The stark realities of conflict situations and the
impact on tourism have been vividly illustrated in presentations made at a World Tourism
Day event organized by IIPT-Australia Chapter in conjunction with Australia Travel
and Tourism Professionals and Intrepid Travel.Post conflict transition consultant
and Commonwealth scholar, Nimalan Karthikeyan, spoke about the situation in Sri
Lanka and Intrepid Travel’s Responsible Travel Manager, Jane Crouch, about her
experiences in East Timor.
As designated by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the main purpose of World
Tourism Day is to foster awareness among the international community
of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic
values. Each year there is a different host country and theme - this year’s host
country was Sri Lanka (an active UNWTO Member for 30 years) with the theme, Tourism
opens doors for Women.
Both speakers spoke about the potential and economic importance of tourism, the role
and position of women in society and how tourism could open doors for women and
provide additional income to help support families. However, progress in recent
times has been significantly negated by the internal conflicts in both countries.
Karthikeyan pointed out that Sri Lanka’s patriarchal society already presented
difficulties for women, but this paled in significance when compared to the major
problems resulting from the internal conflict in Sri Lanka’s northeast, where there
are 47,500 war widows and 30,000 households headed by a female.
In a country that had been traumatized by conflict for so long, Crouch spoke about
her post independence discussions with the East Timorese to discover their attitudes
towards tourism. She then accompanied the first small group of travellers to East
Timor in May 2003 and subsequent groups organized by Intrepid Travel. Last year,
Crouch took long service leave and went as an Australian Aid Volunteer to work with
the Timor Leste Ministry of Foreign Affairs to assist in the development of tourism.
Unfortunately, with the outbreak of internal conflict and fighting she had to be
evacuated after only 12 days.
However, she later returned to East Timor to work as PA for Timor Leste’s first
lady, Kirsty Sword Gusmao and her Alola Foundation, which assists women and
children. Once again, as in Sri Lanka, armed conflicts result in a growing number of
widows and children who have lost their breadwinners. Added to the problems
associated with the loss of husbands and fathers, is that most Timorese families are
large with 8-10 children.
In his WTD Message, UNWTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli said, “One of the
most important characteristics of tourism is its great capacity to create employment
for women and for youth and particularly at a community level in poor countries.
This is a major potential for responding to the war on poverty.”
IIPT Australian president Daphne Lowe Kelley stressed the importance of building a
culture of peace and not war, and that building a culture of peace through tourism
is a journey that the travel and tourism industry could take in helping to make a
more peaceful, just and sustainable world for all.
Since its formation in 1986, IIPT Founder and President Louis D’Amore has led the
way in promoting a “higher purpose” of tourism, with the belief that Travel and
Tourism can be the world’s first global peace industry and every traveller is
potentially an Ambassador for Peace.