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As protectionist policies prevail in many global economies, Courtney Fingar provides a timely reminder that the world is getting smaller in other ways, as shown by the rise to prominence of tourism in recent years.

In the UK over the past year it has been hard, at any conference, in any business discussion or even any social gathering, to avoid the ‘B’ word: Brexit. And it has become even more difficult to avoid the ‘T’ word which has trumped everything else lately.

The flurry of executive orders coming out of the White House, courtesy of its frenetic if erratic new occupant, has set the world on its head and the impact on everything from immigration and travel to trade and investment cannot be understated. We will continue to track these rapid-fire developments and analyse what they mean for multinational companies, investors and economic developers. 

But, as the world keeps turning even in the most tumultuous times, I want to talk about something else for a change: another ‘T’ word: tourism. It is a word that has cropped up with ever greater frequency in recent years in our interviews with government ministers and mayors. Once simply the domain of tropical islands, Tuscan hilltop towns and iconic cities, tourism is now a coveted sector for locations of all shapes and sizes (even some of the most unlikely or unremarkable places).

Years ago tourism was rarely cited as a key sector by investment promotion agencies; it tended to be shunted off to a visitors’ bureau or bespoke tourism agency to handle instead. Now, tourism is not only on the agenda, in many places it is front and centre. 

There is a growing realisation that leisure and business are not mutually exclusive, and being a tourism hub does not exclude a city or country from also being a business hub. In fact, the two can go hand in hand. Not only does tourism help bring awareness, and people, to a destination, it is also a beneficial contributor to local economies, bringing jobs, spending and amenities that might otherwise be absent. Tourism is no doubt valuable and important as an economic driver.

Of course, tourism works best in tandem with other less recession-prone sectors; it cannot be relied upon to support an economy on its own. But it certainly has a respectable role to play as one of many pillars of a sustainable economy. It is high time that the tourism industry has its moment in the sun, and it looks like it has finally come. 

Courtney Fingar is editor-in-chief of fDi Magazine. Email: courtney.fingar@ft.com

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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