How can island states reimagine tourism for green recovery?

Riad Meddeb, Senior Principal Advisor for Small Island Developing States, UNDP


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide. This blog is also a part of a thread looking more specifically at the impacts and responses to the COVID-19 crisis in Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Grenada’s Molinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park, Molinere Beauséjour Marine. Credit: Grenada Tourism Authority

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have experienced great success in expanding their tourism industries, particularly over the past 10 years. The industry is an economic lifeline and driver of development for many SIDS. Their rich biodiversity and beautiful ecosystems attracted around 44 million visitors in 2019. However, global travel restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have devastated SIDS’ economies. Compared to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), export revenues from tourism represent about 9% of SIDS economies. In countries like St. Lucia and Palau, tourism revenues make up 98 and 88 percent of total exports respectively. It is a vital source of revenue for community livelihoods, disaster recovery, biodiversity and cultural heritage preservation.

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Climate Action and Trade Governance: Prospects for Tourism and Travel in Small Island Developing States

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By Keith Nurse, Senior Fellow, Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies; World Trade Organization Chair, University of the West Indies.

To learn more about countries’ strategies for economic transformation, learn about the 9th Plenary Meeting of the OECD Initiative for Global Value Chains, Production Transformation and Development hosted by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Bangkok, Thailand on November 2017.

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Damage caused to the island of St. Maarten following hurricane Irma. Photo: Shutterstock

2017 will go down as a landmark year given the huge impact of hurricanes on the economic, social and ecological environments in the wider Caribbean. The decimation of several island territories, such as Dominica, Anguilla, Barbuda, St. Maarten, Turks and Caicos, US and British Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico have taken hundreds of lives and destroyed livelihoods in key sectors like tourism. Take the case of Dominica that had a direct hit from category 5 hurricane Maria on September 18, 2017.1 It is estimated that 35% of the reefs at dive sites in Dominica were damaged, and a month later only 43% of accommodation properties are operational. Hurricane Maria went on to hit Puerto Rico that is now facing a humanitarian crisis.2

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