Tourism Rebound Relies on Small Businesses, OIC Chief Says

The importance of small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to the recovery and future of tourism was highlighted by the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Hissein Taha, during a recent address to the Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers.

According to UNWTO data cited by Taha, nearly 80% of businesses operating in the tourism sector fall under the MSME category. This vast network of smaller enterprises plays a crucial role in creating local jobs and fostering economic activity within communities. He specifically emphasized the significant contribution of MSMEs in promoting tourism in rural and marginalized areas.

Taha underscored the transformative potential of tourism to alleviate poverty. By supporting and empowering local stakeholders, particularly those involved in MSME tourism ventures, the OIC can ensure a more inclusive distribution of benefits generated by tourism. This strategy aligns with the organization's broader goals of poverty eradication and sustainable development.

The Secretary-General's address comes at a critical juncture for the global tourism industry, which is still grappling with the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic resulted in a significant decline in tourist arrivals and revenue, disproportionately impacting smaller businesses that often lack the resources of larger corporations to weather economic downturns.

However, the emphasis on MSMEs also reflects a growing recognition of their unique strengths and contributions to the tourism sector. MSMEs are known for their agility, adaptability, and ability to cater to niche markets and offer personalized experiences. They are often deeply embedded within the local communities they serve, fostering cultural exchange and preserving traditions.

Supporting the growth and resilience of MSMEs in the tourism sector will require a multi-pronged approach. This could involve facilitating access to financing, providing training and skills development programs, and streamlining regulations to create a more business-friendly environment. Additionally, promoting collaboration and knowledge sharing among MSMEs can foster innovation and best practices within the sector.

By prioritizing the needs of MSMEs, policymakers and industry leaders can ensure that the tourism sector not only recovers from the pandemic but also emerges stronger and more inclusive. A thriving network of small and medium-sized tourism businesses can contribute significantly to local economic development, poverty reduction, and the preservation of cultural heritage.

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