Achieving Sustainable and Inclusive Growth in Tourism Development


The 17th STTA change makers at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, which was held on November 24th 2018, brought out discussions on how to spread benefits of tourisms growth equitably across diverse interest groups in the destination economy. The overall theme for discussion was Inclusive and Sustainable growth in Tourism. Tourism expenditure and investments grows economies of countries, therefore increasing their capability to support the well-being of their citizens. Tourism growth is important for development of destinations in world regions, but the benefits of this growth are not always shared equally. There is need to capture full potential of tourism for inclusive growth in Kenya.

Emerging Issues

Defining sustainable and inclusive growth in Tourism

Inclusive growth in tourism encourages a form of tourism that accrues benefits to ALL, in terms that are equitable and sustainable, and is essential for sustainability of the sector. To accrue benefits to ALL requires consideration of diversity of interested groups in getting a share of the tourism pie.

Here is a brief of key Take Away points from the seminar that help to explain inclusivity in tourism

  1. Inclusive tourism growth is twofold, taking into account voluntary inclusion of otherwise marginalized interests in the production and consumption of tourism
  2. Inclusive tourism destinations accrue benefits both hosts and guests
  3. Inclusive tourism makes sustainable difference for communities
  4. Inclusive tourism incorporates new actors and new places in tourism, on terms that are equitable and sustainable
  5. Inclusive growth should be in sync with the different shades of the economy that foster environmental protection and care for communities, to promote sustainable development.

Communities interested in tourism growth benefits are diverse. Accordingly, tourism planners view the issue of inclusive growth in tourism from both the production and consumption perspectives, featuring diversities in the host economy as well as tourist communities.

The production side features interest groups in a host economy, with destination offerings to benefit from the tourist expenditure along the tourism value chain. The consumption side features predominantly issues of accessible tourism. Offers in tourism destinations should be accessible to all, regardless of physical limitations, disability or age. This was emphasized in the 2016 World Tourism Day by UNWTO, which was celebrated under the theme “Tourism for All – Promoting universal accessibility.”

Youth and Women Inclusion for Sustainable Tourism

Tourism creates jobs for youth, men and women, for both skilled, semi-skilled and non-skilled workers, who can learn on the job and therefore reduce income inequalities. In tourism growth, industry players and investors are preoccupied with numbers, and forget about people. 1 in 10 jobs are created in tourism every year, and women are well represented in formal tourism employment. Nonetheless, women in tourism employment are the most affected by inequalities in opportunity, and are mostly employed in low paying and vulnerable jobs. Women are more likely than men to work in low paying or vulnerable jobs in tourism. This is because work and family characteristics, and sexual objectification of women, relegates women to menial low paying jobs in tourism.

As future leaders, youth are part of a generation that can fix sustainability challenges we face in tourism today. Responsible organizations nurture the youth on knowledge to develop tourism sustainably. The STTA Change makers is about putting youth in the frontline of changing mindsets in tourism, towards sustainability focus. This is key for designing an inclusive sustainable sector that delivers inclusive and sustainable growth. AFEW has conservation education programs, specific for the youth, as part of its model for sustainability.

Attaining Accessibility for All in Tourism

Tourism that is inclusive does not discriminate, but ensures accessibility for all in participation and benefit. Design of tourism facilities can create disabling environments for people with varying dimensions of accessibility needs. People with accessibility needs are at times excluded from tourism growth. One of the principles of sustainable tourism is quality visitor experience. Acts of discrimination, especially through overlooking guest needs for access, can erode quality of guest experience. Accessibility is an integration, rights and freedom issue.

Inclusive growth in tourism should acknowledge the diversities in a tourism economy, on basis of age, gender, Persons Living with Disability (PLWD), levels of education, among others. Legal barriers, territoriality, biased policies, control of resources by dominant and weak frameworks for partnerships can hinder accessibility for all. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) are an opportunity to address issues of inequality and increase accessibility for all in tourism. Approximately 0% of tourism businesses in Kenya have employed people who are abled differently.

When tourism growth is not inclusive

  1. Destinations remain in poverty. The economic benefits of tourism growth are not shared equitably. Unequitable spread of tourism spending is based on gender, race, age, social status.
  2. The sector exhibits inequalities in employment, Tourism has to grow sustainably for it to impact on income poverty.
  3. Communities are displaced to pave way for tourism development. As tourism grows, people are being displaced, in places that attract too many people or in places that want to attract the many people who are travelling. Over tourism e.g. Iceland, Venice, Barcelona and Maasai Mara in Kenya, are recent examples of developments in tourism that continue to face opposition from host communities. Forced evictions and land grabbing for tourism development have been experienced by communities in Tanzania and Panaama village in Siri Lanka.
  4. Wastage of resources and pollution from tourism continues to be rampant.
  5. There is mismatch in conservation values. Colonial practices of exclusion persist in management of wildlife rich conservation areas.

Way Forward

Tourism growth is currently measured and reported in economic dimensions, where a lot of concerns to deal with social and environmental issues are not captured. Thus its contribution to sustainable development are more of expectations than reality. Tourism statistics can be distracting. Growth is reported in destinations that continue to lose their ecological and social appeal. To foster inclusivity and growth, a change in metric used to report tourism growth is urgent. Relying on Tourism Satellite Accounts, a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) economic metric cannot be used measure the contribution of tourism to sustainable development. For tourism to contribute to sustainable development, everyone has to be given a chance to participate in and benefit from its development. The only way to know if tourism is sustainable and inclusive is measuring the net impacts i.e. the social-cultural, economic and environmental impacts.

Government should have an active role in tourism, to make sure that its growth is sustainable and inclusive. Policies anchored on promoting sustainable tourism should advocate for host community inclusion in the tourism economy in terms that are sustainable and equitable.

Also, local community linkages to tourism value chains should be enhanced and strengthened to foster inclusivity in tourism growth, otherwise, sharing the economic benefits from tourism growth equitably, will remain a dream far from realization for host communities. For tourism to be an effective driver of inclusive growth, economic leakages that emanate from visitor spending in package tours should be curbed.

UBUNTU translation catch phrase, “I am because we are”, summarized the concept of inclusive and sustainable growth in tourism for the seminar. Inclusivity is possible. Tourism can be sustainable and inclusive if only we decide to take action.



Student Presentations

Youth and Women Inclusion in Tourism by Ann a Tourism Student at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology

Organization, Institutions and Business Presentations

Sustainable Inclusive Growth in Tourism by Judy Kepher Gona and Lucy Atieno of Sustainable Travel and Tourism Agenda

Accessbility for All in Tourism by Mr. Osieko a Lecturer of Tourism at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology

Mentors Inspiration

Madam Keziah, Director State Department of Tourism, Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife

Edith, World Animal Protection

Stanley, African Fund for Endangered Wildlife

Phobe, Beads Safaris Collection

Paula, Let’s Go Travel Uniglobe

Universities and Colleges in Attendance

Dedan Kimathi University of Technology-Hosts

Nairobi University

Zetech University

United States International University-Africa

Murang’a Universty of Technology

Kenyatta University

Amboseli Institute of Hospitality and Tourism

Mount Kenya University

Kenya Methodist University

Total number of students in attendance:358

The inter-university seminars is an activity of the the Knowledge Safe Space of the STTA Young Change Makers Program



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