Tourism opens our hearts and our minds
Tourism can transform the globe and build better understanding in a world living with a deficit of tolerance.
That was the message of Taleb Rifai, UNWTO secretary-general, at the 2017 edition of travel expo ITB Berlin, held recently in the German capital.
He said: “We live the worst of times and the best of times. Times when we wake up every other day with the threat of terrorism at our doorstep and the glooming numbers of unemployment. Times of isolationism and ill-conceived actions like travel bans, which do not lead to increased security but just to growing tension.
‘Power of tourism’
“Despite all these complex and interlinked challenges, despite acts against the freedom of travel, the power of tourism continues to shine through the darkness.”
Quoting the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, he said: “Beyond the measurable advances that tourism can make possible, it is also a bridge to better mutual understanding among people from all walks of life.”
In this context, Rifai recalled the declaration of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development by the United Nations as clear recognition of the potential contribution of tourism to social progress, equality and prosperity and peace and that tourism must be at the forefront of the 2020 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“In a world that seems increasingly short of tolerance and generosity, we should cherish tourism as a precious pillar of peace amongst communities and nations,” he added.
“We all need to ensure that, as our sector grows, it contributes to the wellbeing of the world and not to its peril. Tourism must fulfil its responsibility to contribute to all 17 universal Sustainable Development Goals.”