Pro-Poor Tourism: Values and Benefits


With restrictions on social movement caused by the current COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism industry is going through hard times. However, countries are gradually opening up borders, and travelers worldwide are getting an opportunity to explore new countries. For some states, the recreational sphere is one of the key sectors of budget replenishment, which explains the relevance of attracting guests. Many exotic countries do not have stable economies, and for them, the influx of tourists is almost the only chance for development. The purpose is to identify the features of pro-poor tourism, which involves generating profits from the recreational field to combat poverty. This topic is relevant in the current context of movement restrictions that many developing countries are facing. Through a literature review, relevant findings about pro-poor tourism will be identified, and appropriate conclusions will be drawn from the data presented.

Literature Review

In the academic literature of recent years, much attention has been paid to pro-poor tourism. By citing the example of Peruvian settlements, Knight (2018) notes that this practice, supported at the national level, allows for addressing the problems of the rural and indigenous populations. Musavengane (2018) supports this position and argues that in many countries, rural areas occupy large parts of the territory, and attracting foreigners to these locations helps maintain the standard of living of the local population through tourism investment. The author offers a framework demonstrating the connection between poverty and tourism, which is shown in Figure 1 in Appendix A (Musavengane, 2018). In a more recent study, Musavengane et al. (2019) highlight the relevance of government initiatives by reviewing Sub-Saharan Africa. According to the authors, neo-liberal approaches to controlling the development of tourism in the region do not contribute to the influx of visitors (Musavengane et al., 2019). This, in turn, negatively affects the economies of such countries as Ghana and its neighbors. As a result, the government’s role in promoting tourism destinations in rural and underdeveloped areas through relevant control practices is high.

The role of the private sector in coordinating pro-poor tourism is also a subject of different research papers. For instance, Torabi et al. (2019) argue that, despite the efforts of the authorities, the ultimate winners in creating the conditions for such tourism are monopolistic organizations. They cooperate with governments and control the recreational market, thereby determining the dynamics of the development of this area and imposing appropriate restrictions, if necessary, which negatively affect poor citizens who rely on tourism investments. At the same time, as Zeng (2018) remarks, individual organizations can provide significant support in promoting pro-poor tourism, especially social enterprises that are focused on innovation and attracting foreign capital. Suardana and Sudiarta (2017) state that such targeted activities strengthen the economy through job creation and infrastructure improvement. Therefore, both government and private companies are considered parties capable of coordinating pro-poor tourism and influencing its effectiveness.

The value of pro-poor tourism to developing countries has been highlighted in many academic studies. For instance, Sanches-Pereira et al. (2017) note that, in addition to supporting the poor, this type of tourism offers opportunities for more successful economic planning. However, these perspectives are often ignored, as seen in the case study reviewed by Jamal and Camargo (2018). The researchers give the example of Australian indigenous communities where, due to the local government’s lack of interest in understanding the value of pro-poor tourism, residents could not benefit from this practice (Jamal & Camargo, 2018). As a result, the aforementioned problem of involving the authorities in the regulation of this area is mentioned again.

The analysis of the topic under consideration proves that individual regions are mentioned in academic studies more often than others. When considering various academic works on this issue, Yu et al. (2019) argue that most case studies consider African and Asian regions, where many developing countries are located. For instance, in their case study, Setiawan et al. (2017) assess Indonesian localities and draw attention to the value of conducting vocational training for employees involved in the tourism industry in this state. Thus, a large research spectrum for the issue in question makes it possible to compare the findings of different authors and make appropriate conclusions.

Discussion and Conclusion

Given all the aforementioned arguments regarding pro-poor tourism and its value as a mechanism for improving economic situations, one can assume that all countries, without exception, should promote this practice. However, such an idea is unlikely to be an adequate solution in developed countries. Firstly, the governments of these states have clear algorithms for controlling their economies, and investing in pro-poor tourism can disrupt the established nature of analytical activities. Secondly, pro-poor tourism is relevant, as a rule, in exotic locations that visitors do not have the opportunity to explore in their home countries. In megacities with developed infrastructure, guests spend money on other entertainments and enjoy other attractions. As a result, one of the arguments in favor of pro-poor tourism is that it should be promoted primarily in developing countries and especially in rural areas where the indigenous population lives.

Another observation that emerges from the findings of the literature review is the mandatory support of the government to benefit from pro-poor tourism and ensure its effectiveness. If travel companies have a monopoly on the recreational sector, this opens up the prospect of continuous capital accumulation for their benefit but not for the benefit of local residents. Given the specifics of the type of tourism under consideration, the poor need it most urgently. Therefore, involving the authorities to control investments coming from the influx of foreign visitors may help provide specific communities and regions with financial support. For instance, regulating the business of travel companies at the official level through increased reporting and sustainable fiscal legislation can be effective steps in addressing this issue. Thus, government participation is a significant aspect of strengthening pro-poor tourism and achieving control over cash flows.

Based on the role that the private sector plays in promoting pro-poor tourism, one can assume that social enterprises can be involved as stakeholders that can provide real support. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a global trend; creating programs to promote pro-poor tourism as CSR initiatives may become one of the valuable practices for large companies. This step is likely to be mutually beneficial for several reasons. Firstly, the needs of the poor are addressed, and secondly, corporations increase their credibility by helping vulnerable communities and derive additional benefits, for example, in the form of a reduction in the tax burden. Opportunities for assistance may vary from the organization of individual sponsorship funds for the establishment of tourist routes to advertising activities to promote specific locations as resort sites. These initiatives, implemented by social enterprises, have a high potential to strengthen pro-poor tourism as a global phenomenon.

In addition to mentioning developing countries where pro-poor tourism is much more relevant than in developed ones, one can also remark that, based on the literature review, individual regions deserve the most attention. African and Asian locations appear most often in the academic literature, mainly due to the real challenges that local residents face. The implications of the promotion of pro-poor tourism in the countries of Central Africa and Southeast Asia on the financial development of these regions can be significant. For instance, by establishing new tourist routes in these locations, travel companies can count on the influx of guests from neighboring and more developed states. The reason for this is the wide recreational potential because the climatic conditions, flora, and fauna in the considered African and Asian regions are unique and rich. Therefore, the opening of new tourist routes is an adequate solution in light of the opportunities to attract tourists to target locations.

Given the current restrictions on movement among countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, attention to pro-poor tourism should be particularly close because this practice is a real help for poor populations. The conducted literature review has presented relevant findings about this type of recreational sector and recommendations for improving the situation. In addition, by evaluating positions in various studies, specific conclusions are drawn regarding the involvement of authorities, the development of pro-poor tourism in specific locations, and the participation of social enterprises. Further research may be devoted to assessing additional mechanisms of assistance to states that are in dire need of an influx of foreign visitors. The role of international agencies and global organizations can be considered in the context of participation in the promotion of pro-poor tourism and the creation of assistance programs for travel companies involved in this work.


Jamal, T., & Camargo, B. A. (2018). Tourism governance and policy: Whither justice? Tourism Management Perspectives, 25, 205-208. Web.

Knight, D. W. (2018). An institutional analysis of local strategies for enhancing pro-poor tourism outcomes in Cuzco, Peru. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 26(4), 631-648. Web.

Musavengane, R. (2018). Toward pro-poor local economic development in Zimbabwe: The role of pro-poor tourism. African Journal of Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure, 7(1), 1-14.

Musavengane, R., Siakwah, P., & Leonard, L. (2019). “Does the poor matter” in pro-poor driven sub-Saharan African cities? Towards progressive and inclusive pro-poor tourism. International Journal of Tourism Cities, 5(3), 392-411. Web.

Sanches-Pereira, A., Onguglo, B., Pacini, H., Gómez, M. F., Coelho, S. T., & Muwanga, M. K. (2017). Fostering local sustainable development in Tanzania by enhancing linkages between tourism and small-scale agriculture. Journal of Cleaner Production, 162, 1567-1581. Web.

Setiawan, B., Rijanta, R., & Baiquni, M. (2017). Poverty and tourism: Strategies and opportunities in Karimunjawa Island, Central Java. Journal of Indonesian Tourism and Development Studies, 5(2), 121-130. Web.

Suardana, W., & Sudiarta, I. N. (2017). Impact of tourism to poverty in tourism destination: Pro poor tourism management approach. Journal of Business on Hospitality and Tourism, 2(1), 65-75. Web.

Torabi, Z. A., Rezvani, M. R., & Badri, S. A. (2019). Pro-poor tourism in Iran: The case of three selected villages in Shahrud. Anatolia, 30(3), 368-378. Web.

Yu, L., Wang, G., & Marcouiller, D. W. (2019). A scientometric review of pro-poor tourism research: Visualization and analysis. Tourism Management Perspectives, 30, 75-88. Web.

Zeng, B. (2018). How can social enterprises contribute to sustainable pro-poor tourism development? Chinese Journal of Population Resources and Environment, 16(2), 159-170. Web.

Appendix A

Tourism and poverty 
Fig. 1. Tourism and poverty

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