to help to raise the standard of living of the populations of the regions visited and meet their needs'. The following year, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg gave special recognition to the role of tourism in sustainable development.

The WSSD Plan of Implementation refers specifically to tourism, and further references are made in the sections relating to energy and biodiversity conservation, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and African issues During WSSD, and with a view to the MDGs, UN WTO launched the Sustainable Tourism -Eliminating Poverty (ST -EP) Initiative.

Over the past three years, ST-EP has produced a series of technical publications on tourism and poverty reduction and generated funds to conduct pilot projects in poor communities with particular emphasis on poverty alleviation, environmental conservation and the creation of employment opportunities for women, indigenous communities and young people.

The Pro Poor Tourism Partnership (PPTP), established in 2001, is a partnership between three individuals, Caroline Ashley of the Overseas Development Institute (001), Harold Goodwin of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism (ICRT) and Dilys Roe, International Institute for Environment and Development (lIED). Pro-poor tourism (PPT) is an overall approach to tourism (rather than a niche area such as ecotourism) and PPT strategies range from increasing local employment to building mechanisms for involving the poor in tourism.

The PPTP works with the industry and with local communities to identify and to demonstrate the specific roles that tour operators, smaII lodges, larger hotels and infrastructure developers can play locally in order to increase the net benefits to poor people. For example, PPT initiatives by the Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism (ASSET) in The Gambia have shown how a series of relatively small changes can significantly increase the earnings of informal sector entrepreneurs". These included creating opportunities for local craftspeople and fruit growers to sell to hotel residents such as setting up facilities on the beach, inviting them into the hotel grounds and advising them on new products and appropriate sales techniques.

The IBLF's Tourism Partnership is spearheading a poverty initiative with the international sustainable development organisation Deutsche Gesellschaft fiir Technische Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GTZ). This collaboration aims to develop effective strategies for the tourism industry to address the MDGs (with a particular focus on poverty alleviation) through issues such as employability, supply chains and local economic development. This will be done by taking existing good practice from the tourism industry, developing guiding principles and building transferable models for wider international use.

Fair Trade in Tourism South Aftrica (FFTSA) promotes fair, ethical and responsible business practise by South African tourism establishments through the FFTSA Trademark, an independent symbol of fairness in the tourism industry.

The trademark is awarded to tourism establishments that meet stringent criteria.

One such example is Spier Leisure" in the Stellenbosch winelands of South Africa which is increasing the number of 'people of colour' represented in junior, middle and senior management positions by 10%. It also aims to enhance the type, quality and focus of training and development available to them.

2. Education and health

Around 1.4 billion children have no clean water close to their homes and many have to share the water they use to drink, cook and bathe in with their livestock. More children die under the age of five from water pollution and water-borne disease than anything else". Just a Drop is a global travel and tourism industry charity which provides clean water close to the homes of thousands of children and their families by raising money to build wells, provide hand pumps and set up health and sanitation programmes. Last year it raised nearly GBP200,000.

One example of an international chain working to improve global health is Starwood Hotels & Resorts' partnership with UNICEF on Check out for Children.

Launched in 1995, the programme now operates in more than 210 hotels throughout the world and has raised US$13 million for UNICEF from guests donating one US dollar on their bill when they check out. For each US$l million raised, over 55,000 children can be immunised against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, tuberculosis and measles. A notable example of good practice by an individual establishment in this area is Umlani Bushcamp, in South Africa's Greater Kruger National Park which runs an exemplary staff HIV/AIDs awareness programme.

It holds workshops and provides one-on-one counselling, medical care and access to multi-vitamins and a high-nutrition diet. Several examples of educational projects are outlined in the case studies on these pages. Another is Conservation Corporation Africa (CC Africa), which founded the Africa Foundation in 1992. Now an independent not-for-profit non-governmental organisation, its primary focus is on income generation, education and health care. Together with CC Africa and in consultation with communities, the Africa Foundation has implemented many successful community empowerment projects across Africa including Wildchild which educates local children on wildlife, conservation and natural resources.

3. Gender equality and women's empowerment

Youth Career Initiative (YCI) is a unique global partnership of hotels, government and non-governmental organisations, offering a world-wide employability and youth empowerment programme. The programme is a model for social responsibility and partnership within the hospitality sector. The life skills learned by participants in YCI programmes in hotels in Thailand, The Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, Brazil, Ethiopia, Poland and Romania equip them with personal presentation, listening and team skills as well as hygiene and health awareness -all of which enhance their employment chances. Since it was sent up in 1995, YCI has helped over 1,000 young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, many of them young women, to break safely out of the poverty trap.

The case studies of Siwa, Egypt and the Haciendas in Mexico clearly demonstrate how women can be empowered through local tourism-related enterprise.

4. Environmental sustainability

Tourism has such an important stake in the 'wellness' of the planet that it cannot afford to ignore issues such as global warming and climate change. An early industry response was made by members of the hotel industry who established the International Hotels Environment Initiative in 1992 to collectively understand and address environmental issues.

This work has broadened and continues now through IBLF's Tourism Partnership targeting all sectors of the industry, not just hotels. Projects include benchmarkhotel, a management tool through which accommodation establishments can measure, monitor and reduce their environmental impacts, and the recent publication of sustainable hotel sitting, design and construction guiding principles to inform hotel and resort planners, investors and developers about how-to minimise the negative aspects and maximise the benefits of tourism development.

The Tourism Partnership is currently developing a sustainability self-education tool for use by hotel operators to measure and monitor the economic, social and environmental impacts of their operations and to provide guidance for improvement. Air travel fundamental to the industry, is responsible for around 2% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and around 3.5% of man-made global warming in total.

Aviation causes climate change by contributing to global CO, from the burning of fossil fuels and through other effects in the upper atmosphere linked to the emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), particles and water vapour.

Case Study
Nkwichi Lodge, Lake Niassa, Mozambique

The Manda Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT) is a UK charity that raises funds within Mozambique and through tourism to pay for development projects which the communities in Mozambique select themselves.

The country has made a remarkable recovery over the last few years, becoming one of Africa's emerging tourist destinations.




The Manda Wilderness Conservation Project has three aims:

1. tourism investment in establishing and running Nkwichi Lodge on Lake Niassa, a low environmental impact lodge built so that if it were to be removed, the area would return to its natural condition within two years

2.conservation in partnership with local communities to set up a community-owned conservation area of 120,000 hectares and a lake reserve of 4 hectares

3.sustainable development with the communities forming the conservation partnership to help build a more secure future and better living conditions for local people.

The project has succeeded in enabling local communities to set aside land for conservation, create a wildlife reserve and use their natural resources in a sustainable manner.

All the lodge staff and guides at Nkwichi Lodge come from communities that are within a day's walk and, by the end of 2005, 20% of the lodge's produce and services were sourced from within a 25-kilometre radius. Staying at Nkwichi helps to pay the wages of up to 50 local staff. Each salary supports approximately 15 family members so, in effect, each overnight guest has a positive impact on around 750 lives.

MWCT works closely with the lodge to ensure local communities benefit from the growth of responsible tourism in the region and involves them in all decision-making.

A three-year agricultural project is working with 58 farmers in eight different communities to produce vegetables and other crops. The farm is within walking distance of the lodge and all guests are welcome to see for themselves the work and progress taking place. So far, five schools have been built in Mala, Mbueca, Mandambuzi. Mataka and Uchesi villages.

The communities contribute the bricks, sand and stones and funds are then raised to pay for materials such as cement, roofing irons and nails. The trust works closely with a local NGO to mobilise, train and help organise the village development committees which have been set up within each community. The aim is to expand water-provision and school building projects to include the villages of Lukambwe, Magachi, Tulo and Lipolichi.

For Further Information Contact

Case Study
Calabash Tours, South Africa

Calabash Tours caters for tourists who want to experience true urban Africa by visiting previously inaccessible townships and meeting local people in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The company is co-owned by Paul and Thandi Miedema, who employ an additional four people, three of whom have become part owners of the business.

Calabash is committed to recruiting previously unemployed black people from Port Elizabeth's surrounding black townships and helping them to attain formal tour-guiding qualifications. Guides' salaries are 50 per cent or more above the national minimum wage guidelines, and the company's practice of employing guides on a full-time basis challenges the industry norm of paying only for services rendered.

The company recently set up a volunteer programme in conjunction with SAGA Holidays UK, which will bring in skilled volunteers to work in a schools programme and an HIV/AIDS home-based care programme. It is based on South Africa's Guidelines for Responsible Tourism Development', with the majority of the income being clearly seen to be going to host communities. The first two volunteers arrived in March. They pay to come, to be managed by Calabash, and to bring a project contribution which is spent once they arrive in co-operation with the project.

Calabash is also a founding member of the Calabash Trust, an independent non-profit organisation set up in 1999 which helps make tourism work for disadvantaged communities in Port Elizabeth. The trust is run by three permanent staff and several volunteers who implement projects funded through donations made by Calabash clients. To date, the focus has been on supporting primary education (school fees, furniture and books for schools), youth development, and community health and nutrition schemes in townships visited by Calabash Tours including New Brighton and Red Location.

For Further Information Contact 

Case Study
Fundacion Haciendas del Mundo Maya, Mexico

In the 1920s the Haciendas in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula were prosperous plantations that supported local communities, but by the 1940s they had been abandoned, leaving the communities in extreme poverty. The Haciendas of the Mayan World Foundation was formally set up in 2002 by a group of individuals committed to promoting economic, social and cultural development in the Yucatan. Under the Mayan motto 'Naat-Ha' or 'knowing and understanding to transform' the group has been dedicated to developing and implementing social projects in highly marginalised communities in the peninsula for the past ten years. A hotel project was devised which formed the backbone to revitalising the area and a group of specialist restorers were engaged to rebuild the haciendas.

Operated by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, these now provide luxury accommodation for travellers. A second phase established housing, health (including infant and maternal welfare) education, and environmental projects, allowing the communities to take an active role in their own development process. This has played a key role in poverty alleviation and in the preservation of Mayan cultural identity. The foundation facilitated literacy training and the setting up of 27 micro-enterprise development workshops which have revived traditional handicraft making (such as embroidery, filigree jewellery, horn and stone carving).

The villagers own and manage their own businesses and operate in partnership with the haciendas. Thanks to the artisan projects, 181 women now have a stable source of income in their communities whilst being able to look after their children and houses. In addition, 21 individuals from four communities have been trained as masseuses and are organised in co-operatives to provide services to guests in the hacienda spa facilities. They are able to earn twice the minimum wage in Mexico.

The foundation, which won the WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow 'Investors in People' award in 2005, has helped to secure legal land ownership for thousands of Mayan villagers and to set up both a Civil Corporation and a Community Savings Fund. These mechanisms enable community members to decide on and contribute funds for development projects (such as repairing roofs or the purchase of a community vehicle) so that they are not completely dependent on external funding.

For Further Information Contact

Case Study
Model Ecologically Sustainable Community Tourism Project (MESCOl), Malaysia

In 1997, Martin Vogel, previously a group leader with tour operator Intrepid, founded the Model Ecologically Sustainable Community Tourism Project (MESCOT) in the Batu Puteh community along the Kinabatangan River in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.

This community project has received both national and international recognition for conservation and sustainable development. MESCOT focuses on training villagers in environmental conservation and the means of making a living from their forests without the need for its destruction. Part of the programme has been to develop an ecologically-sound wildlife and ecotourism centre, owned and operated by the 'villagers themselves. Since this became operational Intrepid has been a key supporter of the programme.

Since the outset WWF Malaysia has worked with the state government acting as a facilitator for the local villagers in developing ecotourism products through training, awareness activities and initial networking with relevant organisations.

A number of development and business plans have been prepared including the Miso Walai homestay programme, established in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Environment. Miso Walai means 'together as one house' in the language of the Orang Sungai (the indigenous people of the region). Miso Walai combines an experience in the rainforests of Borneo, wildlife observation cruises on the Kinabatangan, local cultural activities, and recreational activities to provide a tourism core business. The programme also supports ongoing wetland forest and lake restoration projects.

For Further Information Contact

Case Study
Nihiwatu Resort, Sumba, Indonesia

Nihiwatu Resort on the remote Indonesian island of Sumba is dedicated to reducing poverty. Since 2001, its guests and their friends have donated over US$l.3 million to projects through The Sumba Foundation which was set up by the resort's owner, Claude Graves. . The resort actively involves its guests in its mission to help its neighbours, and with their donations they have been able to dig wells and provide potable water to more than 4,500 villagers from 26 villages. Previously these people had to walk miles each way to small springs just to fetch a bucket of water. The foundation has built and staffs three of its own clinics and supports another four government clinics in the remotest regions of the island. Its medical programme is providing more than 10,000 people with reliable treatments and medicines.

Sumba Foundation's malaria project has so far provided 4,000 people with treated mosquito nets and free medicine in the 59 villages in which they currently work. Between June 2004 and June 2005, the project reduced the infection rates of children under five years of age by 87%, verifiably saving many lives. The World Health Organisation (WHO), The Global Fund and the United Nations have studied the methodology of the project which is at the cutting edge of the worldwide battle against malaria, a disease which kills millions each year.

Educational initiatives undertaken by the foundation include rebuilding schools to create safe learning environments. To date, four primary schools have been rebuilt and provided with water, toilets and school supplies that are distributed to each of the 1,200 students at the beginning of term. To assist higher education on the island they started the first and as yet only, computer class with the donation of 16 computers to the senior school in the provincial capital of Waikabubak. A university scholarship programme has been set up for children from the villages near the resort and students are guaranteed work at Nihiwatu or at the Sumba Foundation clinics on graduation.

For Further Information Contact

Case Study
Siwa Women's Artisanship Development Initiative, Siwa Oasis, Egypt

The Women's Artisanship Development Initiative at the Egyptian oasis of Siwa is part of a larger plan for the area -the Siwa Sustainable Development Initiative. Established by Environmental Quality International (EQI) in consultation with the local community and other stakeholders, it began in 1996 with EQl's tourism investments in the ecolodge Adrere Amellal and Shali lodge.

After marriage, tradition calls upon Siwan women to wear the veil. Their mobility outside the home is also restricted. However, despite having no contact with the outside world, their handiwork is on show on the designer catwalks in Milan.

How did this come about? In August 2001, using seed funds from the British Embassy, EQI initiated a project to revitalise traditional Siwan embroidery. A range of products are produced under the Siwa Creations label including blouses, knitwear, abbayas and galabeyas, shawls and sarongs, towels, bed linen and tablecloths, all made of natural locally-made materials and embroidered using motifs taken from nature. Leather is also embroidered and set in silver to produce elegant rings and bracelets. These exclusive items are sold in the Adrere Amellal boutique in Siwa and in high-end boutiques and department stores in Italy, France, and England.

Three years ago, Tony Scervino of the Ermanno Scervino Italian couture house noticed the intricate Berber embroidery whilst on vacation at Adrere Amellal. Impressed with the stitching, he decided to incorporate it in their next collection. Tony arranged for swatches of exclusive fabric to be sent from Italy to Cairo, from where it is taken more than 700 kilometres to Siwa to be embroidered. The fabric is then sent back to Italy under the Ermanno ScelVino label and made up into designer garments.

The success of the initiative is largely due to the fact that it respects cultural norms and provides alternatives within them. Laila Neamatalla, co-owner of EQL has set up satellite workspaces that are easily 'accessible and which provide an all-female setting for the women. She has also provided training and opportunities for the married women to work from home.

Until recently, only the older generation of women performed the traditional embroidery and the technique was gradually being lost. Now however, as well as keeping alive traditional stitches and patterns, the designs and colours change from season to season, enabling the women's skill and enthusiasm to develop.

Life has changed for the 300-strong Siwan female workforce, who can now earn more than twice the average agricultural wage earned by men. They can now afford their own home comforts and even some luxury goods. The young girls' new-found independence allows them to be selective when it comes to choosing a husband, and even in deciding whether to marry at all.

For Further Information Contact


Leave a Reply