Theme 8: A Perspective from the Tourism Industry

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A discussion moderated by Louis D’Amore, President and Founder, International Institute of Peace Through Tourism

Visit Biographies for more about presenters

What potential lies in tourism industry?
Of all the industries most affected by violence, tourism stands out. By some estimations, the tourism industry is also the world’s largest industry and one whose very identity is based on cultural exchange. This session focuses on the experiences drawn form this vanguard industry.

Perspectives from an Industry most Vested in Peace: The Tourism Industry
Watch the three videos and join the discussion with presenters below.

Andrea Cahn, Director of Organizational Development, Special Olympics, and Ginger Smith, Chair and Clinical Professor, Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management

"World Peace and Sustainable Tourism Development: Promoting Dialogue through the Commerce of Sports - The Case of the Special Olympics"(8:59)

Stuart Levy, Assistant Professor, Department of Tourism Studies, and
Don Hawkins, Professor of Tourism Policy, Department of Tourism Studies, George Washington University

"Peace Through Tourism: Commerce Based Approaches and Practices"(6:32)

Elliott Bloom, Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer, Travelport

“CSR in an Economic Downturn: The Sustainable Business Model Imperative” (4:16)


Carol Erickson, Executive Director, Rural Education and Development (READ) Global


Discussion: Perspectives from an Industry most Vested in Peace: The Tourism Industry
1. Are there ways in which tourism can contribute to the global economic recovery?
2. How can tourism contribute to the economic recovery of developing nations?
3. Is there potential for tourism to contribute to improved relations between Iran and the West.
4. What possible roles are there for tourism in areas of ‘tension’ – such as Kashimr, North and South Cyprus, and the Middle East. Are there any specific examples of tourism helping to improve mutual understanding between cultures in areas of ‘tension.’
5. Is there a potential role for tourism in the recovery of Iraq?
6. What can be done to mitigate/compensate for CO2 and other green-house gas emissions resulting from tourism?

Hi Everyone,

I am pleased to welcome back Louis D’Amore, President and Founder of the International Institute of Peace Through Tourism to moderate this week’s session. Lou’s experience in this area more than merits having him lead us a second time and given the unique experiences of tourism and its impact on peace, I look forward to a great week of discussions!


Timothy L. Fort, PhD, JD
Exec. Director, Institute for Corporate Responsibility
Lindner-Gambal Professor of Business Ethics
George Washington University School of Business
Professorial Lecturer, George Washington Law School

Hello Everyone,
It’s a pleasure to be with you again as Moderator of week 8, “Perspectives from the Tourism Industry.” I anticipate that we will have an excellent discussion stimulated by the videos and papers from Andrea Cahn together with Ginger Smith and Sybil Ford; Stuart Levy together with Don Hawkins; Elliot Bloom; and Carol Erickson.

Tourism has already received considerable attention in the previous sessions, and we now have an opportunity to focus fully on the travel and tourism industry which I believe to be the central pillar of a “Peace through Commerce” movement.

Your responses to the above questions and comments on how tourism can contribute to international understanding. and cooperation among nations; protection of the environment and preservation of biodiversity; enhancement of cultures and valuing heritage; sustainable development; poverty reduction; reconciliation and healing wounds of conflict – and any other dimensions of ‘Peace through Tourism’ are invited. I look forward to your comments, observations and insights.

Louis D’Amore
Founder and President
International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT)

I’m particularly interested in question #3 above - does tourism contribute to peace between Iran and the West?

Many consider track two diplomacy, or non-governmental “people-to-people” relations, as a way to reduce intergroup prejudices. Recent research supports this claim (Pettigrew and Tropp 2006), although intergroup social contact in educational, work and recreational settings were found to be significantly more effective in lessening prejudice than travel.

At the same time, travel might be perceived as lending credibility to a government which we may fundamentally disagree with or may not even consider legitimate. For example, Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi opposes international travel to Myanmar, and has stated that tourism is “a form of moral support for them (Myanmar military leaders) because it makes the military authorities think that the international community is not opposed to the human rights violations which they are committing all the time. They seem to look on the influx of tourists as proof that their actions are accepted by the world.” (Aung San Suu Kyi 1999)

From an economic perspective, tourism can provide much needed income for the most disadvantaged members of society. As poverty breeds violence and fundamentalism, higher standards of living can promote more moderate and peaceful societies. However, tourism revenues do contibute to government coffers, which only strengthen ruling regimes.

Now, for your thoughts and comments:

Given that increased travel from Western countries to Iran would likely result in both positive and negative impacts related to peace, which criteria would you use to determine whether you would travel to Iran? Beyond personal safety issues, would you apply the same criteria to other countries, such as Myanmar, North Korea, or Sudan? Why or why not?

Below are two initial criteria I would use in deciding whether to travel to a destination in conflict:

Manner of Travel
I would be much more interested and likely to travel to the destinations mentioned above if (a) I was able to maximize people-to-people contact, (b) my travel expenditures were going directly to local residents and business owners, and © no (or extremely little) spending would end up in the hands of government. This type of travel would likely be independent and off-the-beaten track, involving homestays. I would also perform substantial pre-trip research to find and support destinations, local guides, accommodations, and attractions which would be harmonious with my ethics and values.

Personal Relationship to the Country
As an American Jew, I have less tolerance for the Iranian government whose leader has repeatedly denied the existence of the Holocaust and threatens the continued existence of Israel. By traveling to Iran, I would certainly enjoy people-to-people contact which could result in increased understanding between Muslims and Jews – as well as Americans and Iranians – on an individual level. However, does this outweigh the revenue I am contributing to a government which I consider unacceptable in its behavior and a government which represents a majority of the residents whose country I choose to visit? While I still struggle with ethical dilemmas regarding travel to other countries, I am less averse to travel to Cuba, China or even Myanmar due to less of a personal connection with the issues at stake.

Articles/Links of Interest:

Intergroup Contact:…


Pro-poor tourism:

Travel for understanding:…

Many thanks for kicking off the discussion and for your insightful comments regarding Question 3 -
Is there potential for tourism to contribute to improved relations between Iran and the West?

Your comments go to the heart of the two key issues inherent in the question – i.e. the potential positive benefits of people to people diplomacy which were a key factor in opening China during the Nixon Administration (ping pong diplomacy) – and in the thawing of the Cold War in the 1980’s; and on the other hand, personal travel to a country whose policies we are not in agreement with being “a form of moral support” to that government – and also a source of government revenues.

In September 2000, then President of Iran, Mohammed Khatami, speaking at the United Nations, proposed a “Dialogue Among Civilizations” stating in part – “In order to provide natural unity and harmony in form and content for global culture and to prevent anarchy and chaos, all concerned parties should engage in a dialogue in which they can exchange knowledge, experience and understanding in diverse areas of culture and civilization.
………"We ought to learn from the world’s past experience, especially from the tremendous human catastrophes that took place in the twentieth century. We ought to critically examine the prevalent master paradigm in international relations based on the discourse of power and the glorification of might………

"From an ethical perspective, the paradigm of dialogue among civilizations requires that we give up the will for power and instead appeal to the will for empathy and compassion……………….

"Dialogue among civilizations could also mean a deliberate dialogue among representative members of various civilizations such as scholars, artists and philosophers from disparate civilizational domains……………………

“Another goal of dialogue among cultures and civilizations is to recognize and to understand not only the cultures and civilizations of others, but also one’s own. One ought to take a step away from oneself in order to get an enhanced perspective on oneself. Seeing in essence requires taking distance in perspective, and distance provides the grounds for immersion into another existential dimension.”

He closed by saying - “Let us hope that enmity and oppression will end and that the clamour of love for truth, justice and human dignity will prevail.”

The following year, 2001 was announced as the United Nations Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations.

With the release today of Roxana Saberi, and President Obama’s Iranian New Year message this past March – a message of “new beginnings” with an emphasis on diplomacy, renewed exchanges, and greater opportunities for partnership and commerce, grounded in a “new era of mutual respect,” and a message “reminding us of the common humanity that binds us together” –

Is there a role for ‘Peace through Commerce’ – and more specifically, ‘Peace through Tourism’ in moving forward towards a harmonious and positive relationship between Iran and the West?

Louis D’Amore

Dear Stuart,

With respect to question no. 3 -, I think we can make serious positive steps forward to promote peace and prosperity once the most educated layers of our societies, i.e. people such as yourself, would put religion behind our common humanity. Politicians use religion to rule, countries you have addressed are no exception and politicians take advantage of societies’ ignorance in this respect as Carte Blanche for them to serve their own special interests. When being a Jew or Muslim or Christian comes before our common humanity that means we, as educated people, have got defeated and been brain-washed by ugly politics and the bloody ideologies that fools the masses.

For the record, any time you wanted to visit Iran you will be my friends’ and family’s guest. Knowing your appetite for tasty food, the money you would spend in Iran goes to the pockets of private restaurant owners serving you the best food one can dream of. And please let’s not try to “optimize life” like an entirely academic man; of course some of your money might go to some government entity but also hopefully a visitor would be a lot more open minded after such trip to the reality of a very cultured nation and pros are much larger than the cons. If it were not because of security issues I would have definitely visited Israel and got to learn much more about Israelis and their lives, which in essence would not be different from that of the Palestinians or people in Washington DC. The most important part of this matter is a humanitarian issue not an ideological one, in my view that is the biggest reason why the politicians and religious leaders seriously struggle to solve it.

Nima Ghazi.

1.Yes, tourism can help in the global economic recovery.For one it is the largest industry in the world and logically if the world economy is to recover, its input is indispensable.It could help this by:Designing specific “recession beating packages” by which i mean discounted packages,retaining jobs by introducing shifts for example,opening up new markets and opportunities, stimulating the production and consumption of food, services and even promoting fashions.The events of 9/11 dramatized the centrality of this industry and by now nobody should be in doubt of its capacity,role and potential.

2.For the recovery of developing countries, tourism is crucial.A number of countries these days almost entirely depend on it for economic surivival, good examples being Gambia,Phillipines,Kenya,South Africa,Bahamas,Egypt and Tanzania,yet the tourists they attract cannot even constitute a fraction of the now estimated 82 million tourists who visit France annually and another close to 50 million who go to neighbouring Switzerland every year.The US State of Hawaii alone pulls in close to 11 million holiday makers every year.The question is:What if these numbers were reversed, or at least evened out, so that Gambia receives the 50 million guests, small as it is? I can argue here that it will not need any Development aid of any form for its survival,even if part of that money goes to waste.

3.Yes, tourism can improve relations between Iran and the West.Iran is a well known ancient civilization anchored on Zeroastarism and the Persian heritage.The United States is a well established liberal democracy.One of the reasons why tensions persist between the two countries is the fact that they dont relate at both formal and informal levels.They talk at each other and not to each other.If cross country tourism packages can be fashioned between them, then it is conceivable that a situation similar to the Cuba-US Relations can develop where a rapproachment of sorts is reached bacause of pressures and lobbying from friends and relatives across the boarders in the two countries.The time for that detente is now.

4.In conflict flashpoints like Kashmir,Cyprus and the Middle East, tourism would come in as a handy product for peace.It mediates peace powerfully through cultural exchanges.For example, Jerusalem is a highly contentious city.Muslims,Christians and Jews all lay claim to it on religious and historical grounds.If one of its artefacts can be developed and marketed as an open city for all religions to come and tour, then it is possible that intermmarriages would ensue,dialogue and respect based on the apprecition of other peoples’ cultures.I would cite it as an example as well as the mountanious jungles of Eastern Congo and Rwanda where a rare species of mountain guerillas reisides.Both the Rwandese and Ugandan governments have realized that the Ruwenzori mountains and Bwindi national park are a common resource that they share across the boarder and with the assiastance of the UN,Militias from all the belligerent groups have been convinced and sometimes paid money to spare the guerrilas during armed confrontations.Since, it is a shared resources, both the two governments and the cocktail of rebel movements there, with the exception of a few rogue ones like the notirious LRA, have moved closer to peace partly because of this industry.The volatile Swat valley of Pakistan is the Switzerland of Pakistan.If it were peaceful, the tourism industry would be the leading economic activity in the valley and possibly deflect armed insurgents and also provide jobs to the sometimes hapless suicide bombers.

5.Of course there exists tremendous potential for using tourism for the recovery of Iraq.In fact, Iraq should be the biggest magnet of tourists in the world.It has unique heritages:The famed Hamurabi civilization, ancient Mesopotamian agriculture,the beatiful Tigris and Euphrates Rivers that slice through the violent city of Baghdad,the second largest proven oil deposists in the world, and so on.In fact, one needs just look back at the tragic events in 2003.When the US invaded Iraq, ostensibly to liberate it, the chaos that ensued after the fall of Baghdad resulted in the wanton looting and destrcution of the city’s museum.Some of those precious artefacts were stolen and smuggled out of the country and sold into the black market and have not been recovered since.A number were UNESCO sites and UNESCO has mounted a global campaign to recover them including offering monetary prices for return.Some are being reconstructed.Prior to that, years of sanctions had also led to dereliction of the industry.That is how potential the Iraqi tourism industry is and if Iraq can fully return to peace, then it would rival,if not ecclipse France as the largest destination of tourists in the world. This would generate sufficient resources for the country and the net effect of that would be accelerated national reconcilliation between the Sunni,Shiites and Kurds and all groups in Iraq as they will all have a livehood to defend:Tourism,the goose that lays the golden eggs.

6.To mitigate CO2 and other green house gases resulting from tourism, a number of measures should be adopted:Carbon trading,higher taxation to the biggest emmitters,shift and substitution of dirty with clean energy sources,adopting eco-tourism principles,gazzeting and protecting vulnerable resources like species, and sites,capacity building initiatives and legislation to curb all tendencies of unsustainable tourism.


Dear Nima,
Thank you for your contribution to the dialogue. I was in Iran this past November and can attest to the genuine friendliness and hospitality of the Iranian people - and the richness of your culture. I look forward to visiting again.
Louis D’Amore

Dear Solomon,
Thank you for your important contribution to the dialogue – and insightful comments on each of the questions.

As you suggest in your response to 1 – tourism has proven to be a resilient industry and will again probably be on the leading edge of the recovery. Particularly regarding 2 – developing countries. As you suggest there are many nations that are dependent on tourism, particularly least developed nations for which tourism is the main source of foreign exchange. Tourism’s transfer of wealth from developed to developing nations is greater than all foreign aid combined.

Regarding 3 - Iran is one of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations dating back to 4,000 BC. A visit to Iran exposes one to the treasures of this ancient civilization – its arts, culture, history, ancient treasures such as Persepolis, and particularly its youthful population – two thirds of which is under 25 and eager to reach out to visitors.

Regarding 4, Your citing of the mountain gorillas where the borders of Eastern Congo – Rwanda – and Uganda come together – is an excellent example of the collaboration that occurs in protecting vital tourism assets. In the Middle East – tourism is the one industry mentioned in the Peace Accord between Jordan and Israel – and as well the Oslo Peace Accord between Palestine and Israel. And as you point out in 5– Iraq is another ancient civilization with amazing tourism assets – including Ur – the Birthplace of Abraham, Patriarch of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – a destination that gives one pause to reflect on the fact that Jews, Christians and Muslims are all brothers and sisters as sons and daughters of Abraham.

And thank you for kicking off the discussion regarding 6 – on the mitigation of CO2 and other green house gases. As tourism is dependent on a healthy environment – as well as peace – the travel and tourism industry should be a leader in combatting global warming and climate change in its own enlightened self-internest.

Louis D’Amore

My thanks to all of the above contributors for their insights and constructive suggestions. My comment relates to the moral choice involved in a decision to visit countries with poor human rights records. While I respect a decision to boycott such countries, I would argue that this denies to the people of those countries the economic and cultural advantages which tourism can bring and may emphasise a feeling of isolation and disregard by the rest of the world.
The best insights into a society are probably acquired through personal interaction and on-the-spot experience - hence the significance of ‘the tourist as witness.’ I refer to a comprehensive 2007 survey which found that support for reconciliation with North Cyprus was strongest among Greek Cypriots who had visited the North and/or had lived abroad.

Ian Kelly

First, I must send along thanks to my good friend Nima for sharing his perspective on travel to Iran. In many ways I agree with him – to achieve a lasting global peace, we need to first identify as world citizens before any narrowly-defined sense of self based on religion, race, gender, etc… We also need more quality social interaction between people whose cultures are in conflict in order to break down stereotypes and achieve a greater sense of understanding and appreciation.

However, with no value system in place to guide one’s choice of vacation destination, it would make no difference whether your money is spent in Toronto, Darfur, Pyongyang, or Miami Beach. For example, do you rely upon a value system in deciding whether to purchase a hybrid vehicle or gas guzzler? A real or synthetic fur jacket? A product made using unionized or child labor?

I find it negligent to ignore, or not at least accept the possibility, of tourism’s role in economically and morally supporting a system or government with which one fundamentally disagrees. No doubt there is significant benefit to fostering people-to-people relations, however this is often overvalued relative to travel’s contribution to the political status quo.

Hello Everyone,

Thank you for engaging in such a spirited conversation.

With respect to question #6, I’d like to hear more about what types of solutions tourism companies, transportation companies, and lodging providers have implemented to reduce green-house gas emissions. Any great and quantifiable sucess stories?

Best regards,


This is a tangential question, perhaps, but yesterday I was in a meeting where a couple of scholars I respect were being critical of tourism as a phenomena “where people tramp around another country” and they argued, for ecological reasons, that virtual tourism would be preferable. I didn’t have the time to engage a discussion and their idea struck me as one that misses a valuable person-to-person dimension tourism provides. But if we are talking about ways in which tourism can occur while limiting green-house gas emission and while we are still talking about the peace-building dimensions of tourism, I was wondering what people thought - pro or con - about virtual tourism.


Virtual tourism? You mean I don’t sit in front of a computer enough as it is-- now you want me to go online even for my vacation? I don’t think so!

But seriously, although I understand the criticism of tourism as superficial and voyeuristic and potentially harmful to the environment, I also think that there is no other way for people to experience, at least to some degree, the lives of others. A friend of mine took her family to Mozambique for a vacation, and it really made a difference for how her kids view the world: they saw people who had a different set of choices in life, but who lived a very rich life. I also think that at least some of the tourism industry is taking very seriously the ecological impact of their activities, and are trying to minimize their footprint. Finally, I know people who would not recommend any investment in Myanmar of any kind-- except tourism, which can provide a window however small on what is going on there.

Tim is absolutely right. In addition to the points he made, “virtual” tourism does not have the same socio-economic impact as “tactile” tourism [I am using the term “tactile” to refer to actual visits]. For example, “tactile” tourism benefits much broader segments of society — including those who could neither access nor afford virtual tourism modalities. Having broad based economic impact does more to promote peace and human security. Also, tactile tourism promotes cross-cultural interaction and is more effective in building cross-cultural trust. Most tourist destinations are recognizing the potentially negative effects highlighted by the scholars Tim mentioned, and are taking steps to mitigate their impact. Examples would include: Rural community tourism on Lake and Volcano Routes in Nicaragua, Inhambane regional economic promotion project in Tanzania and Mekong discovery trail in Cambodia. To my mind, rather than summarily discounting the effectiveness of “tactile” tourism, scholars and practitioners should be finding ways to support efforts to reduce negative impacts and promote cultural sensitivity.

Having spent 4 weeks in Sri Lanka recently, I am interested in point 4 of the discussion-- identifying ways in which tourism can be a helpful instrument for rebuilding local economies as more peaceful conditions exist in some part of a country but tensions and negative publicity prevail.

The Eastern, Uva, and North Central Provinces of Sri Lanka, referred to by the government as post conflict areas, have witnessed a disproportionate lack of economic development when compared with the rest of country, due in large part to the civil conflict in these areas and the tsunami of 2004. These combined events have led to displacement of families, damage to natural resources and man-made infrastructure and disruption in the livelihoods of the approximately 1.5 million inhabitants (Eastern Revival Programme, 2008). The agricultural sector in the targeted region is responsible for a majority of the employment in the area and yet growth in this industry has stagnated. The ability for the people living in this region to improve their livelihoods over the long term is largely dependent on their ability to increase their productivity and diversify their sources of income (USAID, 2008).

The development of non-agricultural small and micro enterprises in the targeted region is critical to sustain the local economy. Tourism offers an ideal structure through which these enterprises can develop and flourish. While tourism has a history of success in the coastal areas of the targeted region, the conflict coupled with the effects of the tsunami, have had a negative collective impact on the ability for this industry to be financially viable (USAID, 2008). However, this region has the benefit of rich biodiversity, abundant natural resources, a number of historically significant cultural sites and beautiful beaches which together have the potential to fuel a vibrant tourism industry. The development and implementation of a sustainable tourism plan is needed in order to create an approach to income generation for the region that leverages the existing community structure, while preserving natural and cultural resources.

Any ideas (best practices, benchmarks, cases, etc.) that participants in this conference have would be most appreciated

One approach to travel which can enhance intercultural relations while minimizing one’s carbon footprint is community tourism, in which residents explore other neighborhoods and cultures within their own cities. In the US, neighborhood tourism and people-to-people programs have been operating successfully in cities such as Chicago ( and New York ( I’m surprised that these approaches to tourism do not receive more attention from peace through tourism advocates, as they help build bridges within diverse, multi-ethnic communities in a sustainably friendly manner.

Hi everyone,

Yes I agree there will have to be ‘middle-path’ approaches to minimise travelling’s ecological impacts while maximising socio-cultural and economic benefits to the locals. To me the most ‘critical’ factor of pro-poor tourism concept is ‘ethics’ or ‘attitudes’ of both those most powerful decision-makers/policymakers and those travelling and living on ground if they would be willing to engage with ‘positive’ attitudes for future improvements or changes. In my area of research interests - Mekong region, there is a good collaboration effort among different stakeholders such as ADB, Laos & the Netherlands governments, as well as academic experts to implement pro-poor tourism practices on ground, see the document folder in I’m particularly interested to applying Buddhist ethics to the planning and development processes towards sustainable pro-poor tourism outcomes. My papers on this topic are downloadable from my website: I look forward to your comments.


You bring a very interesting perspective to the discussion. The Mekong Region is an excellent example of government – donor agency – academic collaboration in pro poor tourism development. Your application of Buddhist ethics to the planning and development process is also of great interest.
Can you tell us more about this. Thank you.
Louis D’Amore

Many thanks Louis,

As you can see from my latest paper (pro-poor tourism in the mekong) in the website that it is still in the ‘conceptual’ process and I’m about to apply this concept in practices in 2010 with my research projects. In brief, it is a 6-principle model of ethical principles towards positive changes started from ‘individual’ morale attitudes, to ‘collaborative’ attitudes among stakeholders and at the end to understand the ‘external’ influences and building peace and trust with ‘middle-path’ approaches. To me, these are foundations to achieving sustainable pro-poor Tourism.