Peace Through Tourism

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The peace-through-tourism nexus refers to the notion of tourism as social force that can potentially lead to a more peaceful and fairer world. In this sense, the practice of tourism is seen as mean to promote intercultural dialogue, cross-cultural understanding, cultural diversity, as well as equality and human rights.

This notion was initially based on the “contact theory” (Allport 1979 ), whereby the travel-induced contact between tourists and resident population positively influences individuals’ perceptions of other groups, increasing mutual understanding. Over time this belief has been criticized as somewhat simplistic.

A more complex approach to the potential causal relationship between tourism and peace has gained ground, denoting an ongoing ontological and epistemological maturation process of this subject. Nowadays, the theoretical extensions are indeed based on an integrated approach that goes beyond tourism, involving fields such as cultural studies, cultural...

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Coventry University, Coventry, UK

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Carbone, F. (2022). Peace Through Tourism. In: Richmond, O.P., Visoka, G. (eds) The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Peace and Conflict Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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Tourism Raises its voice for Peace

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  • 18 Feb 2022

After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, people, as well as our whole societies and economies, have suffered enough. We cannot afford for this to continue. We must rebuild and look to the future with hope, not fear.

Peace and mutual understanding are essential ingredients for recovery. Now is the time to work together, and for diplomacy instead of conflict in all parts of the world. We must not allow political tensions to turn into a man-made crisis that will undermine our collective progress. 

Tourism is the main bridge for building understanding. It has a unique ability to promote peace between and among peoples everywhere.

Tourism is the main bridge for building understanding. It has a unique ability to promote peace between and among peoples everywhere. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) stands firmly with UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his call for all countries to settle disputes through peaceful means and not through conflict, and that they respect international security and justice at all times.

As a part of the UN, giving a voice to people of all regions, backgrounds and nationalities, UNWTO also believes that the spirit of international solidarity and shared values that define not just tourism but also our common humanity will prevail. We also hope that diplomatic efforts to avoid conflict continue and succeed.

Zurab Pololikashvili Secretary-General

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Related content, one year on, tourism stands firm in support of ukraine, making tourism stronger and ready for the future, as 2020 ends, tourism looks forward with determination, a lifeline for small island states: unwto joins imo to ....

International Institute For Peace Through Tourism IIPT

Linking Together Peace And Sustainability In Tourism

Developing sustainable destinations – personal reflection on the future.

Marie Janssen IIPT Student Peace Ambassador 2020

Tourism debates are often highly contentious, classified as wicked problems where conflicts between stakeholders are inherent and diverse. To achieve mutually beneficial, peaceful, and sustainable outcomes, it is essential for key stakeholders to engage in collaborative dialogues. But for these to be successful, and for tourism to be recognised as a force for change, important prerequisites exist. First, there is a need to define what peace means to us and how we can achieve it. Secondly, we must cultivate not only technical skills but soft skills including collective leadership, communication, and empathy to facilitate meaningful debates. In doing so, peaceful and sustainable outcomes can be achieved as these two concepts are inextricably connected. Thus, soft skills will play a key role for individuals both in the tourism industry and beyond, including myself, which I shall conclude with.

To establish the skills necessary to resolve stakeholder tensions and achieve peace through tourism, we must define the peace we seek to create. Galtung (1969) distinguishes between positive and negative peace, describing peace as more than merely the absence of war. A successful tourism industry demands civil peace, safety, and security, and is thus dependent on peace for survival (Becken & Carmignani 2016). However, this is not enough to secure the sustainability of the sector. A more holistic conceptualisation of peace is ‘positive peace,’ embodying the presence of desirable conditions in society, including wellbeing, equity, and justice (Haessly 2010). Such an approach manifests peace as a presence in the world, one which each individual can actively work towards to entrench peace within society (Rees & Blachard 1999; Moufakkir & Kelly 2010). If such an attitude is manifested within tourism, the higher purpose of the industry can be materialised, and tourism can become a powerful vehicle for peace (Young 2019). This is espoused within the IIPT’s vision of tourism as ‘The World’s First Global Peace Industry,’ where every individual has the opportunity to act as an ambassador for peace (IIPT 2020). But most significantly, their ‘Credo of the Peaceful Traveller’ states that peace begins with the individual (IIPT 2020). Thus, as we establish positive peace as the basis of a thriving tourism sector, we cannot overlook the role of the individual in attaining and maintaining peace, thus cultivating soft skills is essential.

While peace begins with the individual, it must be supported by broader peace-building strategies (Smith 2004). This puts an onus on tourism stakeholders, from destination management organisations to communities and tourists to engage in leadership, particularly collective leadership (Wohlmuther & Wintersteiner 2014). At the core of collective leadership is the idea that a group of leaders can contribute to a more sustainable future by assuming flexible and joint leadership for the benefit of all (Kuenkel, Gerlach & Frieg 2011). Thus, while the individual aspect of leadership as a soft skill is important, more effective outcomes are achieved through a collective mindset. This is affirmed by Hemmati (2007), who believes the value of stakeholder dialogues is derived from collective leadership, transparency, equity, and universal participation. If such elements are embedded within dialogues, participants can gain deeper understandings of multiple stakeholder perspectives. Additionally, sustainability leadership does not mean we need business or political backgrounds, it simply advocates for leaders to exemplify the willingness, ability, and strength to contribute to sustainability debates (Wohlmuther & Wintersteiner 2014). Thus, any stakeholder exhibiting these qualities can become a powerful leader in sustainable, and peace tourism. Thus, collective leadership involving multiple stakeholders enables the achievement of more peaceful and sustainable outcomes by providing opportunities for more creative and innovative solutions (Dimmock & Musa 2015).

Central to peace tourism debates is the concept of the ‘contact hypothesis’ as the means to attain peace. Tourism at its core advocates the exploration of new civilisations and cultures (Becken & Carmignani 2016). Hence, it can be interpreted as a mind-broadening experience with the potential to enhance cross-cultural understanding, breaking down political and ideological barriers (Kim, Prideaux & Prideaux 2007). This is exhibited within the IIPT’s mission which conceptualises tourism as a mechanism for peace through promoting international understanding and cooperation between nations (IIPT 2020). After all, peace is multi-faceted in nature, requiring the participation of multiple stakeholders (Moufakkir & Kelly 2010). This implicates the value of communication skills for peace to flourish. Cross-cultural communication builds respect for differences. In particular, understanding the language of nonviolence is a critical skill, as it implies the attainment of knowledge and understanding of comparative values and beliefs (Blanchard & Higgins-Desbiolles 2013). In communicating through the language of nonviolence, we can gain a more inclusive understanding of what peace means to different people. Additionally, communication allows us to articulate our vision to other stakeholders (Boulding 1992). After all, if we cannot articulate our vision of what a peaceful world entails, we cannot engage in collaborative actions to promote, preserve, and sustain a culture of peace. Thus, through communication, we can develop understandings of a multitude of perspectives and articulate our vision, which enables more inclusive, dynamic, and collaborative responses.

Empathy, problem-solving and critical thinking are deeply intertwined soft skills essential in resolving stakeholder conflict. Problem-solving, when restricted to the application of knowledge and technology can only get us so far. Richmond (2008) reminds us of the need to move beyond political conceptualisations of peace focusing on power and instead engage with emotive, aesthetic, and linguistic skills to resolve conflicts and achieve peace. Thus, we must prioritise intangibles like empathy and our emotional intelligence. To practice empathy, the notion of trans-perceptual learning is integral. This refers to learning that derives from perceiving reality from the perspective of others, or ‘walking in another’s’ shoes (Crews 1989). In doing so, individuals can engage in the process of ‘conscientisation’ to think critically and gain a deeper understanding of different stakeholder perspectives on the means for social and peaceful change (Freire 1970). By continually questioning our attitudes, this enables us to respond to a diversity of stakeholder opinion, and even conflict, with appreciation and respect rather than ignorance, which spreads tolerance and leads to the development of more creative solutions to resolving tensions (Blanchard & Higgins-Desbiolles 2013).

The fundamental building blocks of peace tourism and sustainability leadership are inextricably connected. It has been established that peace in tourism benefits when a variety of stakeholder perspectives are considered. Similarly, the UNWTO (2020) frames sustainable tourism as requiring the participation of all relevant stakeholders and strong leadership to facilitate consensus building. Additionally, ecological, social, and economic perspectives are considered the building blocks of sustainability (Saarinen 2006), and peace dividends. Peace is also considered as one of the five indicators of sustainability (Buckley 2012). According to Wohlmuther and Wintersteiner (2014), the concepts of peace and sustainability cannot be separated, as most of their constituting elements have peace-building effects. Economically, tourism generates income, employment, and poverty reduction (Levy & Hawkins 2010). The ecological perspective is represented through initiatives like recycling and education programs. Most notably, the IIPT’s Peace Parks act as tangible representations of the commitment to build a culture of peace, echoing environmental, cultural, and reconciliation values (IIPT 2020). The final pillar of sustainability, the social perspective, is achieved through promoting cross-cultural understanding, which underpins peace tourism debates. Each of these pillars is reflected within the IIPT’s mission – including poverty reduction, improved quality of environment, and cultural enhancement and reconciliation (IIPT 2020). Thus, as sustainability leadership seeks to evaluate various stakeholder positions on economic, ecological, and social issues, tourism can, in very similar ways, play a role in sustaining peace.

I’d now like to reflect on the role that soft skills will play in my career. As a Bachelor of Business student, I’ve studied subjects including accounting and finance, focusing on technical know-how. But through tourism subjects, I’ve gained insight into the ingredients to succeed in a business career, understanding that technical competence will only get me so far. Soft skills are what will allow me to succeed in solving practical problems by engaging with a multitude of stakeholders. Currently, I’m studying marketing, international business, and tourism, leading me to a career in international tourism marketing, where soft skills are essential. Marketing involves creating, communicating, and delivering value propositions. In tourism, this means creating and selling travel experiences.

Soft skills are specifically important in the product and promotion elements of the tourism destination marketing mix. In market research and product design, I will need a strong sense of empathy to understand the mindset of the target market on a personal level. In thinking critically to incorporate consumer insights into product development, I, as a marketer will be in a better position to meet the needs and desires of consumers. In tourism especially, empathy will allow me to understand the variety of tourist motivations, and in turn, develop satisfactory travel experiences.

Promotion rests of three elements: inform, persuade, remind. For myself as a marketer to capture consumer interest, effective communication is undoubtedly a prerequisite, because no matter the inherent value of a travel product, a sale won’t be made unless promotions spark consumer interest. Through communication, tourism marketing can also contribute to its higher purpose, rather than being limited to materialistic pursuits. Looking at the IIPT’s website, they are not promoting products, but the value of meaningful interactions and peace-building opportunities. In developing promotional materials, I would like to focus on bringing tourism back to its core, which I believe is people. If I can communicate the value of guest-host interactions, I believe I can market a more enriching experience, and become part of tourism’s higher purpose, which is inherent within the values of the IIPT. Additionally, my communication skills at a simpler level will allow me to work alongside others in the industry to articulate my vision for peace in tourism marketing.

The notion of collective leadership is also key for me to succeed because, in an international context, I will be working with tourism stakeholders and leaders around the world. By engaging in collective leadership, this will help me to contribute to peace and sustainability outcomes. Working with others, as aforementioned, can lead to more sustainable outcomes by harnessing greater creativity and innovation when leaders bring their minds together. This is especially important when looking to the future of my career and many others, where issues of sustainability are increasingly relevant. Specifically, within tourism marketing, advocating more sustainable forms of tourism like ecotourism and community-based tourism could likely change tourism for the better, as the interests of tourists seeking an enriching experience can align with pathways for achieving peace and sustainability, thereby increasing opportunities for the value propositions I can create.

Marie Janssen

UTS Business School Student

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Where are all the pilgrims? The current state of religious tourism in the Holy Land

Pilgrims Holy Land

By Marinella Bandini

Jerusalem, Jun 4, 2024 / 07:00 am

During the month of May in Jerusalem, the major holidays of the three major religions — Christian Easter, Jewish Passover, and the month of Ramadan — passed with an almost total absence of pilgrims from abroad.

The holy sites and the streets of the Old City are usually crowded with tourists and pilgrims at this time of year, but they have been empty for the past eight months due to the Israel-Hamas war.

Muslims orderly make their way to the entrances of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound for noon prayer, but otherwise, the Via Dolorosa is completely empty. There are no pilgrims ascending to the Holy Sepulcher. The Sanctuary of the Flagellation, maintained by the Franciscans at the starting point of the Via Crucis path, is always open — but that is empty, too.


Things aren’t any better at Gethsemane. 

“Before the war, we had more than a hundred groups a day. Today, we welcome two or three groups on a good day,” Brother Siniša Srebrenović, the guardian of the Franciscan Convent of the Agony (Gethsemane), told CNA. “They mostly come from Asia or South America. Some come from Eastern Europe, mainly Orthodox Christians.”

The absence of pilgrims also means the absence of income.

“We friars sustain ourselves with the offerings of the pilgrims. The charity of the pilgrims also helps cover the maintenance expenses of the sanctuary and some development projects,” Srebrenović explained. “Today, everything is at a standstill. Workers from the Palestinian Territories do not have permission to come, and the financial resources are only enough for the ordinary. Despite this, the custody continues to financially support its workers and has not laid off any of them.”

At the Holy Sepulcher, the waiting time to enter the edicule (where Jesus’ tomb is kept) is just a few minutes, compared with up to two hours last year. The daily procession of the Franciscan friars inside the basilica is attended by only a handful of faithful — mostly residents of Jerusalem.

The Via Dolorosa, at the location of the Church of the Flagellation, is completely deserted in the afternoon of Friday, May 24, 2024. Usually, Friday is the day when many Christian pilgrims walk the Via Dolorosa in the footsteps of Jesus to the Holy Sepulcher. Credit: Marinella Bandini

Even Bethlehem is empty 

“Tourism in Palestine is effectively zeroed out. Every day we lose $2.5 million,” lamented Majed Ishaq, director general of the marketing department of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of Palestine.

He described to CNA a dramatic situation: “Tourist facilities are closed; people working in the sector — including many Christians — have had no income for months. People are trying to sell houses, cars, furniture, to survive.”

“International tourism passes through Israel; they control our borders. We are under a kind of siege,” Ishaq continued. “Reaching Bethlehem is still possible, but cities in the north, like Nablus or Jenin, and also Hebron further south, are almost unreachable. Even local tourism and internal travel are severely affected due to attacks by settlers.”

Some groups arrive, especially via Jordan. The hope is that something will move at least by the end of the year, especially for the Christmas holidays.

According to data from the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, just over 80,000 people (tourists and pilgrims combined) entered the country in April — a decrease of 77% compared with April 2023 and 80% compared with April 2019, the peak year before the pandemic.

Cumulatively, from January through April, about 285,000 tourist arrivals were recorded, a decrease of about 78% in relation to the corresponding period in 2023.

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“The decline is attributed to the impact of the ‘Iron Swords’ war [the name Israel has given to the campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip following the events of Oct. 7, 2023] although in the months that have passed since the outbreak of the war, there has been a certain increase in the number of tourist arrivals to Israel, but it is not yet possible to identify any trend.”

A small group of Orthodox Christians from Romania inside the Basilica of Gethsemane kiss the stone on which, according to tradition, Jesus sweated blood during the night of Holy Thursday. May 2024. Credit: Marinella Bandini

Dr. Yaron Ergas, director of research, statistics, and information management at the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, told CNA that “the Ministry of Tourism conducts a survey among incoming tourists, where they are asked several questions including the main purpose of their visit. Tourists choosing ‘pilgrimage/faith based tour’ are considered religious tourists. That percentage, in 2019, was 16.6%” out of about 5 million entries.

At the outbreak of the war, in October 2023, “we stopped the surveys,” Ergas explained, so there is no useful data on religious tourism since then.

“Recovery is not expected until late 2025,” he added.

Other statistics, focused on Christian pilgrims, were provided to CNA by the Christian Information Centre (CIC), sponsored by the Custody of the Holy Land. CIC has been providing information about Christianity and on the Holy Land, including shrines, holy places, and liturgies, for more than 50 years. Additionally, it is the only official channel for booking Masses in the holy sites.

From October to December 2023, approximately 2,800 groups (107,000 individuals) had booked at least one celebration through the CIC, and they all canceled as soon as the war broke out. Of these, 95% were Catholics and 4% were Protestants. Ninety percent were groups from abroad. From January to April of this year, the groups registered by the CIC ranged from 100 to 200 per month (averaging 5,000 to 6,000 individuals per month).

(Story continues below)

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The lack of Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land is especially due to the fact that many companies are unwilling to issue insurance policies for those heading to a territory considered dangerous and risky.

A group of Christian pilgrims from the Philippines at the Gethsemane sanctuary. In these months of war, arrivals from Southeast Asia and South America continue. This is largely due — as the pilgrims themselves recount — to the fact that agencies do not refund prepaid trips, which many have invested their life savings in. This compels people to travel despite everything. Credit: Marinella Bandini

Arrivals from Southeast Asia and South America continue, however (while the United States remains the top country for entries, the second group surprisingly comprises Indonesians). This is largely due — as the pilgrims themselves admit — to the fact that agencies do not refund prepaid trips, which many have invested their life savings in. This compels people to travel despite everything.

“We want to encourage Jews and Christians leaders to push their believers to come on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We assume, and I think it is correct, that there’s a desire to come and visit,” Pini Shani, deputy director general and head of marketing administration of the Israel Ministry of Tourism, shared with CNA.

Hopes for the 2025 Jubilee

In 2025 there will be two interesting events for religious tourism in the Holy Land.

“A special exhibition of the Isahia scrolls will be held in 2025 at the Israel Museum to commemorate its 60th anniversary. We are confident that many people will show interest. We will try to engage people who come on pilgrimage to the Holy Land to visit this special exhibition,” Shani said.

Furthermore, in 2025, Catholics will celebrate a jubilee year.

“We were very encouraged by the pope’s call for the jubilee,” Shani said. “The churches of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the Annunciation in Nazareth, and the Nativity in Bethlehem will be jubilee places; people will be encouraged to visit them, and we’re sure it will help to recover tourism.”

Some pilgrims pray at the eighth station of the Via Crucis. The holy sites and the streets of the Old City, usually crowded with tourists and pilgrims at this time of year, have been empty for the past eight months due to the war. “We want to encourage Jews and Christians leaders to push their believers to come on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land,” Pini Shani, deputy director general and head of marketing administration of the Israel Ministry of Tourism, told CNA. May 2024. Credit: Marinella Bandini

The main Christian religious leaders in the Holy Land have never stopped issuing appeals to pilgrims to return to the holy places. “Do not be afraid, return to Jerusalem and to the Holy Land! Your presence is always a presence of peace, and we sincerely need peace today; may you come and bring us your peace,” said the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, at the end of the Palm Sunday procession.

An echo of those words is found in the message released by the Dicastery for Evangelization on May 28, on the occasion of the 45th World Tourism Day, to be held on Sept. 27 on the theme “Tourism and Peace.” 

“The interest that moves millions of tourists can easily be linked with the commitment to brotherhood, so as to constitute a network of ‘messengers of peace’ who speak to the entire world to invoke the end of all war and the reopening of territories full of history, culture, and faith. ... Being peace-builders is not only possible; it is required of those who embark on a journey,” the dicastery’s message said.  

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Marinella Bandini

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