International tourism is one of the principal economic activities of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). A new UNWTO report launched on the occasion of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (RIO+20), confirms tourism as an essential source of job opportunities, livelihood, foreign exchange and inclusive growth for these countries.
“Tourism offers one of the most promising options for the economic growth and development of small island nations if planned and managed according to the principles of sustainability,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “Tourism has been, for example, an important contributor in enabling the Maldives and Cape Verde to graduate from the status of Least Developed Country.”
The report, Challenges and Opportunities for Tourism in Small Island Developing States, finds that while SIDS often struggle to compete in the global economy, their natural and cultural resources give them a strong competitive advantage in the tourism marketplace.
* The number of international tourists visiting SIDS has increased by over 12 million in the last decade, to reach 41 million in 2011.
* The annual revenue generated by international tourism in SIDS exceeds US$ 38 billion.
* For some island nations tourism accounts for over 40% of GDP.
* Tourism accounts for 75% or more of exports of services for 15 SIDS, and over 50% in 13 others.
The Report calls upon the international community to continue supporting the SIDS because of their particular vulnerable situation and highlights the need to address key issues such as leakages, conservation, air connectivity and climate change if tourism is to effectively contribute to the sustainable development of SIDS.