Theme 8: A Perspective from the Tourism Industry

Thank you for introducing this perspective from your colleagues. It is a perspective that will continue to challenge the industry in the years ahead as global society struggles with the issue of climate change.

It is important that we take a more holistic perspective on this – both in terms of climate change – and the important benefits of tourism in terms of its peace-building dimensions as you mention – its critical contribution to poverty reduction – and other aspects touched upon by Virginia Haufler, Raymond Gilpin and Stuart Levy.

Carbon dioxide emissions from the global travel and tourism industry (transport, accommodation and other tourism activities) are estimated to account for between 4 and 6% of total world emissions.

The major contributor to climate change is the accelerating deforestation that contributes an estimated 20 to 25 percent of the carbon emissions that cause climate change and far outstrip the CO2 emissions caused by planes, rental cars, and hotels, and other tourism enterprises. In the next 24 hours, deforestation will release as much CO2 into the atmosphere as 8 million people flying from London to New York.

And interestingly enough – Ecotourism, Nature Tourism, Wildlife Safaris are the best hope we have for an economic justification to keep forests in tact. Costa Rica – one of the first countries to take a strong strategic approach in developing ecotourism is a prime example. In a 20 year period from roughly 1970 to 1990, Costa Rica lost half its rain forest to the expansion of farming and ranching. The Ministry of Environment was able to preserve the remaining rain forest with the economic justification of its value for ecotourism.

Tanzania is another prime example. Tanzania has more protected land area than any country in the world. Nearly 40% of Tanzania’s land mass is protected in various ways as national parks, wildlife reserves, etc. Again, the economic justification is revenues from wildlife safaris and nature tourism.

Another factor in all this is the vital role that tourism plays in poverty reduction. International tourism to emerging, developing, and least developed economies has been growing at a faster pace than international tourism to Western Europe, the U.S. and other developed economies – and now accounts for more than 40% of all international tourism.

Tourism represents the biggest transfer of wealth in history from the have regions of the world – to the have not regions of the world. Some $250 billion in foreign exchange earnings compared to the total amount of foreign aid to all developing countries of about US$ 100 billion.

The tourism growth segments to developing countries are eco/nature tourism, community tourism, cultural tourism, and increasingly volunteer tourism and philanthropic tourism – the best forms of tourism in terms of the “tactile tourism” mentioned by Raymond Gilpin.

I might add two brief anecdotes regarding a less acknowledged benefit of international travel. It was after a trip to Africa that Melinda Gates suggested to Bill that they “had to do something” – and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was born.

And it was during a trip to Uganda that two young recently graduated MBA’s felt they “had to do something.” Using their technological skills and MBA know-how, they founded Kiva – a new generation of microenterprise loans – done on a personal basis from lender – directly to entrepreneur recipient for amounts as low as $25 – all by the internet.

Louis D’Amore

Hello, Stuart,

I’d like to agree with you wholeheartedly that we 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. In our work at Special Olympics we are about promoting relationships and understanding, acceptance and inclusion by individuals and communities with and for a segment of society often not thought of when considering populations that are on the fringe, are outcast, neglected, abused or discriminated against, such is the depth of their “forgotten-ness”. People with intellectual disabilities, in almost EVERY society, developed or developing, democratic or totalitarian, are in some way left out, ignored, left to die, or even tortured, and in some cases the victims of targeted genocide. Even among children, people with intellectual disabilities are the victims of bullying at a greater rate than any other group.

We have many programs, and of course sports is our platform, to combat and influence these dispositions, and evidence and research shows that quality social interaction is the most effective means to overcome the misconceptions and fears that lead to these harmful, demeaning and inhumane behaviors.

Your comments lead me to bring up two in particular - our education and school enrichment program, and our Host Town program, held in conjunction with Special Olympics World Games. In the Host Town program, the visiting delegations - athletes, coaches, officials and visiting family members - from the various countries are housed in the homes of community members from different cities and towns across the host country. This program was started as a way to bring in the athletes who come from around the globe, and give them a few days to acclimatize to the new surroundings and adjust to weather and time changes. This is important for all athletes, and in particular our population is vulnerable to drastic changes in routine. But the success of this program was much more than we had anticipated. This community interaction, in conjunction with the result of the school enrichment program which is a curriculum introduced into schools months before the Games, in which young people of the community learn about the culture of the specific country coming to visit their town, as well as all the lessons and activities to educate them on the gifts and abilities and true character of persons with disabilities, creates an excitement and buzz of welcome for these delegations, much like a ticker tape parade. So an intervention is required, but a simple one. And this direct interaction combined with a little education changes peoples minds and attitudes literally overnight. Whole communities are changed. We saw it in Japan, in Ireland, and in China. It results in a beautiful intertwining, and the celebration is filled with genuine friendship. Often the host families follow the athletes progress and competitions for their entire stay, and stay in touch for years becoming lifelong friends. There is no doubt that this affect can be universally applied.

Why not have this kind of community hosting more a part of our tourism, (general and targeted to challenged cultures) and major special events? (I am thinking World Cup coming up in Africa.) I suppose it could be considered a threat to the to hotel industry. But could we not come up with a way for it to become a community/business partnership?


In relation to Question 3, “Is there potential for tourism to contribute to improved relations between Iran and the West?”, I am glad that you have brought a ‘civilisational’ perspective into this discussion thread by referring to the then President of Iran, Mohammed Khatami’s 2000 UN address and his call to engage in civilisationational dialogue.

The “clash of civilisations” (Huntington,: 1993, 1996) that is evident today, will require an understanding of a more profound nature of the civilisational engagement that must ensue between Iran and the US (or between non-Muslim and Muslim nation in any other part of the world) if our endeavour to bring about peace through tourism is to provide solutions that are not just superficial.

Only one people has ever met the ancient Romans on equal terms in open battle. These were the Persians. They first challenged Rome at the very height of her power; and throughout 4 centuries, the greatest forces of Rome were repeatedly and vainly hurled against Persia. No Persian king was ever led captive in a Roman triumph. Battles were won as often by one nation as by the other but Rome paid Persia large sums of money for peace so often that the Roman populace complained bitterly, declaring they were become mere tributaries of Persia.

Further back into history, some 2,300 years ago, a man we know as ALEXANDER THE GREAT (356 - 323 BC) first thought of and acted upon a vision of civilisational engagement. Conquering the then mighty Persian Empire was not sufficient, he sought to unite the eastern and western ancient worlds. And he attempted to do this by the institution of marriage - he married the deposed Persian King’s daughter and also made his officers marry Persian women. However he failed in realising his dream because the pride of the Macedonians in their own culture stood in the way of any real civilisational integration and he did not live long enough to see through his vision. A US-Iran engagement through tourism would therefore, in my opinion, constitute the “new beginnings” of an “old vision.”

If year 2001 was announced as the United Nation’s Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations, then “peace through commerce”, particularly through tourism between the US and the Iranian government, businesses and the Iranian people, would be following through with an ancient engagement between a relatively young western nation and an ancient one that had conquered many nations but which was itself finally conquered by Islam and became a part of the Islamic civilisation.

I noted that following the unfortunate events of Sept. 11, Iran was the only islamic nation that spoke up clearly, coherently and consistently against the onslaught of the tide of world opinion, and if one follows alternative news media, one discovers an interesting alternative perspective. It may therefore be observed, nucleur issue aside, Iran remains today, centrally relevant in (1) the islamic phenomenon and in (2) the choice between civilisational engagement or civilisational conflict.

“New beginnings” through commercial partnerships based on a “new era of mutual respect,” must therefore be sought for the sake of the “common humanity”. I shall throw my lot behind peace through tourism and travel to Iran for a conference in December this year, God Willing. :slight_smile:

Marilyn Ong Siew Ai
University Malaysia Sarawak
East Malaysia

Dear Ian:

I agree with your assessment, and your response made me think of the second question, and specifically to the case of Cuba:

  1. How can tourism contribute to the economic recovery of developing nations?

The first step in normalizing relations with Cuba is opening ALL travel restrictions. Once Cuban citizens can understand and desire the prosperity and development that other countries, such as the US have, they will surely seek for ways from the bottom-up to have democracy. The failure of the US policy is to expect Cuba to do it the other way around: first be democratic and then develop.

Alejandro Beeche

Thank you for your illuminating historical perspective on Question 3 regarding improved relations between Iran and the West. It is also noteworthy that since 2001 Iran has disbursed approximately US$ 500 million in aid to Afghanistan and is one of the most effective donors in the country, delivering 93 percent of the aid it has pledged.

President Obama’s offer of a “new beginning” in his speech to the Iranian people on March 20 is taking on concrete measures as the U.S. calls for Iran to be a key player in a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan. And at a Summit in the Hague in early April Iranian officials offered to cooperate with the United States on developing and reconstructing Afghanistan.

Iran has longstanding political, cultural, and economic interests in Afghanistan and it is in their interest to have stability and prosperity with its eastern neighbor. Perhaps these mutual interests can be the catalyst for “new beginnings” between Iran and the West – and if so, Peace through Tourism – and Commerce can provide a further stimulus to these new beginnings and a vital renewal of the ancient engagement to which you refer.

Louis D’Amore

Hi, Everyone: I’d love to share a small example in response to question #2: “How can tourism contribute to the economic recovery of developing nations?”

In the late 1980’s, Myths and Mountains cultural tour leader, Dr. Antonia Neubauer, led a trek through Nepal. Amidst the breathtaking landscapes, she asked her Nepali guide what one thing he wished for most in his village. “A library,” he replied.

His simple wish inspired the founding in 1991 of READ Global (Rural Education and Development), a pioneering nonprofit organization that combines enterprise and education to turn rural communities from poverty to prosperity by making them viable places to work, learn, and live. READ helped establish 49 village-supported Community Library and Resource Centers throughout rural villages in Nepal and India, serving 540,000 people annually and creating jobs for many of those villagers. These READ Centers serve each community’s particular educational, occupational, and social needs.

READ pioneered the concept of sustainability in the early '90’s with a model that maintains a 100% success rate. Here’s how READ works: READ partners with a community and seeds a for-profit business that meets that community’s need (examples include: ambulance services, furniture factories, fish ponds, storefronts). That income-generating business, along with contributions from READ, funds construction of a Community Library and Resource Center. On-going support of the READ Center comes from the community-based business and READ steps out of the way. READ inspires rural prosperity by fostering community independence, competence, and empowerment, and seeks input from the target population to secure the resources needed to sustain and grow their projects in a manner that is politically and culturally appropriate.

Building on its proven record of sustainable success, READ Global is about to become one of the few international nonprofits permitted to work in the closed Kingdom of Bhutan.

This is one small example how tourism and a commitment to empowering community members to improve their own lives, can help with economic recovery of a developing nation.

Carol Erickson
Executive Director
READ Global

I would like to express my appreciation to everyone who participated in our “Perspectives from Tourism” dialogue this past week. Thank you for your important and illuminating insights.
Louis D’Amore
Founder and President
Intenational Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT)

I agree with the fact that ‘tactile’ tourism but let’s not forget about certain cases where virtual tourism can be more beneficial. For instance, recently, I saw Dancing Ink’s project of demonstrating the Islamic culture and societies in Second Life, an online game. At first glance, I couldn’t understand the rationale beyond the project. However, apart from mitigating the negative impacts of tactile tourism and reaching more people; this project enabled non-Muslims to visit the places which are in fact open only to Muslim people in real life. In other words, Dancing Ink does promote a cultural sensitivity in a more exclusive way that tactile tourism.


Thank you for the information that serves to elaborate on the nature of President Obama’s offer of a “new (or renewed) beginning.” Only a president with Obama’s worldview as well as multi-faith and multi-cultural wisdom, would be able to come up with an inclusive solution involving non-Muslim and Muslim nations for the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan.

May I be allowed to elaborate on what I meant by the need for “an understanding of a more profound nature of the civilisational engagement that must ensue between Iran and the US (or between non-Muslim and Muslim nations in any other part of the world) if our endeavour to bring about peace through tourism is to provide solutions that are not just superficial”?

My purpose of providing a civilisational perspective to our discussion was to underscore the need to lay the foundation of a commercial relationship based on “mutual respect.” Ignorance will feed prejudice and contempt and nullify good economic factors and business considerations for a US-Iran business partnership in tourism.

In addition, theres the need for US-Iranian business relationships and transactions to recognise the SHARED VALUES of the People of the Book (Jews, Christains & Muslims) or “the people of the Middle Way” (Qur’an) rather than their DIVERGENT HUMAN INTERPRETATIONS of their books of Divine Revelation which have led them to believe they belong to different religions.

The initiative of HRH Duke of Ediburgh, HRH Cown Prince El Hassan of Jordan and Sir Evelyn Rothschild in the mid 1980s led to convening of thinkers of the People of the Book and saw its culmination in the Interfaith Code of Ethics. Please refer to:

The key ethical principles stated in the Code are : stewardship, honesty, mutual trust and justice. These are not only the shared values of the People of the Book - they are also UNIVERSAL VALUES for humankind. This ethical code should act as an ethical business guide in developing US-Iran tourism (non-muslim and muslim nations) to help achieve business financial and non-financial bottomlines.

Of the 4 values, I am of the opinion that 'MUTUAL RESPECT" must be the cornerstone of the US-Iran business partnership if “peace through commerce” is to be achieved.

Poll’s input on the Bhuddist ethical principles of “the Middle Path” is duly noted and appreciated. It should be the ethical guide for business partnerships for peace in the East which is dominated by Confucianist-Bhuddist cultures.

It is to be noted that both religion and philosophy exhorts the centrist ethical position.

Marilyn Ong Siew Ai