Tourism and Job Creation – Advancing the 2030 Development Agenda
Secretary General, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), global unemployment reached 197.1 million in 2015 and by 2017 will surpass 200 million.
In these times of global uncertainty, equitable employment is essential to increasing social inclusion, peace and security. With 6% of the world’s active population out of work, job creation must be at the forefront of our agendas and the potential of every economic sector to provide decent jobs should be utilized to its fullest.
One of the sectors with the highest such potential is travel and tourism, which continues to grow and stay resilient despite global challenges. Tourism provides 10% of the world’s GDP, 7% of global trade and as many as one in every 11 jobs globally. In each of the six years following the global economic crisis of 2010, the number of international tourist arrivals around the world grew at 4% or above.
Beyond the direct impact, tourism reaches into many other sectors, such as construction, manufacturing and IT services, having a multiplier effect along the value chain. It is estimated that every job in the core tourism sector creates about 1.5 additional or indirect jobs in the tourism-related economy.
Because of this, tourism’s contribution to recovery in recession-hit countries has been significant. For example in Spain, tourism—the country’s top export sector—created 120,000 new jobs in 2015, providing direct or indirect employment to a total of 2.3 million people. Although the economic crisis led to a fall in total employment in the European Union (EU), this was not the case for the services sector, including the core tourism industries such as accommodation, which has had an average annual growth rate of 0.9 % since 2008.
Tourism is creating jobs for millions at a time when the failure to provide hope for a better future to people of all regions is one of our biggest global challenges. The sector’s wide reach also stimulates entrepreneurship and growth of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). MSMEs are the sector’s main innovators and sources of economic diversification, as well as being major job creators across sectors.
With technology and innovation propelling the so-called ‘collaborative economy’, there are also many new employment opportunities in tourism that, if well regulated to safeguard quality, a level playing field and the rights of consumers and employees, can make a large contribution to job creation.
Yet, tourism’s role in employment generation and entrepreneurship is often underestimated and undervalued in policy formulation and implementation.
Placing People First
At the end of 2015, the global community agreed on a new sustainable development agenda for all—an agenda that will guide us to 2030. Tourism is included in this people-centred universal agenda as a target in three of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), yet the sector can undoubtedly contribute to all 17 Goals, from marine resource conservation and poverty alleviation to gender equality and partnerships. In so doing, it can increase its contribution to an overarching aim of the SDGs and of the United Nations: enhancing social progress, peace and human rights.
Target 8.9 of SDG 8 sets as an objective “By 2030, devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products”. This explicit mention of tourism recognizes its transformational potential on livelihoods and prosperity in rural communities, both through providing access to decent employment to those without it, and through reviving traditional local industries such as handicrafts.
Yet to take full advantage of tourism’s capacity to create jobs, we must invest more in tourism education and training, build public policies that stimulate job creation and include MSMEs in the tourism value chain, and bring closer together the public sector, companies and educational institutions.
Today, the tourism sector is still suffering from a gap between education and skills and knowledge needs. The resulting shortages of labour with ‘future-proof’ skills continue to dent economies and harm job creation prospects. This gap can be bridged with policies that support more opportunities for appropriate industry experience, such as internships or scholarships, along with specialized education and training. Crucially, education institutions must work with industry and governments to address the sector’s talent challenges.
We must also support policies that promote decent work in tourism, entrepreneurship, gender equality and youth employment, and strengthen the links between tourism and trade policies to promote the access of MSMEs to international markets and global value chains.
2017 has been declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017. This is a golden opportunity to advance the contribution of tourism to inclusive and sustainable growth, raising awareness of the need to create a Human Capital Pact for Tourism that maximizes the contribution of our sector to a more equitable society.