Who Pays for Tourism?

by Justin Francis

According to recent reports in the New York Times and other news sites, a surge in tourism in Cuba, and the subsequent increased demand for food, has meant that some Cubans are unable to purchase staple foods in local markets.

It's something we've read with some concern as Cuba is a popular destination on our site Ė where we only market trips which have been carefully screened to ensure they benefit local communities.

It's clear that if tourism is pushing up local prices, then it is even more important that local people benefit economically from the visitors that arrive. And it falls on holiday companies to ensure they approach working in the country in a responsible way.

Tourism can too often be like a parasite on local communities and environments. The question is often asked - who pays for tourism? Too often it is local people. The tourism industry needs to work with local people to develop food supply chains if it does not want to eat their lunch. It also needs to make sure that income from tourism is spread widely into local communities so that they can do this themselves.

There are plenty of examples where tourism provides very limited local economic benefit to local people, despite utilising their environments and cultures for free as the tourism 'product'. Large cruise ships are a very good example of this, and recent announcements show there is a real desire to expand cruise tourism into Cuba. I'm very worried by this.

In Myanmar, another country which a few years ago rapidly opened up to tourism, leader Aung San Suu Kyi said the country wanted 'responsible tourism' as a way to increase local incomes and protect their heritage without selling out to rapacious mass tourism.

Letís see if they can deliver it.

Photo credits: [Nick Kenrick]
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