world record for enriching the poor goes to. . .

Mount Kilimanjaro sets the example for tourism that directly benefits local development, says the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the UK based think tank that promotes evidence-based development theory. ODI’s report on tourism dollars in Northern Tanzania indicates, “that local residents earn 28 percent of the total revenue raised at Kilimanjaro from foreign visitors.” Granted this report (full report available here) publishes data collected from May – October of 2008. A lot can change in three years, especially in developing economic areas.

The study’s conclusion was that this represented the world’s highest and most successful transfer of resources from tourists to local poor people. “This is the most successful transfer of resources from international tourists to poor people living around the destination that ever seen anywhere in Africa or Asia,” stated Mr Elibariki Heriel-Mtui the SNV Adviser in Private Sector Development (quote from allAfrica). It is very unclear where the measures come or other examples of tourist dollars transferring to local people. Rarely are there stories about how a local resources actually benefit local communities instead of being exploited by outside interests. However, is 28 percent really the best that can be done?

Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest peak on the African continent at over 19,000 feet and attracts roughly 35,000 climbers per year. The ODI averages total in-country tourist expenditures at around US $50 million. Therefore, the 28 percent that makes it into the local economy is around $13 million. That $13 million is considered “pro-poor expenditure” – I wonder if it can be written off as a tax deductible donation? The report goes on to talk about other high tourist areas of Tanzania including Ngorogoro crater, which attracts almost 400,000 visitors, but has only 18 percent of expenditures considered pro-poor.

What makes Kilimanjaro so much better? Is it the specialized skills needed to assist climbers to the peak? Is it the difficult and remote terrain? How can 28 percent be considered a world record of pro-poor expenditure? There must be other high tourist sites around the world where there is a higher percentage of expenditure that is returned to the local economy. Anyone have examples from other areas of the world?

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