Is tourism a potential tool for peace-building efforts?
Tourism is very vulnerable to any form of conflict and thus highly dependent on a certain level of security and safety in order to carry out its operations, cater for tourist arrivals and develop new destinations. The absence of peace leads to an absence of tourism and a minimal level of security and safety is a prerequisite for the tourism industry to function. The most recent example is the Arab Spring and its negative impact on tourism. At the same time the tourism sector is highly resilient, recovers in the aftermath of a conflict very rapidly and is able to adapt its activities to particular circumstances.
UNWTO «International Handbook on Tourism and Peace» published
The recently published International Handbook on Tourism and Peace provides an overview of the most important areas of tourism as a potential tool for peace-building efforts. With examples from all over the world – among others the Alps-Adriatic region, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Kenya and Colombia – scientists, practitioners and politicians around the world contribute to the overall discussion on the complex issue of how, and to what degree, tourism can help to achieve and preserve peace – both within a society as well as between societies. The editors of the book advocate for ‘peace-sensitive tourism’. By placing tourism in the context of other peace-promoting activities, they believe it is possible to identify the specific contributions of tourism for peace. It is argued that tourism can help to build the blocks of peace, such as social justice, human rights, economic equity, sustainable development and broad – based democracy plus the capability of non-violent conflict resolution.
COMPASS contributed a handbook chapter
COMPASS and our research partner swisspeace in Bern had the honor of submitting one of the most relevant articles for the handbook that comprises the most important findings of our joint study (we already did in 2009) on the role of the tourism private sector in peace building efforts. In scope of this study we researched the three country cases of Rwanda, Sri Lanka and Croatia very intensively and up to now this is one of the only case studies about the private tourism sector in conflict affected tourism destinations.
Open questions still remain
Although among researchers it seems to be a common sense that tourism can be a tool for peace building, tourism stakeholders often lack the understanding and capacity on how practically reduce the risk of conflict, let alone how to avoid a negative impact on the conflict. Neither do they fully understand how they can harness the positive contribution of their business towards peace-building.
This lack of knowledge on how to proactively use tourism as an instrument for peace-building efforts in conflict-prone settings is remarkable, since tourism is one of the largest industries with an immense global economic power that involves a multitude of different actors of different types and sizes and is closely intertwined with the landscapes, towns, and other economic sectors, politics and the social environment in the destinations. Given that it touches almost all aspects of everyday life of the local populations in the destinations and brings, if managed sustainably, many social, economic, environmental and cultural benefits, it is only right to start harnessing its peacebuilding potential!
New research intention
It is this lack of understanding and capacity that further research should address, COMPASS together with the University of Klagenfurt, Austria and its Center for Peace Research actually is working on a new reseach study that will focus on the question “How to Strengthen the Role of the Tourism Private Sector in Peace Building Efforts?” At the moment, we are in the funding phase….
Do you have experiences, ideas or similar that you would like to share? We are looking forward to your comments and keep you posted about this issue.
All the best,