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"Aerial Highway" Critical for poor countries

"Aerial Highway" Critical for poor countries ( Without a rational “Aerial Highways" system lifting tourists in and flying goods and services out to global markets, the world's poorer countries will be “sentenced to abject poverty," said the head of a development agency.

Speaking this week to European aviation chiefs assembled in Oslo, Lelei LeLaulu, president of Counterpart International, observed terrestrial highways, roads and bridges are recognised as essential components of infrastructure responsible for turning new frontiers into thriving communities as goods and commodities were transported to markets.

Noting infrastructure “was basically a means of spreading the wealth," LeLaulu urged international donors like the World Bank and IMF, which fund large infrastructural programs, to look at developing world airlines, “not as money-losing ventures but as an integral part of the infrastructure of poorer countries." Adding, “no one ever questions whether a highway or a causeway is going to make money."

He also asserted tourism, the world's biggest and fastest growing industry, represented “the largest voluntary transfer of resources from the rich to the poor in history, and for those of us in the development community – tourism is the most potent anti-poverty tool ever."

A rational aerial highways system would enable stakeholders in destinations to determine how many tourists needed to be brought in to enhance their health, education, wealth, environment and culture, said LeLaulu, whose organization is a partner in National Geographic Society's Geotourism initiative.

Without a rational aerial highways system – flying tourists into the developing world and lifting goods and services out to the global markets – “the poorer countries of the world would be stagnant backwaters of the thriving global economy and its people sentenced to abject poverty," he warned.

Responding to groups trying to halt air travel because of the carbon emissions of aircraft, LeLaulu – a speaker last month at the special Davos meeting on Climate Change and Tourism – said “they have the best intentions but they should remember that airplanes are responsible for barely 2% of carbon emitted. So, I would urge them to leave their buildings and cars – which emit far more carbon – and take a plane to the Pacific, which, according to the Royal Aeronautical Society if it makes two stops will reduce carbon output by 60% versus a non-stop."

Referring to the need to use carbon offsets to benefit destinations in the poorer countries, LeLaulu, who hails from the Pacific island of Samoa, suggested “once there, they should chill in a fale (Polynesian grass hut without walls or electricity) and take the occasional break from the beach to plant trees with their carbon offsets which they will, of course as sensitive environmentalists, purchase locally."

He also pointed out that 49 of the world's poorest countries rely on tourism as their major foreign currency earner.

Speaking to the 60th anniversary of Avinor, the company which operates Norway's aviation systems and 46 airports, LeLaulu challenged the highly efficient and profitable company to select an African country and “go in there with Avinor volunteers and lift that country's aviation systems up to your standards. By so doing you will create peace through prosperity." Furthermore, he said they should urge the Norwegian aid agencies to strengthen that same country's airlines.

Speaking to reporters, LeLaulu – a founding director with Brazil's Institute of Hospitality of the World Tourism Forum for Peace and Sustainable Development – mused, “Norway confers the most important Nobel prize, so wouldn't it be nice if, on its 70th anniversary, Avinor, after doing great work in Africa and elsewhere, received the Peace Prize?"

LeLaulu is an advisor to the Mundo Maya Sustainable Tourism Project of the Inter-American Development Bank, Mexico and four Central American Governments, and founding director of the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx). Counterpart International is a member of the Carbon Poverty Reduction Initiative and of the Global Sustainable Tourism Alliance recently set up by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to use tourism as a development tool.

Counterpart International, founded in 1965, gives people a voice in their own future through smart partnerships, offering options and access to tools for sustained social, economic and environmental development. Operating on five continents, Counterpart is supported by the generosity of its corporate and individual donors, foundations, host countries, multilateral institutions and several U.S. government agencies.

For further information, please visit

Contact: Bevan Springer + 1 201 861-2056

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