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Let’s not stop travelling, let’s travel the right way - An insider’s view, Friday 21 July 2023

In the midst of essential conversations around sustainability and tourism, Matt Purser – Director of the Firebird Partnership – considers the power and impact of travelling “the right way."

“We need to consider the positive impact of tourism”

After the pandemic and the return of travellers, conversations have once again returned to sustainability within the travel industry.

The majority of the discussion has focused on the environmental impact of travel and whether we should all travel less – but sustainability goes beyond this. We need to consider the positive impact tourism has too, and the damage which could be caused by travelling less.

Incoming tourism can play a vital role in the development of countries, particularly in the case of developing nations. For them, a halt to tourism would mean the end to numerous benefits that are crucial for growth and progress.

Sustainable travel can help unlock economic opportunities, promote cultural exchange, foster social development, and help contribute to the preservation of natural resources. How? Let’s take a look.

Economic impact

Incoming tourism is a powerful catalyst for economic growth in developing countries. It injects foreign currency into local economies, generates employment opportunities, and encourages entrepreneurial activities.

Tourism-related businesses, such as hotels, restaurants, tour operators, and transportation services, thrive on the demand created by international visitors. The resulting multiplier effect stimulates various sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing and handicrafts. By diversifying the economy and reducing dependence on a single industry, incoming tourism contributes to long-term sustainable development.

Cultural exchange

Sustainable tourism acts as a bridge between cultures, fostering mutual understanding and respect. Travellers can share diverse perspectives, traditions, and values, enriching the cultural fabric of both visiting and host communities.

Interactions between locals and visitors promote intercultural dialogue, challenging stereotypes, and promoting tolerance. Through experiencing local customs, languages, and traditions, tourists gain a deeper appreciation for the host country, while locals benefit from exposure to different ways of life. Done right, this cultural exchange can enhance global understanding, strengthen diplomatic ties, and lay the foundation for lasting partnerships.

“Engaging local communities in tourism empowers them”

Social development

Incoming tourism has the potential to uplift local communities and improve quality of life. By creating employment opportunities, tourism can alleviate poverty and reduce social inequalities. It encourages the development of infrastructure, healthcare facilities and educational institutions to cater to the needs of both tourists and locals.

Moreover, tourism revenue can be reinvested in community projects, such as conservation efforts, heritage preservation and social welfare initiatives. Engaging local communities in tourism activities can empower them to preserve their cultural heritage, showcase their unique traditions, and participate in the economic benefits of tourism.

Environmental conservation

Developing countries are often blessed with rich natural resources and unique biodiversity. Incoming tourism can serve as an incentive for environmental conservation and the adoption of sustainable practices in these regions. To attract tourists, destinations must preserve their natural assets, protect wildlife habitats and promote sustainable tourism practices.

By valuing their ecosystems, countries can develop responsible tourism models that minimize negative environmental impacts and promote the conservation of natural resources. Additionally, revenue from tourism can be channelled into environmental initiatives, creating incentives for the preservation of fragile ecosystems and raising awareness among tourists about the importance of sustainability.

My thoughts? Let’s not stop travelling, let’s do it the right way. Incoming tourism holds immense importance and potential for many countries around the world. To fully harness the benefits of incoming tourism, it is crucial for governments, local communities, and tourism stakeholders to collaborate, adopt sustainable practices, and prioritise the preservation of our cultural and environmental assets.

Matt Purser is a Director of the Firebird Partnership, and has worked in travel since 1989, beginning with ATOL at the Civil Aviation Authority. There he was instrumental in scoping out regulatory changes to protect consumers. In 2005, he set up the Travel Trade Consultancy (TTC) and helped grow it from a start-up to a million-pound-turnover business. Matt is an expert for the Finance & MI and Regulatory modules of Firebird’s Foundations for Growth programme.

Learn all about Firebird at


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