. . . PEACE THROUGH TOURISM . . .
In his opening remarks to the recent symposium on Peace through Tourism in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Taleb Rifai, listed three ways that peace can promote tourism:
“1. Tourism builds respect and mutual understanding and sparks billions of encounters that are steps towards understanding. It builds our education and it can be peace sensitive and makes travelers global citizens.
“2. Tourism improves livelihoods and creates many jobs. It can help communities value their place in the world and what they have to offer. It can help people value their music, art, gastronomy, etc.
“3. Tourism leads to reconciliation within and between societies. It can open up peoples’ minds to other visitors.”
On the three succeeding days, Feb 17-19, speaker after speaker illustrated how these themes play out in practice.
Encounters that are steps towards understanding are organized by Tour2.0 in the South African townships of Alexandra and Soweto, as described by Daniel Adidwa. As he says, “Each community has a unique story to tell. We enable the visitor to experience this uniqueness.”
Job creation was emphasized by David Scowsill, CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council. Tourism “employs over 12 million people in Europe and 63 million in Asia and 8 million in Africa. . . It grows 1% faster than the rest of the global economy annually.”
And reconciliation is promoted by the Transfrontier Peace Parks in Southern Africa, as described at the conference by Paul Bewsher. Although the emphasis is largely on natural preservation, there are also examples of transborder cultural initiatives such as the !Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park which is managed in part by representatives from the ‡Khomani San and Mier communities which were previously separated by colonial borders.
The International Institute for Peace through Tourism and its President, Lou d’Amore initiated the symposium, as previously reported in CPNN. The Institute is now expanding, as there was a large delegation, including 14 youth from the new IIPT India. They told CPNN that “For us tourism used to mean just seeing new places, but now we realize that it can be a chance to know new people and to promote peace.”
Another high-level meeting took place in Cambodia two weeks earlier with very similar goals. The Conference, run by the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) tackled the question of how to harness the power of tourism and culture to alleviate poverty, create jobs, protect natural and cultural heritage and promote international understanding.
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