Overview of ST-EP Activities

Following the launch of the ST-EP Initative, and the establishment, in 2004, of the UNWTO ST-EP Foundation in Seoul, Republic of Korea, the implementation of projects began towards the end of 2005 with a training programme for local guides in the village of Ebogo in Cameroun. Since then, the portfolio of projects has rapidly expanded and now includes over 100 projects in a total of 34 developing countries, ranging from developing ecotourism products with local communities in Guatemala to developing and promoting the Great Himalaya Trail in Nepal with a view to enhance the local economic impact from tourism in the country. All the beneficiaries of ST-EP projects are Official Development Assistance (ODA) recipients and of these, half are least developed countries (LDCs). Projects are executed in close collaboration with national tourism authorities, local governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), development organizations and tourism enterprises in the beneficiary countries.

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The ST-EP Initiative regularly organizes seminars to raise awareness and build capacities among public officials, NGOs, the private sector and local communities. Since 2004, UNWTO has organized over 20 regional and national training seminars on tourism and poverty alleviation, with a total participation of over 2000 officials. In addition to these seminars, UNWTO organizes a ST-EP forum during ITB Berlin, promotes the ST-EP Initiative at international conferences and provides guest lectures at tourism courses, all with a view to disseminating the experiences gained and lessons learned among individuals and organizations interested in achieving the MDGs.

In addition, the ST-EP Initiative carries out extensive research and publishes reports to provide evidence of the impact of tourism in reducing poverty levels, accompanied by recommendations on how to maximize these impacts. The following reports have been published: ‎

  • "Tourism and Poverty Alleviation" (2002)
  • "Tourism and Poverty Alleviation: Recommendations for Action" (2004)
  • "Tourism, Microfinance and Poverty Alleviation" (2005)
  • "Poverty Alleviation Through Tourism: A Compilation of Good Practices" (2006)
  • "Manual on Tourism and Poverty Alleviation: Practical Steps for Destinations" (2010)

The foundations of the ST-EP Initiative were first outlined in the publication "Tourism and Poverty Alleviation: Recommendations for Action". The Initiative is based on seven mechanisms through which the poor can benefit from tourism. These strategic lines of action are incorporated into all ST-EP activities and have been widely disseminated.

The seven ST-EP mechanisms:

  1. Employment of the poor in tourism enterprises
  2. Supply of goods and services to tourism enterprises by the poor or by enterprises employing the poor
  3. Direct sales of goods and services to visitors by the poor (informal economy)
  4. Establishment and running of small, micro or community-based tourism enterprises or joint ventures by the poor (formal economy)
  5. Redistribution of proceeds from tax or charge on tourists or tourism enterprises
  6. Voluntary giving and support by tourists or tourism enterprises
  7. Investment in infrastructure stimulated by tourism also benefiting the poor in the locality, directly or through support to other sectors

Whereas the ST-EP mechanisms focus on the economic benefits of tourism for poorer groups of the society, tourism can also contribute to the social, cultural and environmental pillars of sustainable development. Cross-cutting aspects such as gender equality, social empowerment, the protection of biodiversity and conservation of heritage are as well addressed in ST-EP activities.