Data and technology have revolutionised the way we live our lives. In developing countries, these tools have created new opportunities to improve livelihoods and create jobs in both traditional and emerging sectors, with exciting prospects for investment, growth and replication. World Tourism Day 2018 (27 September) celebrates Tourism and the Digital Transformation, bringing technology to the forefront of the global debate on tourism and sustainable development.

World Tourism Day

Digital solutions have proven themselves invaluable in addressing some of the biggest challenges facing businesses and consumers in developing countries. Tourism is a central pillar of the economies of small island developing states (SIDS), yet many of these countries leak valuable tourism revenues because of their dependence on imports to supply the tourism industry. Improving and promoting linkages between tourism and agriculture, broadly defined as agritourism, will be essential for SIDS and other developing countries that are experiencing growth in tourist numbers, but are struggling to translate this into a positive economic opportunity for agriculture and other key sectors.

Growing Agritourism through Digital Solutions

The success of the Women in Business Development Inc. Samoa (WIBDI) “Organic Farm-to-Table” mobile application, developed with the support the ACP-EU Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), demonstrates how data can be harnessed to bridge the gap between producers and tourists, enabling WIBDI’s network of organic farmers to access lucrative local markets for their high quality goods. “The Organic Farm to Table app enables tourists and local residents to find restaurants that serve organic food,” explains CTA. “By facilitating public access to this information, the app is helping to make WIBDI’s operations more efficient and transparent. It also provides a useful resource for those in search of a good meal made with locally grown organic ingredients.”

The “Organic Farm-to-Table App”, developed by WIBDI, lets tourists and local residents find and select restaurants that serve organic food
The “Organic Farm-to-Table App”, developed by WIBDI, lets tourists and local residents find and select restaurants that serve organic food © WIBDI

Gillian Stewart, Program Manager at WIBDI, highlighted the transformative potential of ICT tools for Samoan farmers at the European Development Days 2018. Speaking during the debate entitled “Going Digital: Sustainable development in agriculture for women: supporting women’s access to ICTs for agriculture and promoting participation’’, she noted that the mobile app has been a valuable means of creating new income generation opportunities for WIBDI members and providing a more traditional, authentic Samoan experience for urbanised populations.

Through its partnership with CTA, WIBDI is also using data and digitalisation to undertake farmer profiling and certification, which in turn, enable it to streamline its production processes. A collaboration with the Samoan technical services company, Skyeye, saw the use of drones to map WIBDI’s certified organic farms, covering 420 of the largest certified organic farms in its network. This allowed WIBDI to create an accurate database of its members, their farms and their production capacities – valuable information for WIBDI to improve support and coordination of its members and respond more accurately to market demands. The partnership with CTA has also generated a data system to help WIBDI manage the organic certification scheme for its 796 certified farms in Samoa, and led to greater integration of ITCs into WIBDI’s daily operations management.

More recently, CTA launched “Linking agriculture to tourism markets in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific”, a project that offers and combines a range of interventions to support and promote agritourism development in ACP countries, particularly small island states. A series of mutlistakeholder policy workshops have already been organised across numerous Pacific island states, bringing together key public and private sector representatives in tourism and agriculture sectors, including farmers, chefs and development partners. The topics of data and ICTs have emerged as key issues in many of these workshops, particularly the need for better data to help inform policymaking and digital solutions that can help to improve the agritourism value chain.[1]

Using ICT to Bridge the Gender Gap

Women in Business (WIBDI), Samoa at the 2nd Pacific Agribusiness Forum  © CTA

Women and youth could stand to make substantial gains through the introduction of digital solutions in tourism and agriculture, as they make up a significant part of the labour force in both sectors. It is therefore critical for policymakers, government, investors and the private sector to support girls’ and women’s involvement in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), thus enabling greater female participation in the digital economy and in the development of digital solutions. Additionally, the information gap relating to women’s role in tourism and agriculture, and the impact of digitalisation on women, has to be closed. This can only be achieved with better research, wider dissemination of results (notably through open data) and the availability of gender-disaggregated data. Promoting women and girls in positions of leadership and through opportunities in tech and agritourism will also advance these objectives.

“At CTA, we are committed to shaping the move to next-generation farming in ACP countries, and this mandate will only be fulfilled by investing in women and girls. We believe that now, more than ever, it is essential to empower women with the right innovative and digital tools to transform their rural communities. This is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.” Michael Hailu, Director, CTA

Data, Digitalisation and Deliciousness – Local food gets a boost

Improving the volume and availability of sound data on tourism, agriculture and food trends will help the public and private sector to make better-informed decisions. It will also enable consumers to access new experiences and opportunities, and thus promote the development of new markets and the creation of much needed jobs.

Culinary tourism is one of a number of emerging sectors that could benefit from improved data availability in the tourism sector. Recently, Booking.com data from over 50,000 global travellers saw more than six in ten travellers (61%) say that they pick a destination for its great food or drink and almost half (49%) of global travellers are still looking to be more adventurous with the type of cuisine they eat while traveling, rising to 60% of millennials. One way to achieve this is to sample the local delicacy whilst traveling. In fact, almost two-thirds (64%) of global travellers will try to eat more local food in 2018.[2] Increased spending on local food by travellers can have positive spill over effects, such as promoting local food and local sourcing, helping to diversify the tourism offer, encouraging employment in the culinary and food services and attracting investment into education, training and standards for chefs, producers and tourism operators around local cuisine.

Cook Islands canapes. CREDIT: @chef.photography.

Chefs4Dev is an initiative that is seizing digitalisation to promote cuisine as a link between tourism and agriculture in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. Established by CTA with regional and national partners in the Caribbean and the Pacific, Chefs4Dev works as both a network and an online platform. It showcases and promotes the latest developments and leading personalities – Chefs, agribusinesses entrepreneurs and policymakers – who are driving a revolution in local foods, local production and local flavours. The growing influence of Chefs, restaurateurs and food writers has positioned them as valuable agents in transforming the way communities and the population at large think about food and nutrition. Beyond its potential in policymaking and across value chains, data and technology can also play an important role in empowering Chefs, farmers and consumers in developing countries.

E-commerce, USSD information systems, digital platforms to aggregate and assess the quality products (using e-warehousing and blockchain technology), mobile banking – these are just some of the innovative solutions being rolled out on a daily basis by tech entrepreneurs, increasingly with the backing of big-name development and institutional players. However, these tools only represent the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can be achieved by way of digitalisation and development; greater knowledge, investment and partnerships are needed in order to reap the rewards that remain below the surface.

More information

[1] Outcomes Report, Fiji Agritourism Policy Setting Workshop 2018 https://brusselsbriefings.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/fiji-agritourism_highlights-final.pdf

[2] “Booking.com reveals that going local is the essential ingredient for an unforgettable foodie adventure” Booking.com, June 06, 2018 (accessed September 2018)    https://news.booking.com/bookingcom-reveals-that-going-local-is-the-essential-ingredient-for-an-unforgettable-foodie-adventure/

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