Poverty alleviation is one of the often discussed positive contributions of tourism development. What share of the global tourism business happens in developing countries? Data presented here show economic indicators for tourism in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Data come from the WTTC, who collect economic data for 78 out of the 99 LDC and SIDS countries listed by the World Bank.

The share of international tourist expenditure and employment in LDCs and SIDS is small, but growing.

Tourism expenditure from international visitors in developing countries can stimulate economic activity, infrastructure development and employment. Trying to measure tourism’s contribution to poverty alleviation aligns with other global initiatives, such as UNWTO’s ST-EP program. In addition to contributing to SDG 1 “End poverty in all its forms everywhere”, tourism development can also have a positive impact on SDG 8 “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”.

Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) were selected to monitor the share of tourism dollars that arrive in these countries. Data are provided by the WTTC.

Key facts

  • In 2016, LDCs and SIDS earned a combined US$79 billion from international travel and tourism in real prices. This export value has increased by 4.6% compared with the previous year, 2015.
  • The lowest proportion of LDCs and SIDS tourism export earnings as a share of global international tourism expenditure was in 2000, when it was as low as 4.7%. The highest share was observed in 2012 and 2013, with 5.7% in each year. In 2016, the share was 5.6%.
  • Overall, there is a slow increase towards a higher share of expenditure going to less developed countries.
  • It is important to note that Singapore is part of the SIDS list, and it accounts for 22.6% of international tourism expenditure across all LDC/SIDS countries.
  • Tourism direct employment in LDCs and SIDS increased from 3.2 million jobs in 1995 to 7.8 million jobs in 2016. This is a small reduction (by 1%) compared with the previous year.
  • The share of total direct employment in tourism in SIDS and LDCs increased substantially from 4.5% of global employment to 7.2% in 2016.