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Hon. Jennifer Smith,
JP, DHUML, MP
Premier of Bermuda
Your Excellencies, Mr. Louis D'Amore, founder and President of the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism, Dr. Noel Brown, Summit Secretary General and Panel Chairman, Mr. Jean-Claude Baumgarten, President, World Travel and Tourism Council, My fellow panel Members, Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me begin by saying how delighted I am to be given the opportunity to talk to you about "building a culture of peace through tourism". It is an honour to address so illustrious an audience, and a profound privilege to be among you today. By striking circumstance - peace has once again become a priority topic - far more urgent than the philosophical, or theoretical, realm to which we might have ascribed it as an ideal to which we could be morally - if not actively - committed.
As we seek to promote international peace through tourism, the attacks on tourism locations and the slaughter of tourists in Bali and Mombassa are still fresh on our minds.
I suggest we start with the sound of silence.
May I invite you to stand for a moment of silence in memory of those innocents who were slaughtered in Bali and Mombassa as well as for those intrepid travellers from India, Israel and the US, whose mission of discovery ended so tragically on the spacecraft Columbia. Will you please stand.
As the founders of the "Peace Through Tourism" initiative, clearly understood, international tourism is much more than just a matter of economics ... of creating jobs … and raising government revenue.
Tourism is all of these things, but it is also a global celebration of diversity and a universal ring of friendship.
Tolerance and understanding are born of knowledge and by exposing as many people as possible to the great diversity of humanity through tourism - we not only add to that knowledge and understanding, but also help to diffuse the differences that lead to conflict.
Tourism celebrates cultural identity rather than subverting it.
No global industry is more fiercely competitive than tourism, yet there is a strong history of collaboration between countries, destinations, hoteliers, suppliers, carriers, and travel professionals - all of whom interact through international organizations formed for that purpose.
Tourism is a great bridge-builder that offers us a unique opportunity to enrich travelers in a way that lingers long after their return home.
I don't know if any of you in the travel business are thinking of organizing trips to Iraq - but consider what if . . . what if we could get Americans and others from the West to visit Iraq … to see, meet and talk, first-hand, with the people of that country.
Or, what if you organized trips from the East to the US . . . so that people could see for themselves that ordinary Americans don't live the way sitcoms, magazines, or movies portray them.
What if as a result of such two-way tourism each of these groups then understood what we all know?
The value of exposing as many people as we can to diverse cultures and customs cannot be overemphasized.
I recall how - in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 - a female media personality visited Afghanistan and spoke to the women there. The resultant story about the plight of the women of Afghanistan, who were denied full self-determination, did more to create sympathy and understanding for a perceived enemy who began to take on a human face … people just like us, caught up in a conflict not of their own making.
As tourism professionals, we all have a responsibility to seek peace and to be unrelenting in our efforts to spread understanding through tourism. Our challenge is to marshal the forces of tourism in support of this great work.
Former Bermuda Tourism Minister, the late David Allen's dream of an African Diaspora Heritage Trail was a response to this challenge. He forged this concept at the first Global summit held under the patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah II in Amman, Jordan.
In less than 18 months … from the time of its first presentation at the Africa Travel Association's 26th Congress in May 2001, to the time of his death, last September, … the African Diaspora Heritage Trail became a reality.
Ratified by the Africa Travel Association … the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism … the World Travel and Tourism Council … and 60 countries around the world. The concept has also been accepted by various travel and tourism organizations and leading associated companies.
This was an amazing accomplishment in so short a time and I believe that it stands as a lasting tribute to a great man from a tiny island.
Bermuda is proud to have given genesis to this ambitious project which will commemorate our links through the African Diaspora and highlight the achievements of slaves and their descendants around the world.
As the world's largest industry, tourism has the potential - in addition to the role it can play in creating a more peaceful society - to also help alleviate poverty by encouraging economic development in depressed areas of the world.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel and tourism are expected to double over the next decade…from Four Thousand, Two Hundred and Eleven, point one Billion dollars ($4,211.1 Billion) in 2002, to Eight Thousand, Six Hundred and Thirteen, point Eight Billion dollars ($8,613.8 Billion) in the year 2012.
Tourism's contribution to world progress and development is underlined by the Travel and Tourism Council's prediction that the countries which can expect the fastest growth in travel and tourism are Turkey, India, China, Laos, Botswana, Mexico, Vanuatu, Uganda, Vietnam and Nigeria.
After September 11, it was felt that stringent security at airports and fear of flying would shrink leisure travel.
But, people are still traveling.
And, as this conference is aware, Bali is back in business,
The reality however, is that all destinations have a heightened responsibility for travelers and guests.
Unless assurances can be given that visitors are welcome and can be protected by the host property or country, prospects for tourism development will be greatly hampered.
In this regard, conferences such as this can be instrumental in helping to forge partnerships with national security forces to enhance security and safety procedures. I salute all of you who are committed to "building peace through tourism". And I implore you to remain steadfast in pursuit of this goal.
Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen, like the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan - the island of Bermuda offers a place of welcome for the peaceful traveler.
With a prayer for abiding peace, we commit ourselves to the goals and objectives of the Amman Declaration.
International Institute for Peace Through Tourism