Luis García
General Director
Europamundo Vacaciones

Tourism and peace

“Men build too many walls and not enough bridges.”

This sentence, which sadly sounds so modern, was uttered by Isaac Newton in the early 18th century, and this illustrates how little humanity has changed with regards to such important issues as tolerance, co­existence and peace.

All too often, lack of knowledge generates terror, and terror generates fears that lead to intolerance. There is no doubt that in the wake of World War II, tourism has brought about an incredible transformation in society by putting millions of beings from different cultures in contact with each other in a friendly and voluntary manner.

Unfortunately, we live in a harrowing era, which is very far from the longed-for peace that some thought would come after the fall of the Berlin wall. Fostering the tourism trade, especially cultural tourism, and visiting countries with roots different from our own contributes to different human beings encountering each other and co­existing in peace.

Tourism is a factor for peace, as it makes it possible for people living in distant countries who talk, pray and live in a different way, but who smile, cry and love as we do, to meet and interact.  Afterall, all human beings have the same desires in this world: to live, and for their loved ones and themselves to be happy. The encounter among different individualscan forster mutual respect for everyone’s values.

Tourism has made it possible to recover that “pride in what they consider their own” (traditions, crafts, cuisine, etc.) for communities which felt marginalized and different. Thanks to tourism, regions that could have ended up abandoned have been reborn. Traditions have been reclaimed, different communities have been discovered and the value and richness that comes from diversity has been strengthened.

Tourism is an activity which, if properly undertaken, brings human beings closer and fosters a more diverse and tolerant world.

The current trends in tourism illustrate that there exists among travelers a new  desire to not only “see the destination” but to interact with the destination: that is, to “live the experience”. Additionally, the collaborative economy, with consumers renting the homes of locals, moving around in shared vehicles and exchanging information on travel forums, implies there is a significant increase in the interaction between “tourists” and “local population”.

There are, however, immense risks and challenges that must be analysed and channelled:

  • The massification of tourism leads to the growing phenomenon of “tourism-phobia”, whereby the tourism industry is viewed by an ever-larger number of people as an undesirable activity that generates numerous problems (traffic, loss of traditional activities, destruction of the environment, etc.).
  • Many tourism activities give the impression that the visitors are “to be served” and the local population are “the servants”- somethingwhich is often compounded by unstable local employment conditions; this can trigger tensions and worsen the feeling of unfairness that is contrary to the concept of “tourism as a channel for understanding between communities”.
  • Tourism is a polluting activity that affects CO2 emissions (transport). If we do not act, tourism businesses could be called into question by organizations that work to protect nature and fight climate change (even at a political level, in the “green” parties).

Within the need to build bridges rather than walls, there is an obligation to work for responsible tourism. It is imperative that there be some type of planning and regulations that prevent the activity from creating pollution and strengthen the global code of ethics on tourism of the World Tourism Organization which has been recognized by the United Nations; it is also essential that solutions be sought so the immense progress represented by the fact that there are currently tourists of every race and nationality (as compared to just the “European-origin tourists” merely 25 years ago) does not lead to the dangers triggered by excessive massification of certain spots which are already bordering on their “maximum carrying capacity”. In turn, ways must be sought to encourage tourism activities that strengthen knowledge of and respect for the local culture in the places visited.

Travel broadens the mind and makes it possible to break the chains of fear and unfamiliarity. When we travel, we grow as people. Travelling is not only a right; it is also a need.

Our industry celebrates life. The emotions we feel when we have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of our world leads us to understand the importance of the sustainability and future of our planet.

As tourism professionals, there is no sweeter challenge than striving to contribute to making this world a better place for everyone.

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