Trade Forum Features

Tourism, the SDGs and ITC

6 June 2017
ITC News
A growing tourism industry can contribute to sustainable development
goals and ITC aims to make it happen

Tourism is the fastest-growing and one of the most dynamic economic sectors worldwide, accounting for roughly 30% of global trade in services. It ranked third as a worldwide export category in 2015, after fuels and chemicals and ahead of food and automotive products.

For many developing countries, tourism constitutes the single largest foreign exchange earner. Tourism is a sector predominantly driven by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and is particularly valuable as an agent for development and as a driver for socio-economic progress. Tourism value chains encompass a wide range of goods and services and generate multiplier effects across many sub-activities, producing trickle-down effects that benefit local and marginalized communities. As a leading employment sector, tourism offers one of the most effective viable tools for poverty alleviation and sustainable development.

For these reasons, tourism is repeatedly mentioned in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – also known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goals 8, 12 and 14 highlight the sector’s potential to contribute to economic growth, social inclusion and environmental preservation. By scaling up job creation in the tourism sector, society can benefit from improved skills and professional development, and especially women and youth. The tourism sector therefore has the potential to address the persistent youth unemployment problems and to narrow the gender gap, especially in developing countries. The International Trade Centre (ITC) is committed to harnessing tourism potential for women and youth by facilitating their access to jobs and participation in international value chains, which leads to wealth creation and inclusive growth.


ITC offers integrated solutions by building institutional, managerial and entrepreneurial capacities simultaneously at government, institutional and enterprise levels. ITC works with governments and trade and investment support institutions (TISIs) on creating conducive policy environments and with SME beneficiaries on enhancing export capacity.
Raising awareness of the importance of the tourism sector for sustainable development and facilitating exchange of best practices reflect the policy segment of ITC’s work in tourism. As part of ITC’s mandate to foster sustainable development through increased trade opportunities, the Trade Development Strategy programme offers a suite of strategic solutions to maximize the development payoffs from trade. ITCfacilitated trade-development strategies and roadmaps can be tailored to specific sectors, including the tourism sector, as reflected in our recent work in Liberia.

In 2016, the Liberian government and ITC, with funding from the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), developed and launched a strategy for the tourism sector to attract more tourists and investment to Liberia with a view on generating inclusive growth and jobs. This national export strategy for tourism outlines a road map that identifies six key areas of engagement: reviewing policies; tackling infrastructure issues; training and skills building; engaging local communities; strengthening institutional capacities; and better branding and marketing of Liberia’s tourism offerings.
More than 120 concrete project activities have been identified to redress bottlenecks in the development of the tourism sector in Liberia.


ITC’s specific competence also lies in its trade orientation and its mandate to work with the private sector, especially for SME internationalization. ITC has developed and implemented tourism projects worldwide providing local communities with invaluable opportunities to grow through tourism.
Countries in which ITC has intervened include Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, El Salvador, Kyrgyzstan, Lao PDR, Mozambique, Myanmar, Tajikistan and Viet Nam. For example, ITC’s tourism project in Myanmar aims to enhance trade competitiveness of the tourism sector in Kayah state. This is being achieved by integrating local producers and service providers into the tourism value chains on one hand, while on the other hand helping inbound tour operators in Myanmar to develop inclusive tourism tours in Kayah state and promoting the region in international markets (see Pages 30-32).

The Myanmar project delivers impacts through increased export capacity of tour operators and tourism-related suppliers; increased capacity of tourism associations to provide sector development services; and enhanced business linkages and partnerships for SMEs in the international market. The project addresses the whole tourism value chain by overcoming bottlenecks at each point from product development over market linkages to destination branding, bringing all players together in moving towards sustainable tourism.

To maximize impact of technical assistance in tourism, ITC and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) have entered into a strategic partnership to aggregate their resources and competencies, and to share perspectives in the process of rethinking a joint approach to Aid for Trade in tourism. The partnership also aims at having a more integrated and innovative approach to tourism development for inclusive growth.

Among the first steps are the development of a joint ITC-UNWTO offering for national tourism export strategies and the collaboration with UNWTO in projects that ITC is leading in the Gambia and Sri Lanka. This collaboration reflects ITC’s vision that increased coordination among donors and implementing agencies can help create comprehensive tourism projects that are more effective in enhancing tourism’s contribution to sustainable development.