Tourism can play a key role in building peace and supporting reconciliation processes, concluded the UNWTO conference on “Tourism, a catalyst for development, peace and reconciliation” held in Passikudah, Sri Lanka July 11-14.
Community engagement and empowerment, capacity building and training, and public/private sector partnerships are key factors in advancing a culture of peace through tourism in post-conflict societies. Participants recalled the importance of placing tourism at the heart of the peace and reconciliation agenda, to ensure the sector can deliver on its capacity to generate development and social inclusion.
“For most of the last 30 years this place has been a war zone. Today, Passikudah is an example of how people affected by conflict have picked up the pieces and rebuilt their lives. We would not be meeting here if it were not for peace,” said the Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs and Lands of Sri Lanka, John Amaratunga. “We will work to provide an example to the world on how to rise from the ashes of conflict to become a leading tourism destination.”
“We face a deficit of tolerance. Tourism brings people together; it opens our minds and hearts,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, opening the conference. “Yet to gain peace we need to give people opportunities for a better future; we need to create jobs and bring them hope.”
The conference focused on four main topics: the contribution of tourism development to peace, local community involvement and “peace sensitive tourism,” public/private partnerships, and marketing in post-conflict destinations.