The problem with too many tourists – and too few


For the month of May, Econ Extra Credit invites you to watch The Last Tourist,” available to stream for free on Kanopy or to rent or buy on several platforms.

Although tourism can be a great distributor of wealth, it often doesn’t work that way. Rather than ending up in the pockets of the local communities, visitors’ money is often intercepted by foreign companies. Economists have even given this a name: leakage.

The effects of leakage are more pronounced in developing nations. The United Nations estimates that for every $100 spent on a vacation tour by a tourist from a developed country, an average of only $5 stays in the developing-country destination’s economy.

“This is the reality for many emerging tourism destinations in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Judy Kepher-Gona, lead consultant for Sustainable Travel & Tourism Agenda. Kepher-Gona, who has spent two decades promoting responsible and inclusive tourism in Africa, told “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio that leakage persists because tourism was never designed to bring in African investors or marketed to African travelers. Recently, however, she has seen a shift toward more inclusive tourism in places like Kenya’s Masai Mara, a popular region for safaris.

“We have seen a surge in local employment for the Masai after the European Union built a local guiding school in Masai Mara to train the Masai to be employed as guides in Masai Mara. This has had a tremendous improvement in the livelihoods of many of the young Masai Maras, who for a long time had watched … other people [tell the] stories of their land,” Kepher-Gona said.

“Now there [are also] direct revenues going to households, thanks to a model of conservation that was introduced in the Mara in the mid-2000s, where the Masai put land aside for tourism and they are paid on a monthly basis, land lease for their land, directly out of tourism revenue.”

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