What it is and why it is increasingly being practiced by companies

Pro-poor tourism in the climate change era

Climate change and the poor

Climate change issues have in the past decade or so become more complicated, presenting a need for more complex (and creative) ideas and mechanisms to deal with the issues.

Climate change has certainly disrupted tourism initiatives, threatening to destroy physical resources tourists enjoy and worsen resource scarcity issues in some places.


Climate change potentially makes it harder for communities to engage in traditional activities and may even cause the relocation of local people which contributes to the loss of intangible cultural heritage.

And this may happen when communities relocate or have to move away as a reaction to worsening climate issues and gaining greater access to tourism’s benefits. The question to be asked is if pro-poor tourism does have the capacity to protect the loss of intangible cultural heritage.


For pro-poor tourism to reduce poverty, tourism practitioners will need to have a wider understanding and appreciation of the multitude of factors that cause poverty. That is not in isolation to having the knowledge of dealing with climate-related issues.

This is due to the fact that many pro-poor tourism planning does not necessarily contain specific strategies to address developmental issues.

For pro poor tourism (PPT) strategies to focus on relative re-distribution of the benefits and unlocking opportunities for the poor (Ashley et Al., 2001), a stronger understanding of how developmental issues like climate change potentially makes the redistribution harder is needed.



How climate change can potentially affect pro-poor tourism initiatives

Pro-poor tourism has in the recent few decades received greater interest as the idea of using tourism to target poverty grew stronger.

Pro-poor tourism in the climate change era may, however, present new challenges as well as opportunities for the multitude of stakeholders involved. It will, for example, become more complex.


Pro-poor tourism, like community-based tourism, is often used to fulfil the main objectives of increasing, promoting and providing improved livelihoods for rural communities.

It is potentially capable of empowering local communities and enable them to harness the potential of resources found within those areas where tourism happens.

However, that presents one of the challenges; going beyond simply promoting community tourism to develop local enterprises and enhance capacity building, to spark the participation of ‘the poor’ (ODI, 2001, in Nataluci, 2016)


Climate change may force pro-poor tourism initiatives to think of how to use tourism to equip locals with skills to adapt to changes in climate conditions.

This may make pro-poor tourism initiatives more focused on ensuring participation of the poor, as the poorest tend to be the most affected.



It could be hard, if not, impossible, for pro-poor tourism to be successful if it does not incorporate climate change strategies in planning.

There must be instruments that specifically and intentionally prepare pro-poor tourism to deal with complex climate-related issues.

Such instruments might well come from the local’s cultural resources.


In the climate change era, there is often mention of climate change mitigating and adaptation strategies.

Tourism development either has to incorporate or support directly and indirectly mitigation and adaptation strategies.

And that is not easy; mitigation strategies may impede some initiatives intended to channel tourism’s benefits to the local communities or force planners to give up certain activities that used to bring in revenues due to new adaptation strategies.


Planners may even have to create new mechanisms to channel the benefits to the poor in a way or ways unknown to many.

To start with, the meaning of “quality experiences” in the context of pro-poor tourism often do not blend in with that defined in more conventional tourism experiences.



The new challenges confronting pro-poor tourism practitioners

With climate change worsening the issues pro-poor tourism practitioners already have to grapple with, those involved in tourism planning and decision making now have to contend with things like climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Some of the local poor could be vulnerable to mitigation strategies and have little abilities to weather impacts of trade-offs.

This is partly also due to the fact that the poor often live in areas considered vulnerable to natural disasters and weather risks and this worsens the problem.


Pro-poor tourism practitioners must develop tourism that takes into consideration the developmental issues of different areas and formulates tourism strategies that reflect the abilities to protect the effects of climate change on communities, improve climate change mitigation and enhance climate change adaptation.

After all, Telfer and Sharpley (2015) stated that pro-poor tourism seeks to achieve greater equity by providing the poorest members with opportunities to benefit from having access to tourist markets.

One question is, how do we ensure that the poorest will not end up impacted negatively by trade-offs that are generated?

The poor must now build their coping capacities and often, PPT strategies will have to facilitate the process of ensuring the poor has adequate resources to do so.

The poor must also build their adaptive capacities, increase their resilience and this can happen through partnerships made possible by pro-poor tourism strategies.

Opening access for the poor, in the climate change era might be something that becomes more of urgency as well as a possibility, in a new policy-making environment.


PPT in a climate change era should see an increase in development policies intertwining with tourism.

The uneven (some also say unfairly) nature of tourism destination’s spatial distribution and the unequal nature of tourism development and consumption could well be challenges that will be eased in climate change punctuated PPT.


Another question to be asked is, to what extent do local people have a say in contributing to specific climate change policies and legislation. This is connected to how much PPT initiatives will potentially create benefits or disbenefits to the locals or enable greater equity amongst stakeholder.

Additionally and also linked to the above, there is a possibility that in the era of climate-related challenges, the smallholders and the informal sector potentially plays an important role in the flourishing of PPT.

Assuming that there will be policies that intentionally seek ways to protect smallholders from climate-related problems, the potentially intimate link tourism (should) have with development issues will see an even stronger / closer relationship.



In conclusion

It is obvious that pro-poor tourism calls for a different approach to what was practised in the past.

For tourism to benefit the poor, practitioners need to understand the nature and complexities of developmental issues like climate change and poverty.

Pro-poor tourism strategies need to incorporate an appreciation of how developmental issues and challenges can worsen poverty and its associated impacts.

Successful pro-poor tourism strategies will be those that offer solutions that links poverty, tourism and development.



Asian Development Bank (2011). Greater Mekong Sub region – Tourism Sector Assessment, Strategy, and Road Map. Available on <> Date of access [Aug 18, 2017].

Nataluci, M. (2016). The Economic and Ethical implications of Pro-Poor Tourism. Retrieved from: <> Accessed:[Oct 27, 2018.

Telfer, D., J., Department of Tourism Management David J Telfer, Richard Sharpley. (2015). Tourism and Development in the Developing World, Routledge

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