Travel for Peace

International Institute for Peace through Tourism founder louis d’amore reflects on how sustainable, responsible travel can lead to world peace
 

This interview with Louis D’Amore took place in September 2006, prior to the anniversary of 9/11. A series of reports that Mr. D’Amore published in Canada’s Business Quarterly in the 1980s on the future of tourism struck me as prescient discussions of the global issues we face today, especially
in the context of our current volatile geopolitical climate. Our interview followed from these reports. —Sherry Schwarz

Louis D’Amore, founder and president of the Vermont-based International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT), pioneered the development of social and environmental ethics within the travel industry starting in the mid-1970s. Recognizing that tourism was both a significant economic and potentially powerful social force, he set out to make tourism the “World’s first Global Peace Industry.”

After a successful career running his Montreal-based consulting firm, L. J. D’Amore & Associates—which had conducted the world’s first comprehensive study on the future of tourism in 1976 and specialized in the development of strategies in response to emerging markets, industry trends, and societal forces affecting tourism—Mr. D’Amore began to question, “What’s possible when an entire industry gets behind the idea of peace: peace within ourselves, peace with our neighbors in the global village, and peace with nature?”

As part of his own transition and in response to major global issues of the mid-1980s—the growing tensions between East and West, a deteriorating environment and loss of biodiversity, the increasing gap of have and have-not regions of the world, and the peaking of terrorism—Mr. D’Amore founded IIPT, a not-for-profit U.N. affiliated NGO. The year was 1986, the U.N. International Year of Peace.

IIPT believes that every traveler is potentially an “Ambassador for Peace.” It is dedicated to fostering and facilitating tourism initiatives that contribute to international understanding and cooperation, an improved quality of environment, the preservation of heritage, and poverty reduction. Through these initiatives, IIPT works toward fostering a peaceful, sustainable world.

Since its founding, IIPT has brought together global leaders from all sectors of the travel and tourism industry (as well as the areas of culture, heritage, environment, and development) in global summits, regional conferences, round tables, and symposia. The themes of these events have ranged from: “Travel and Tourism—Serving a Higher Purpose,” to “Building a Sustainable World through Tourism,” to “Community Tourism—Gateway to Poverty Reduction.”

Summit outcomes have included the formation of a Coalition of Partners for World Peace through Tourism with over 20 founding partners, each committed to a millennium project that contributes to the vision of tourism as a “global peace industry.”

IIPT achievements have also included drafting the world’s first Codes of Ethics and Guidelines for Sustainable Tourism for the Canadian Tourism industry following the 1992 Rio Summit; consulting with the U.N. to identify Codes of Conduct for Tourism and the Environment; creating and distributing the IIPT Credo of the Peaceful Traveler (see opposite page); identifying more than 600 “Success Stories” and “Models of Best Practices”; establishing a strategic alliance with the world’s three largest youth travel organizations to promote travel for international understanding and peace; and the launch of a Global Peace Parks Project.

Noteworthy Peace Parks are in Pearl Harbor; Ndola, Zambia (at the site where U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold went down while on a Peace Mission in 1961); Bagamoyo, Tanzania, a World Heritage site that was a center of the slave trade in eastern Africa; and Victoria Falls. Each park contains a Bosco Sacro (Sacred Grove) of “peace trees” and is graced with a plaque and peace pole inscribed in four languages with “May Peace Prevail On Earth.”

To learn more about these initiatives, visit www.IIPT.org, where you will also find resources for making the world a better place, occasional papers presenting a range of views on the concept of peace through tourism, past conference presentations, and an archive of IIPT newsletters (you can sign up online to receive a free electronic version).

Organizations can join the IIPT Coalition of Partners for World Peace through Tourism. The main criteria for membership is commitment to a millennium project. A one-time contribution of $500 and an annual fee of $300 is also required for organizations. Those interested can contact Louis D’Amore at ljd@IIPT.org.

Individuals are strongly encouraged to participate in IIPT free of charge through a number of programs. There are active U.S. chapters in the Northeast (Contact: Diane Panasci, Diane@IIPT-NEUSA.org) and on the West Coast (Contact: Mary Long, marylong@travelresourcenter.com). IIPT also has an increasing number of international networks (Community Tourism, Cultural Tourism, Educators Network, Spirituality in Tourism, and the Young Professionals Network), which are open to all who are interested. There is no membership fee and contacts for each network are available on the IIPT website. The IIPT Student Chapter encourages membership among students of Tourism and Hospitality, as well as other areas of study, in colleges and universities throughout the world (Contact: Nishit Charadva atncharadva@yahoo.com).

IIPT’s next event, the 4th IIPT African Conference, will be held in Uganda in 2007 in partnership with the Africa Travel Association and Africa Wildlife Foundation. It aspires to foster a broader awareness of the social, cultural, environmental, and economic benefits of tourism; facilitate product development and identify new markets and investment opportunities; and contribute to reconciliation, peace, and the reduction of poverty on the African continent.

Mr. D’Amore wrote the following in a 1986 report entitled “International Terrorism: Implications and Challenge for Global Tourism”:

“The world is more crowded and less stable socially, economically, politically, and ecologically. Serious stresses in each of these dimensions are clearly visible. Despite our unprecedented consumption of resources in the past quarter century, nearly one-third of the world’s population are living in absolute poverty; nearly one-half do not have access to basic health services; and more than half a billion are seriously undernourished…These conditions create the fertile breeding ground for terrorists. It is no surprise that most terrorists are recruited from refugee camps where young people have no home, no work, and no hope…Within this global context, more than $1 trillion was spent on weapons and warfare in 1985. To this amount we are adding billions more in the “war on terrorism” and for “security” against terrorists. This is more than $200 for every man, woman and child in the world—the per capita income of most nations. …”

Sherry Schwarz: Given the United States’ response to the attacks of 9/11, do you think we are once again missing the opportunity to address the root causes of terrorism?


Louis D’Amore:
Yes, I do. World population in 1985 was 4.8 billion people. Current world population, a mere 21 years later, is 6.6 billion. We have added more people to the face of the earth in 21 years than in the entire history of human kind to the year 1900—when the population was a mere 1.6 billion at the start of the 20th century. We are more crowded by about 38 percent—with most of these people born in the world’s developing countries, resulting in greater numbers of unemployed persons living in poverty, and greater stresses on our natural resources and life support systems, including forests and fisheries.

1985 was the height of the Cold War, and a period when President Reagan substantially increased military spending, as did the Soviet Union. The world continues to spend approximately $1 trillion on weapons and warfare with the U.S. accounting for about half this total. There was much talk about a “Peace Dividend” in the early 1990s following the fall of the Berlin Wall—funds that might have been used in eliminating Third World debt, contributing to poverty reduction, rehabilitating the environment, and developing alternative fuels. Had we given some priority to these issues in the 1990s—a decade with unparalleled prosperity—we might not be in our current situation.

In the days following 9/11, people around the world identified with New York and Americans. Paraphrasing the words of John F. Kennedy in Berlin—many would have said “Ich bin ein New Yorker.” We had the opportunity to take the high ground and demonstrate the moral leadership of the world’s greatest nation. There was international support for retaliating against Afghanistan—but our rush into Iraq, without support of the U.N. and the international community, has led to a tarnished image of the U.S. and its policies. The conclusion of intelligence agencies, as reported in the media these past few days, is that the Iraq War has led to a greater threat from terrorism.

SS: How do you see tourism as a means for achieving peace?


LD:
Tourism is a vehicle for the exchange of ideas; the learning and appreciation of different cultures. It is a means for promoting a moral and intellectual base for international understanding, respect and confidence; a base for shared goals and aspirations. Tourism is also a means of contributing to the sustained social and economic growth of developing countries in a manner that is sensitive to a country’s social and cultural context.

Shortly after 9/11, in an address at Georgetown University, President Bill Clinton said: “Don’t you think it’s interesting that in the most modern of ages, the biggest problem is the oldest problem of human society—the fear of the other, and how quickly fear leads to distrust, to hatred, to dehumanization, and to death.”

Travel can be one-to-one citizen diplomacy in its best form and thereby shatter the isolation and “fear of the other” to which President Clinton refers. Tourism in its best form can serve as a means of dialogue at a personal level—it can be a path to the oneness of humanity.

SS: The U.N. estimates that close to 90 percent of current war casualties are civilians. What role might tourism play in helping war-torn countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq to recover?


LD:
We might also add Palestine and Lebanon to your question. Following the tsunami in Asia in 2004, there was a mass mobilization by governments and civil society to assist the tsunami victims and to rebuild their societies. Tourism organizations around the world were part of this effort. These same measures can be put into effect following the conflict that has occurred in Lebanon and Palestine, and they would include marketing and promotional efforts to bring tourists back to both destinations once facilities, infrastructure, and services are in place; for both these countries tourism is the main engine of economic development.

For its part, IIPT is hosting a debate on “A Strategic Tourism Industry Response to Socio-Economic Revitalization of the Middle East” at the World Travel Market on the opening day, November 6. The debate will feature travel and tourism industry leaders from Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, and Jordan. We are also exploring the possibility of having a high level conference in the region.

The situation for Iraq and Afghanistan is significantly different. There must be a cessation of fighting before tourism can play a role in their recovery. Iraq, in particular, has enormous potential for tourism. It is arguably the Cradle of Civilization, as the biblical “Garden of Eden” was located there. Iraq is also the birthplace of Abraham, father of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The very name “Iraq” means “Country with Deep Roots.”

SS: What more should we be doing to foster dialogue and promote peace with Iran?


LD:
I am convinced that it was “Citizen Diplomacy” that was a major factor in bringing an end to the Cold War—citizens from the U.S. and Europe visiting the former Soviet Union and meeting their counterparts in dialogue and Soviet citizens similarly coming to the U.S., while the political rhetoric was shaped by terms such as “the evil empire,” much like today’s rhetoric of an “axis of evil.” I have not had the privilege of traveling to Iran myself, but persons I know who have traveled there speak of the friendliness and hospitality of Iranians. Iranians I have met in the U.S. would certainly fit this description.

Individuals might identify which U.S. cities have a sister city relationship with a city in Iran and use this channel to learn more about the people, culture, and interests of their counter-part city and their feelings regarding the U.S. and Americans. If no sister city relationship exists, steps can be taken to establish one. There are also numerous organizations that promote cultural exchanges. “People to People International” (www.ptpi.org) is one of the foremost organizations in this field. PTPI was founded in 1956 by President Eisenhower, who said, “I have long believed, as have many before me, that peaceful relations between nations requires understanding and mutual respect between individuals.”

SS: In “A Third Generation of Tourism Thinking” (1985) you stated: “The three most serious threats facing humanity are the continued build-up of military and nuclear arms and ongoing warfare in parts of the world; the growing disparities between the poorest nations of the world and the world’s affluent nations; and the continued desecration of our environment…A third generation of tourism will acknowledge these global issues, and as the world’s largest industry will set an example as the world’s most responsible industry.” Although these threats are still with us, it seems the third generation of tourism you referred to is emerging….

LD: Each of these three threats is actually greater today than in 1985. Global warming has been found to be further advanced than originally thought; the gap between have and have-not regions of the world has expanded; and, in addition to conflicts within nations is the daily loss of life in Iraq and Afghanistan—and the global threat of terrorism. More nations now have nuclear arms, and there is a growing concern that they may fall in the hands of terrorist groups.

The “Third Generation of Tourism Thinking” I wrote about in 1985 stressed partnering among public, private sector, and NGOs/civil society with linked objectives relating to local, national, and regional goals, as well as societal objectives (e.g. social, cultural, educational, economic, environmental). It also called for a new “statesmanship” of industry leaders in a “Global Village” context.

Signs of a “Third Generation of Tourism Thinking” began to emerge in the 1990s following the U.N. Rio Summit on Environment and Development in 1992, the initial emphasis being on “Sustainable Tourism” and “Responsible Tourism.” Codes of conduct and environmental guidelines were introduced beginning with the Canadian Code of Ethics and guidelines for the GreenLeaf Program. The Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum introduced “The International Hotel Environment Initiative” (IHEI), bringing together about a dozen international hotel chains, such as Marriott and InterContinental, to identify ways to minimize their environmental impact.

With the new millennium, we began to see a growing emphasis on socio-economic objectives as well as a continued emphasis on the environment. The IHEI recently transitioned to the “Tourism Partnership” (www.tourismpartnership.org), expanding its membership and giving attention to relevant socio-economic issues in the communities where its members operate. “Pro Poor Tourism” was introduced by the Department of Foreign Investment Development in the U.K., “Fair Trade in Tourism” by Tourism Concern, and European Tour Operators came together to form the “Tour Operators Initiative for Sustainable Tourism.” In the U.S., the Tour Operators Association formed the “Tourism Cares for Tomorrow Foundation,” and National Geographic introduced the concept of “Geotourism,” defined as: “Tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, heritage, aesthetics, culture, and the well-being of its residents.”

There are numerous projects that come close to achieving the Third Generation of Tourism. One that is a favorite of mine is Taybet Zaman in Jordan. Taybet Zaman was an abandoned village of approximately 110 homes. It was renovated in the 1990s to become a 5-star resort through public-private sector partnering, providing training programs for the local villagers to accomplish all facets and phases of the renovations and subsequent training for the resort’s ongoing management and operation.

Taybet Zaman was transformed into a living museum, preserving each of the homes by fashioning them into rooms, each with a unique décor, and shops where local artisans work blowing glass, weaving, and designing crafts as they would have 150 years ago. The entire project is a model of social, cultural and environmental sensitivity. It is a project I nominated in 1995 for the “Tourism for Tomorrow Awards,” and which won both the regional and global award.

SS: You say that historians may well conclude: “Even more seminal to human thinking than the Copernican Revolution was the vision the first U.S. astronauts brought back from space of the earth as one living organism,” which fostered such influential organizations as The Institute for Noetic Sciences (www.noetic.org) and created a “heightened aware-ness of the connectedness and mutual dependency among people on earth, a heightened awareness of the relationship between humanity and the planet, and the need to live in harmony with one another and our environment.” Please elaborate on this.


LD:
Once we accept the perspective of an organic and interconnected world…we can begin to think in terms of a positive definition of peace. In this context the Russian word for peace and its various meanings are illuminating. The word is “mir,” which means: the universe, planet earth, the human race, peace and tranquility, concord in relations between people and states, freedom from war.

Throughout human history, our “mental map” of the rest of the world, and the people of that world, has been constructed from behind borders—behind city walls, behind political borders, or behind the mental borders of political ideology and techno-cultural differences…World history provides many examples of how closed societies are prone to suspicion, hostility, and armed conflict. It is the separateness from other nations and cultures that creates the psychological distance and mind-set conducive to nurturing fears and suspicions, contributing subsequently to the potential for destructive conflict.

On World Tourism Day 2001, Pope John Paul II commented on the role that tourism plays in this context: “Tourism puts us in touch with other ways of living, other religions, and other perceptions of the world and its history. This helps people to discover themselves and others, both as individuals and as communities immersed in the vast history of humanity, heirs to and responsible for a universe that is both familiar and strange. This generates a new vision of others that frees us from the risk of remaining closed in on ourselves.”

SS: When Transitions Abroad was founded 30 years ago, it was seen as an “alternative” travel magazine, because of its non-mainstream focus on educational, purposeful, responsible travel. Signs today suggest travelers are increasingly interested in this type of travel. What difference might this shift make?

LD:
The authentic experiences Transition Abroad readers seek has been a growing and desirable trend in the tourism industry. It is through such interactive personal encounters and cultural immersions that we can truly come to know one another and to a realization that we are one Earth, one family.

Further, it is this type of local and community tourism that can make a substantial contribution to poverty reduction. Tourism is a diverse industry that provides economic opportunities that fit in with other life-sustaining activities of the poor. Community-based tourism offers a range of entrepreneurial opportunities for women, youth, and indigenous populations and can often be realized precisely in areas that lack development. Tourism can help diversify and strengthen the local economies by providing value added linkages to sectors such as agriculture, fishing, and handicrafts. A further advantage of tourism is that it is labor intensive, thereby creating more jobs than most other industries while building on existing capital assets of flora, fauna, scenic beauty, and cultural resources; and complementing the main livelihood activities of the community.

SS: What role do you see tourism playing for a critically and widely impoverished region such as Africa?


LD:
Tourism has a most important role to play in this context. Africa faces many serious challenges and has the highest rate of population growth of any world region. Compounding this, the average income per capita in sub-Saharan Africa is lower now than at the end of the 1960s. The situation is particularly acute for young people. Youth unemployment in many areas exceeds 80 percent—a huge waste of Africa’s greatest resource.

Of the 50 least developed countries—40 of which are in Africa—tourism is the largest source of foreign exchange for all but three, which are oil producing nations. In many of these countries, tourism has become the major—or one of the major—contributors to GDP. Further, development agencies, including the World Bank, U.S. AID, and Africa Development Bank have recently discovered the important role that tourism can play in contributing to the U.N. Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015. The U.N. World Tourism Organization has introduced the ST-EP Program (Sustainable Tourism—Eliminating Poverty).

African nations are rich in biodiversity and cultural assets, which offer opportunities to important segments of the tourism market for nature-based tourism, eco-tourism, cultural tourism, and community tourism. Africa is also a favored destination for volunteer tourism, and there is a growing desire among the more than 200 million persons who make up the African diaspora to return to their roots. The World Travel and Tourism Council forecasts that travel and tourism will account for more than 11 percent of GDP in sub-Saharan Africa in the years ahead.

SS: What is the intention behind holding annual IIPT African conferences, and why specifically is the 2007 conference in Uganda—a country where The Lord’s Resistance Army waged a fierce war against the Ugandan government and where human rights groups have been concerned about child soldiers and sex slaves?


LD:
In 2001 IIPT began to give emphasis to the important role of tourism in contributing to poverty reduction; as Africa is home to the majority of the world’s least developed countries, it was a clear choice for IIPT’s annual conferences.

Regarding Uganda, the truce that was recently agreed upon with the Lord’s Resistance Army seems to be holding. So, it is an opportune time to bring awareness to the key role that tourism can play not only in poverty reduction, but also in “Healing the Wounds of Conflict,” which will be a central focus of this conference.

If you take a look at the map of Africa you will see Uganda is in the center of much of the conflict that has occurred in Africa. We hope to bring delegations from its neighboring countries for a Ministerial Symposium on “Healing the Wounds of Conflict through Tourism, Culture and Sport.” We will also hold a “Traditional Leaders Forum” that will examine traditional methods of conflict management and resolution. A further goal will be to create one or more transborder Peace Parks in collaboration with the Africa Wildlife Foundation and the World Conservation Union as a legacy of the conference. We are also exploring possibilities for a medical mission of volunteer doctors and nurses to bring medical supplies to northern Uganda. We welcome your readers as delegates to the conference—and to take advantage of post-conference tours that will be made available.
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