Community impact

In many tourist destinations, cheap, factory-made imitation products are imported, often from China and India, and put pressure on local crafts, leading to lower incomes for artisans and local souvenir vendors. By promoting locally made and traditional artisanal products, tour operators can support the local economy.

Cheaper products may also lead to price insecurity, as margins are more volatile, and undermine the production of locally made traditional crafts, resulting in a loss of traditional craftmanship. Furthermore, imported products may be sold as locally made, or fake products as real ones, for much higher prices.

Tour guides and taxi drivers often demand a commission from shops and souvenir vendors in order to bring tourists to their shops, resulting in a lower income for souvenir vendors. High commissions and price pressure force souvenir vendors to resort to cheaper goods of often lower quality, and to sell them for higher prices to be competitive. 

Imports: Senegal
Imports: Betlehem
Imports: Mexico
Shopping commissions: Cambodia
Imports: Senegal

Senegal’s handicrafts: Made in China?

In recent years, Senegal has seen a rise in souvenir imitation products being imported from China and sold by Chinese vendors, mostly in Dakar.  

Imports: Betlehem

Bethlehem tourist souvenir vendors push local products to fend off knockoffs

Local officials and businessmen estimate that nearly half of the products in Bethlehem’s gift shops are imported, mostly from China. Locally produced crafts are said to be of higher quality, prices for local products are up to three-times higher than for imported ones.

Imports: Mexico

Chiapas artisans in Mexico face a major threat from knockoff handicrafts, mostly made in China

Most locally produced crafts in Chiapas are made by hand by Indigenous artisans using traditional methods such as foot pedals and backstrap looms. In recent years, imported replicas and knockoffs, mostly from China, began to mix in with the authentic Mexican crafts in local markets. The imported goods are almost always cheaper and often poorer quality.

Shopping commissions: Cambodia

Fakes, commissions take toll on souvenir sales

An ingrained system of commissions exists in Siem Reap, whereby guards and drivers lead tourists to specific places in exchange for money from the shop owners. Without commission, tourists will be referred to another establishment. Due to the commissions, shop owners earn less from their sales and are sometimes forced to sell low-quality products at inflated prices.

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Take action

Policy and process

  • Integrate clauses on local sourcing and benefits for local communities in contracts / Supplier Code of Conduct with souvenir suppliers or business partners.

Impact assessment

  • Consult local stakeholders and potentially affected rightsholders in the context of an in-depth human rights impact assessment on potential/actual issues related to touristic shopping activities.

Communication and reporting

  • Provide customer information on imported or potentially fake products and commission systems in the souvenir market in destination countries and encourage them to buy locally produced traditional crafts.

Responsible product development

  • Consider promoting locally produced crafts and local artisans when planning new tour or destination offers.

Find more information on potential measures to take on the "take action" site. 

Learn more

Find more information in the Resource Centre.