Using tourism to reduce the development gap

Tourism can be a good way for countries to bring in money. Many middle income countries (MICs) and low income countries (LICs) benefit from tropical climates, exotic ecosystems and beautiful landscapes. Tourists will travel to visit these locations. They spend a lot of money, which helps countries to develop.

Case study: The Maldives

The Maldives is a collection of nearly 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean. Many of the islands are uninhabited and none lie more than 1.8 m above sea level. The country is classified as a MIC.

The Maldives are located off the southwest coast of India.

The growth of tourism

The Maldives opened its first tourist resort in 1972. Since then, tourism has increased and 2015 saw the highest numbers ever.

The majority of tourists come from Europe. They come to see the coral reefs, clear blue seas and white beaches. Tourists spend over US $200 million per year, which means that tourism generates the biggest income for the country. Fishing is the second largest industry, but this does not bring in as much money.

The Maldives

Managing tourism

Tourism in the Maldives is closely monitored by the government. The Ministry of Tourism keeps detailed records of tourists and manages numbers on uninhabited islands and coral reefs. Within 20 years, resort islands could make up about 20% of the Maldivian islands. The country needs tourists to visit, but the damage that tourists can do when large numbers of them visit fragile environments must be limited. The Ministry of Tourism has created rules, such as:

  • for each island resort that is created, one island must be left as a reserve
  • any new resorts must only be two storeys high
  • only 20% of the land area of an island can be built upon

The impact of tourism

As a result of the income from tourism, gross national income - GNI per capita - in the Maldives is increasing. As much as 11% of the Maldives' population is employed in the tourism industry. Tourism generates around $600 million a year and makes up around 90% of the government's income from tax. This additional money has led to many improvements in the country. Advances in healthcare means that life expectancy has now reached 78 years.

There are also negative impacts of tourism in the Maldives. Foreign companies own many of the resorts, which means that a lot of money leaves the country. Some resorts are owned by Maldivian people and this has created a big divide between the richest and the poorest people in the country. Enrolment in education is decreasing and the country still has high levels of debt.

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