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Conference Report

Subtitled Travel and Tourism Serving a Higher Purpose, the Conference was organized by the International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT) with assistance from the Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau.

The IIPT, under the leadership of Founding President, Lou D'Amore, has been dedicated since 1986 to fostering tourism initiatives which contribute to international understanding and cooperation. The organization has held three Global Conferences (1988, 1994 and 1999), three African Conferences (2002, 2003 and 2005) and a number of smaller conferences in a range of countries. Previous Global Summits were mounted in Amman, Jordan in 2000 and Geneva, Switzerland in 2003. Outcomes from these events include:

  • the development of the Credo of the Peaceful Traveler, a number of Codes of Ethics and guidelines for Sustainable Tourism;

  • formation of a Coalition of Partners for World Peace through Tourism;

  • the Global Peace Parks Project;

  • a resource base of 'Success Stories' providing models of best practice, and

  • international networks in Student and Youth Leadership, Education, Community-Based Tourism, Cultural Tourism, Spirituality in Tourism, and Young Professionals.

The Global Summit constitutes the major world forum for networking and partnership building with the aim of developing a 21st Century Agenda for Peace through Tourism.

         Participants in the 2005 Summit came from more than sixty countries and included government ministers and senior public servants, leaders from relevant industry organizations and associations, educators, policy makers and industry operators.

Pre-Summit Forums
The Summit proper was preceded by a number of one- or half-day forums. The Educators Forum featured presenters from Thailand, New Zealand, Malaysia, USA, Singapore, Australia, the Philippines, and Scotland. Speakers focused on pro-poor tourism in Thailand's hotel sector; community-based ecotourism; cultural tourism; facilitation of sustainable community development; volunteer tourism; the impact of low-cost carriers; the development of a curriculum in Peace through Tourism; social capital in the virtual travel community; stakeholder perspectives on tourism higher education in the Philippines; post-conflict tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina; package and non-package choices in ASEAN countries, and travel risk perceptions. The proceedings of the Educators Forum have been published in CD format.

The Community Tourism Forum commenced with a review of how community tourism contributes to peace through product development, training and marketing. Presentations dealt with community tourism success stories and shared community tourism experiences with respect to partnerships involving resort hotels, case studies, ecotourism and village enterprises. Workshop discussions focused on future directions for the IIPT Community Tourism Network and planning for the proposed IIPT International Community Tourism Conference.

The International Student/Youth Leadership Forum involved students from more than 20 countries. Ms Xingra (Clara) Tang of the University of Hawaii received the US$1000 Scholarship Award for her essay entitled 'Tourism and Peace: A Development Model.' Presentations were delivered on youth hostelling, the role of youth in society, practical training, young people serving as role models and global exchange schemes. A brainstorming session worked on ideas for collaboration in the World Youth Tourism Summit (June 2006) in South Africa and on the goals, objectives and strategies of the IIPT Student/Youth Leadership Network throughout the 21st century.

The Inter-Faith Tourism Forum dealt with questions relating to spirituality in tourism and its reflection in pilgrimages, sacred site tours, yoga, meditation, retreats, community service and humanitarian projects. There were presentations on the pursuit of inner peace, Buddhism as a foundation of world peace, and spiritual sites in Iran. Discussions were held on future directions and planning for an Inter-Faith Pilgrimage Tourism Conference, 'In the Footsteps of Abraham', to be held by the Dead Sea.

The Indigenous Tourism Forum recognized the significance of indigenous tourism as a growth sector providing new experiences for travelers and as a contributor to knowledge and retention of traditional cultures. Participants presented on successful initiatives, sustainability and the impacts, positive and negative, of indigenous tourism. Guidelines for future directions were developed.

The Cultural Tourism Forum was also the inaugural meeting of the IIPT Cultural Tourism Network. The emphasis was on history, traditions, culture and diversity of 'the global family', combined with recognition of how much is held in common. As with other forums, discussion focused on future directions for the Network.

The IIPT Young Professionals Forum was also an inaugural meeting, with the Network launched in recognition of the growing importance of young professionals in the travel and tourism industry. Participants shared their experiences and insights in contributing to sustainable tourism, community involvement, international understanding, improved environment and the Peace through Tourism philosophy.

A meeting was also conducted by the IITP Coalition of Partners for World Peace through Tourism. Each of the 40 partners is committed to a Millennium Project in support of the UN Decade of Peace and Non-Violence for the children of the World. Progress reports were delivered and plans initiated for recruitment of additional partners and strategies for the future. Another meeting involved representation from IIPT Chapters (Australia, the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Pakistan and the West Coast of USA) and other interested regions. The issue of international membership was discussed as a means of advancing the aims of the IIPT.

Summit Plenary Sessions
The plenary sessions were addressed by speakers representing high levels in government, administration, NGOs and the travel and tourism industry. The first session was entitled Global Perspectives on Tourism in the Service of Humanity and the Earth. The first speaker (from UNESCAP) emphasized the vested interest of tourism in peace and reviewed the role of tourism in combating poverty and encouraging crosscultural understanding. He noted the need for these goals to be accommodated into mainstream tourism and for protection of the more vulnerable members of society. The second speaker (Pacific Asia Travel Association) argued for a stronger voice for tourism in policy-making bodies and greater use of organizations such as PATA. The third speaker (American Society of Travel Agents) noted important trends in ecotourism and responsible tourism, the opportunities sought by travellers wishing to make a meaningful contribution, and the combination of business and leisure travel. The fourth speaker (Zambia) noted the value of tourism in Zambia in promoting links with other economic sectors and assisting with development among deprived groups.

Session 2 speakers examined The Role of the World's Largest Industry in Advancing the UN Millennium Development Goals. Speaker 1 (Thailand) described the OTOP (One Tambon, One Product) project by which tourism villages are being assisted in the provision to visitors of unique cultural experiences. Speaker 2 (Thailand) outlined the benefits and disbenefits associated with tourism and stressed the need for more effective planning and partnership arrangements. Speaker 3 (International Executive Service Corps) described involvement with 25000 projects in 120 countries and the recent recognition that tourism has a strategic role to play in development.

Session 3 was concerned with Strategic Tourism Industry Response to International Terrorism. Speaker 1 (Palestine) spoke of the need for strategies for the coming generation in troubled areas and plans for promotion of tourism to the Holy Land. He argued for even-handed implementation of anti-terrorism measures and shared tourism projects across national boundaries. Speaker 2 (Indonesia) referred to terrorist attacks in Indonesia and the economic damage thereby inflicted. He outlined the Government's plans for rapid recovery and the strengthening of respect for human rights. Speaker 3 (Spain) emphasized the importance of tourism to the Spanish economy and its contribution to democratization, countering ignorance and furthering knowledge about other peoples. He denied terrorists the right to speak for Islam and encouraged support for the UN Millennium Development Goals. Speaker 4 (Hong Kong), noted the different forms of crises affecting tourism and the need for recovery. He recommended cooperation in safety and security, intelligence collection and education of travelers. Speaker 5 (Israel) stressed the significance of Israel and Palestine as the birthplace of three world religions and the ramifications of wide media exposure given to terrorism there. He outlined the contribution of Skal International in assisting with recovery.

Session 4 discussed Healing the Wounds of Conflict through Tourism, Culture and Sport.  It is notable that all the speakers in this were former refugees who had now risen to positions of prominence in their countries. Speaker 1 (Cambodia) referred to the very high cost of peace in Cambodia, and to how the low level of tourism contributes to misunderstanding. He submitted that peace begins in the minds and hearts of individuals who must be given opportunities and meaning in their lives. Speaker 2 (Angola) underlined the vulnerability of tourists to terrorism, and the difficulties arising in affected areas. He noted the role of tourism, bringing people together in a globalizing world, but argued that the responsibility for developing mutual understanding appears to fall mainly on the host communities. Speaker 3 (South Africa) reminded the audience of the distrust and social wedges left over from the past, and attributed the growth in democracy and a national identity to the benign influences of tourism and sporting links with the rest of the world. Speaker 4 (Korea) described the role of tourism and sports in efforts to bring about reunification of the Korean Peninsula. He recognized the limited extent of current exchanges but emphasized the importance of symbolic events and the support of the Korean people. His conclusion was that 'tourism is mightier than the sword.'

Session 5 examined The Asian Tsunami and World Travel Industry: A Sustained Response to Social and Economic Re-Development. Speaker 1 spoke on behalf of tour operators and drew attention to the central role of the operator in providing a link among sectors and businesses in the recovery stages. He noted that tour operators are central in bringing back the tourists and helping fund the reconstruction of infrastructure, but underlined the need to rebuild with an eye to the future. Speaker 2 (Sri Lanka) referred to the long-term crisis associated with civil war and how the more immediate and dramatic onslaught of the tsunami has led to a reduction in hostilities and a safer environment for tourists. He, too, noted the importance of tour operators in restoring livelihoods. Speaker 3 (Thailand) spoke about the early warning, evacuation and reconstruction measures now being implemented in Thailand. Questions from the audience reflected some differences of opinion on the effects of government travel advisories, the continued operation of illegal hotels, special measures for people with disabilities, and traditional methods of predicting natural disasters.

Concurrent Sessions
Each plenary session was followed by a range of concurrent sessions developed around the previous plenary session theme and involving brief presentations, workshops and panel discussions. These were concerned with:

  • Engaging Global Youth for Change through Travel;

  • Poverty Reduction Indicators;

  • The Role of the Media in a 21st Century Agenda;

  • Balancing our Environment and Preserving Biodiversity,

  • Philanthropy and Volunteer Tourism;

  • Destination Crisis Management and Disaster Preparedness';

  • The Tourism Contribution to Community Empowerment and Capacity Building;

  • Linkages of Tourism, Culture, the Arts and Heritage in Building a Culture of Peace;

  • Healing the Wounds of Conflict through Tourism, Culture and Sports;

  • Educating for a Culture of Peace through Tourism in the 21st Century;

  • Tourism's Contribution to Poverty Reduction;

  • Indigenous Tourism;

  • Authentic Home Stay Development: the Wang Nam Keow Model;

  • A Sustained Travel Industry Response to the Asian Tsunami;

  • Student/Youth Leadership Forum: The Way Ahead; and

  • Making Travel Accessible for All;

  • Micro Enterprise and SME Development;

  • Sustainable Destination Design and Management; and

  • Promoting a Just and Equitable Society through Travel.

These presentations and discussions were useful in fleshing out the generalized approach of the plenary sessions by providing additional information on what is happening on the ground and at the micro level and what is being done by people in the field. There was an emphasis on the practicality of measures being implemented.

The Summit generated a number of items for the 21st Century Agenda. These included measures for wealth creation (as an alternative to 'poverty reduction'), a closer relationship with health professionals, the development of Asia-Africa and North-Latin America 'bridges', establishment of student chapters in each world region, an extended internship program, wide distribution of 'The Peace Passport', support for the African Diaspora Trail, establishment of rural libraries in developing countries (the READ program), symposia to carry forward the IIPT vision, lobbying for a UN International Year of Peace through Tourism, development of a resource library and greater recognition of people and organizations making a positive difference.

It is clear that the Summit had a very crowded agenda, and delegates were faced with some difficulty in making choices. Despite a realistic appreciation of the complexities and barriers to be overcome in pursuing the Peace through Tourism objectives, the Summit was, on the whole, marked by optimism and a renewed commitment to further progress among the delegates.

Ian Kelly
University of South Australia

International Institute for Peace Through Tourism