Tourism for Peace and Peace for Tourism
Eritrean Tourism Services Association
*Editor’s Note: World Tourism Day is commemorated every year on 27 September. Eritrea’s beautiful coastline, numerous historical sites, and rich, diverse culture, hold enormous potential for promoting tourism. Here, the Eritrean Tourism Services Association discusses WTD and the importance of recent peace initiatives across the Horn of Africa.
World Tourism Day (WTD), celebrated every 27 September around the world, is a unique opportunity to raise awareness about tourism’s contribution to economic growth and sustainable development. With increasing globalization and disposable income, tourism has over the last few decades become one of the largest and fastest growing industries. Specifically, tourism is one of the most dynamic socioeconomic sectors in the world today, and constitutes approximately 10-15 percent of the global economy.
This year, WTD will help to put the opportunities provided to tourism, via technological advances including big data, artificial intelligence and digital platforms, on the map of sustainable development. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) sees digital advances and innovation as part of the solution to the challenge of marrying continued growth with a more sustainable and responsible tourism sector.
The Eritrean Tourism Services Association recognizes and celebrates this important day by promoting the theme “Tourism for Peace and Peace for Tourism”. This theme is particularly relevant and timely, as Eritrea has successfully overcome many obstacles to its steady development, and is now becoming an important focal point for peace, cooperation, and solidarity in the Horn of Africa.
In terms of tourism, every day people from all walks of life set out from their homes to travel and discover the many wonders that this unique planet has to offer. Annually, there are more than one billion (approximately 1,320,000) tourists. They travel far and near, exploring the exciting to the mundane. Tourists seek comfort, but at the same time are not deterred by harsh climates (such as that of the Danakil Depression). However, they do not actively seek out conflict or unstable regions.
Out of the large number of tourists, approximately only fifty five million (55,000,000) visit Africa. This is quite low, representing only 4.2% of the total tourists travelling around the world. By comparison, annually there are more than 59 million tourists visiting China. Where do the rest of the majority of tourists, comprising about 95.8% travel? They travel to Europe, Asia, the Americas and Australia.
One of the fundamental criteria for attracting tourists is peace, which brings forth numerous benefits. Globally, the income generated from the huge number of tourists is in the trillions of dollars. It is not to be forgotten, however, that technology has reduced our large earth to a mere village. Thus, technology, in many ways, has brought (and is bringing) the people of the world closer than ever. Following the recent developments toward peace in the Horn of Africa, the number of tourists visiting Eritrea (and planning to) has noticeably risen. This trend is similar throughout many other parts of the Horn of Africa. With this in mind, the Eritrean Travel and Tourism Association has chosen the timely theme “Peace for Tourism” to celebrate WTD. When a peaceful country opens its doors, the flow of tourists seeking to visit the country, to experience its vast geographical, archaeological, and cultural richness, and see the unique tradition of its people, automatically increases.
As the saying goes, “peace is costly, but it is worth the expense”. The people of Eritrea have paid a heavy price to defend the country against various challenges for more than two decades. Finally, peace has been achieved and the “no peace, no war” situation has become history. It is gratifying to note that the leaders and the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia, as well as the countries of the region, are looking forward to writing a new chapter. It is one that will be based on friendship, solidarity, partnership, and economic cooperation. It is history in the making.
The theme “Tourism for Peace” is about bringing people together, learning about each other, and embracing the connectedness of all peoples and things. The idea of “Tourism for Peace” brings together “hosts” and “guests” – those in residence of a particular country, culture or business, and those visiting it – to learn about each other. It allows for understanding and appreciating diverse cultural beliefs, art, music, foods, stories, spiritual ceremonies, and the natural world (such as waterfalls, mountains, oceans, animals, and plants).
Peace is all around us, if we would just choose it. Peace is present when we honor our interconnectedness with others. It is present when we focus on our oneness and similarities, not our separateness and differences. Peace is expressed through the principles of unity, justice, cooperation, partnership, creativity, and trust. We can learn to embody these each day.
All peace loving people generally enjoy becoming a good host to any visiting traveler, as long as that traveler is respectful. It is mutual respect. Historically renowned travelers travelled all corners of the globe – the famous Marco Polo and colleagues went all the way to the Far East. As history tells it, they had a remarkable time with the mighty Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan. They went in peace and returned to their homeland peacefully after a journey lasting nearly a quarter of a century.
Today, at a time when challenges like extremism, fundamentalism, and terrorism regularly surface the globe, the people of the world earnestly want peace, friendship, and understanding. Tourism, and its associated benefits, can only occur within a context of peace and stability, not war and insecurity. It could be said that “peace has to be the order of the day, everyday”. It is with this in mind that the Eritrean Tourism Services Association commemorates and celebrates the annual World Tourism Day. The Association firmly believes that the Horn of Africa, and Eritrea, can and will be an exemplary tourist destination in general.