Pro-poor tourism is regular tourism - except it consciously benefits the poor and helps reduce their poverty.
Tourism is a US$ 2 trillion a year industry, so it's hugely profitable. And it is usually welcomed, because it provides millions of jobs to local people. They may be jobs of the most menial and lowest paid kind, but jobs nonetheless.
However, tourism money 'leaks' - it tends to benefit the huge conglomerates that own tourist facilities, fly people in and out, or provide the food and materials imported for the resort. These are usually locatedoutside the destination country so the bulk of the money - more than half, according to the World Bank - doesn't make its way into local economies.
In fact, in some cases people are even worse off because of tourism development. It's fine if they have a job, but those who don't often find food and lodging prices skyrocket. People are also relocated to make way for new tourism developments so they may lose their ancestral homes, often for little or no compensation. Protected areas are destroyed, decimating communities' natural heritage and undermining potential for ecotourism.
Pro-poor tourism seeks to turn this equation around, at least financially.
Simply put, it directs profits back into the community by employing local people, leasing local land, using local food and other resources or operating local businesses.
Anyone can engage in tourism that helps the poor, even multinationals. They just have to make sure that much of the profits stay home to benefit local people.
Here are a few examples of what pro-poor tourism projects can include:
Hundreds of these projects are already underway worldwide, covering all of the above, and more.
Still confused about pro-poor tourism? Each of these projects qualifies:
So when you travel, make sure you ask the right questions. How many local people are employed? In what kind of jobs? Who provides most of the supplies? How much money stays in the local community? How are local people involved in tourism development?
It's important to be aware of the implications of our travel, and to make the right choices. I for one don't want my love for travel to contribute to someone else's poverty. On the contrary, I'd like to think my passing through may have actually helped someone - even if only a little.