Does tourism help alleviate poverty? Whilst this is difficult to assess, the Dashboard considers a macro-level distribution of tourism economic benefits. We rephrase the question to measure 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) listed by the World Bank. Data are provided by the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Tourism Employment

Tourism Exports

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”. Not that Singapore has been excluded from this indicator, despite being listed as a Small Island Developing State (SIDS).


  • Tourism direct employment in LDCs and SIDS increased from 3.2 million jobs in 1995 to 8.1 million jobs in 2017. This represents a considerable increase compared with 2016 (by 9.4%).
  • The share of total direct employment in tourism in LDC/SIDS decreased slightly from 7.0% in 2016 to 6.9% in 2017. However, compared with an earlier share of only 4.3% in 1995, the economic benefit in these countries has grown substantially.
  • The largest numbers of jobs from tourism have been observed in Cambodia, Bangladesh and Ethiopia.
  • In 2017, LDCs and SIDS earned a combined US$66.5 billion from international travel and tourism in real prices. This export value has increased by 9.3% compared with the previous year, 2016.
  • 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 3.9%. In 2017, the global share of tourism employment was 4.5%.
  • 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 World Bank SIDS list, but has been excluded from this indicator as it accounted for close to a quarter of all international tourism expenditure across all LDC/SIDS countries.