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The economic benefits of malaria elimination: do they include increases in tourism?


Abstract Background Policy makers have speculated that one of the economic benefits of malaria elimination includes increases in foreign direct investment, particularly tourism. Methods This study examines the empirical relationship between the demand for travel and malaria cases in two countries with large tourism industries around the time in which they carried out malaria-elimination campaigns. In Mauritius, this analysis examines historical, yearly tourist arrivals and malaria cases from 1978–1999, accounting for the background secular trend of increasing international travel. In Dominican Republic, a country embarking upon malaria elimination, it employs a time-series analysis of the monthly, international tourist arrivals from 1998–2010 to determine whether the timing of significant deviations in tourist arrivals coincides with malaria outbreaks. Results While naïve relationships exist in both cases, the results show that the relationships between tourist arrivals and malaria cases are relatively weak and statistically insignificant once secular confounders are accounted for. Conclusions This suggests that any economic benefits from tourism that may be derived from actively pursuing elimination in countries that have high tourism potential are likely to be small when measured at a national level. Rather, tourism benefits are likely to be experienced with greater impact in more concentrated tourist areas within countries, and future studies should seek to assess these relationships at a regional or local level.

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