BEIJING – The United Nations World Tourism Organization has made a point of praising China for its poverty-combating strategy. By promoting rural tourism in the world’s most populated country, the Chinese government brought significant benefits to over 10 percent of the poverty-stricken population over a short three-year time period.
Recently, the China National Tourism Administration and the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development of China made the joint decision to promote tourism in rural areas as a means of combating poverty.
As explained by Taleb Rifai, the United Nations World Tourism Organization Secretary General, Chinese tourism “is a labor-intensive sector providing a wide range of job and entrepreneurship opportunities in areas where other economic activities are often limited or in decay.”
More specifically than combating poverty, placing strategic emphasis on rural tourism works to provide job and entrepreneurship opportunities locally. In rural areas where migration is a huge threat to economic sustainability, tourism can serve as an especially important economic stabilizer.
Between 2011 and 2014, over ten million people were able to use tourism as a means to escape poverty. Since then, tourism has become widely recognized as a dually effective developmental and poverty-reducing tool.
As part of China’s 13th Five-Year Plan Period, a nationwide tourism development plan is being launched. Both the CNTA and China’s LGOP hope to lift 17 percent of the nation’s impoverished population out of poverty by 2020.
Over the next five years, Chinese officials expect three million rural tourism businesses to be visited by two billion visitors annually. Analysis of the implications of these numbers reveals that each year, two million of China’s rural population should be able to break out of poverty.
Over a five-year period, this should equate to a 17 percent reduction in nationwide poverty. The total income generated is estimated to climb to over one trillion RMB Yuan—improving the lives of some fifty million rural residents.
Tourism has been outwardly identified by half of the world’s Least Developed Countries as a priority instrument for fighting poverty. Despite this acknowledgement, and the extensiveness of subsequent socio-economic impacts, tourism still receives limited recognition as a developmental tool.
In order to bring tourism the attention it deserves, the United Nations World Tourism Organization recently called for higher financing for tourism in development at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development.
Speaking at the conference, Rifai emphasized the importance of including an enhanced focus on tourism into the post-2015 worldwide sustainable development agenda.
He explained, “We have a unique opportunity to raise the level of assistance in tourism to further harness its vast potential for stimulating green growth and inclusive development worldwide, particularly for the countries most in need.”
Looking ahead, developed nations must be forward thinking and innovative in our poverty reduction strategizing. At the same time, we must also take note of the tools that have brought the most marked achievements in the fight against poverty. Tourism is a valuable tool that will continue to lead the anti-poverty charge.
– Sarah Bernard