While terror and conflict have made cities like Cairo, Istanbul, Tehran, Kabul and Baghdad no-go zones for holidaymakers, tourists still retain a crucial role in fostering peace and preventing bloodshed.
This is one of the key messages of the Global Sustainable Tourism Dashboard published online today to mark 2017 as the United Nations International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
The interactive dashboard, created by tourism researchers at Griffith University and the University of Surrey, monitors and analyses data on the aspects of tourism that most influence and affect sustainable development around the world.
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The seven areas are poverty alleviation, equality of travel, carbon emissions, resource efficiency, gender equity, protected areas and security.
“The dashboard is telling us that there are conflict zones and we should not go there,” Professor Susanne Becken, (pictured), Director of the Griffith Institute for Tourism, said. “But it is also telling us it is safe to travel, and the benefits of travelling far outweigh any risks.”
Latest dashboard data reveal that in 2015 the likelihood of a person being killed in a tourism-related terror attack was slightly more than a one-in-a-million chance (1.4), and this risk was mainly confined to one region incorporating the Middle East, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Tourism as a force for peace can play an important role in helping to bring stability to some of these troubled regions,” Professor Becken said. “Travel increases our understanding of otherness and helps to build cultural understanding.
“It also has a powerful potential to provide a point of reconciliation with the past. War memorials and the sites of battlefields which present interpretations can help people who are affected by conflict to digest and reflect regardless of what side they come from.”
Tourism and peace building
Professor Becken spotlighted the role of the tour guide in such settings, and emphasised the need for thorough training of guides. “It is a role of significant influence that requires sensitivity, understanding and the right people skills. Careful, appropriate training can have a far-reaching impact over time.”
The Global Sustainable Tourism Dashboard has been compiled in collaboration with Professor Graham Miller at the University of Surrey and industry organisations like EarthCheck, Amadeus, World Travel and Tourism Council, Greenview and the International Tourism Partnership.
“I think the whole point of this is to draw attention to the fact that tourism can help achieve sustainable development,” Professor Becken said.
“It can bring prosperity and equity into less developed countries and regions. It has an important role in intercultural understanding and peace building, and if managed well it can also support nature conservation.
“This means that the everyday traveller can make a contribution just by travelling. With greater mindfulness about the positive and negative impacts of their decisions and actions as travellers, they can have an even more telling impact.”