. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .
An article by Ajay Prakash from Peace Tourism
Tourism is a large industry but it is also a complex one since, unlike most other industries, there is not one clear product. It incorporates many aspects, including accommodation, transport, attractions, travel companies, and more. It comprises a broad group of businesses focused on the satisfaction of customers and providing specific experiences for them. It is unique because it’s an industry that is based completely on connecting people across all boundaries of race, religion or nationality and bringing joy to their lives.
Ajay Prakash, President – Travel Agents Federation of India
India has assumed the Chair of the prestigious G20 and this is the perfect opportunity to emphatically present before the world all that India has to offer. Our traditional values, our Sanskar of universal love and brotherhood, of tolerance and acceptance, of embracing unity in diversity and of welcoming the guest with the expression Atihi Devo Bhava are India’s gift to the world. This is the opportunity to step up what I would term our “Cultural Diplomacy” – to present afresh Indian values, knowledge and leadership to the world through both, government to government and people to people initiatives.
Tourism offers great opportunities for emerging economies and developing countries. It creates jobs, strengthens the local economy and contributes to infrastructure development; it can help to conserve the natural environment, cultural assets and traditions, to reduce poverty and inequality and to heal the wounds of conflict. It is an industry that has a cascading and multiplier effect on many other industries, thereby providing a major boost to the economy.
The economic aspect and effect of tourism has been well documented – It accounts for almost 10% of global GDP and employs 1 in 10 persons (of course these are pre-Covid numbers because the industry took a huge hit in 2020 and 2021) and traditionally the tourism growth curve has always been ahead of the GDP growth curve by a couple of percentage points.
But its impact goes far beyond the economic benefits and it is worthwhile to look at Tourism as a social force as opposed to an industry and how we can use it to establish a Culture of Peace.
Tourism is about connecting people with each other and with the Planet. When you travel with a gentle heart and an open mind, you discover that the differences that seemingly divide us pale into insignificance before all the common needs, aspirations and desires that are universal across nations, races or religions. We all want good homes, a bright future for our children, a healthy environment free from disease, clean water, the support of our communities … and Peace. We all share the same ideals, hopes and aspirations and travel teaches us that diversity is no need for antagonism.
Mark Twain said it very well “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
It’s obvious to everyone that Peace is a prerequisite for the success of tourism, but the converse is equally true and Tourism can also be a powerful force to foster Peace. But first, let us redefine Peace. Peace has to be marked by a presence, not an absence – it is not simply the absence of war or conflict; it is the presence of tolerance, of acceptance of love and understanding.
The Dalai Lama said “Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge and through humane ways.”
37 years ago, in 1986, a visionary man called Louis D’Amore established the International Institute for Peace through Tourism or IIPT. It was established with a vision that tourism, one of the largest industries, could become the first global Peace industry and the firm belief that every traveller is potentially an Ambassador of Peace.
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How can tourism promote a culture of peace?
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IIPT has only one purpose – to spread greater awareness of the power of Tourism as a vehicle for Peace. The aim of “Peace through Tourism” is to eliminate, or at least reduce, the conditions which lead us to a perception that violence is necessary.
So how do we do this?
The first step is to understand that we can make a difference, that we matter! Tourism is a huge industry; if we account for 10% of global GDP surely we are an industry that can make its voice heard and we are an industry that can influence global events. But for that we have to come together and we have to realize that we have the power. Like other industries, we too need to lobby the government so as to make an impact at the policy level.
The effects of climate change are all around us. What we term natural disasters are often the result of unchecked human activity – glaciers melting, sea levels rising, unseasonal floods and uncontrollable fires, toxic air and contaminated water. Is this the world we wish to leave for our children?
Along with 190 countries India has signed the COP 15 pledge of 30 by 30 – a pledge to preserve at least 30% of global biodiversity by 2030. That is a step in the right direction. Many such steps are needed for the sustainability of the Earth – still the only home for human beings in this vast universe.
We have to prepare our travellers and ourselves to make the change. As stakeholders in the industry we have to build sustainability and responsibility into our core business practices. It can be as small as keeping the air conditioning at 25 degrees, switching off lights when they’re not needed, avoiding single use plastics or the compulsive printing of every document. It could be as large as converting your entire fleet to electric vehicles. Once you start on the path of conservation, the opportunities will keep coming. The magic mantra is “Refuse, Reduce, Recycle.”
Never underestimate the power of one. A river starts as a drop, a few more drops join and it becomes a trickle, the trickle becomes a stream and finally it’s a mighty river that sustains life until it goes and meets the sea. That is how movements are born, too. Let us today resolve to work for a more responsible, peace-sensitive tourism.
Another area where the tourism industry can make a big difference is in promoting gender equality. Almost 65 – 70% of the workforce in tourism is female, but only 12 – 13% of them are in responsible or managerial positions. Women comprise almost half the world’s population, but they have never got an equal chance. The “Beti padhao, beti bachao” is a great initiative but then they also need to be given the opportunity to put that education to use. Numerous studies have proved that empowering women is not only socially or politically correct, but that it actually leads to a healthier bottom line.
The next step is to educate our travellers, to awaken them to the higher paradigm of tourism. If they are travelling to a new place, we need to sensitise them to the social and cultural differences, we need to create experiences and situations where they can interact positively with the local host community, we need to encourage them to buy local products, try local food. Many times this push will come from the travellers themselves.
Today’s travellers are much more tech savvy, they’re more aware, they’re more discerning and the younger generation is much more conscious of the ecological footprint of any activity. So if that’s the segment you want to connect with, now is the time to rework your business strategy.
The IIPT has a global Peace Parks program and has dedicated over 450 Peace Parks across the world. We need to create such symbols to reassert that Peace is a fundamental global right and that India is willing and able to lead the way.
In conclusion, I present the IIPT Credo of the Peaceful Traveller as a first step on the path to use tourism to foster a Culture of Peace.
IIPT Credo of the Peaceful Traveller©
Grateful for the opportunity to travel and experience the world and because peace begins with the individual, I affirm my personal responsibility and commitment to:
* Journey with an open mind and gentle heart
* Accept with grace and gratitude the diversity I encounter
* Revere and protect the natural environment which sustains all life
* Appreciate all cultures I discover
* Respect and thank my hosts for their welcome
* Offer my hand in friendship to everyone I meet
* Support travel services that share these views and act upon them and,
* By my spirit, words and actions, encourage others to travel the world in peace.