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World Tourism Day 2017

posted Sep 21, 2017, 5:59 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 21, 2017, 5:59 PM ]
On the occasion of World Tourism Day, celebrated on September 27, the Church joins civil society in addressing this phenomenon, in the conviction that every genuinely human activity must find its place in the hearts of Christ's disciples. The theme chosen for this year is: "Sustainable tourism: a tool for development". 

For the first time, this message is issued by the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, as part of its mission. When we say tourism, we are talking about a phenomenon of major importance, both in light of the number of people involved (travellers and workers) and for the many benefits that it can bring to society (economic, cultural and social), but also given the risks and dangers that it can create in many areas. 

According to the World Tourism Organisation's latest Barometer for the year 2016, the number of international tourist arrivals is around 1.2 billion. Worldwide, the sector accounts for 10 per cent of GDP and seven per cent of total exports, also considering that one out of 11 jobs are in tourism. It therefore occupies an important place in the economies of individual states and in policies that focus on inclusive development and environmental sustainability globally. 

Tourism can be an important tool for growth and the fight against poverty. Nevertheless, according to the Church's social doctrine, true development "cannot be restricted to economic growth alone." In fact, "to be authentic, it must be well rounded"; that is, 'it must foster the development of each man and of the whole man - including material and spiritual needs for the full development of each person in dignity', as the Encyclical Populorum progressio notes. 

In 1987, the UN introduced the concept of sustainable development as a development that "meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." For the Church, the concept of integrality, when connected to the expression "human development", also includes the United Nations' idea of sustainability, and embraces all aspects of life: social, economic, political, cultural and spiritual - making them elements in a single synthesis - the human person. 

Promoting sustainable tourism means that it must be responsible, and not destructive or detrimental to the environment nor to the socio-cultural context of the locality. Moreover, it must be particularly respectful of the population and their heritage, with a view to safeguarding personal dignity and labour rights, especially those of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people. 

In its 2017 Resolution, the United Nations recognises "the important role of sustainable tourism as a positive instrument towards the eradication of poverty, the protection of the environment, the improvement of quality of life and the economic empowerment of women and youth and its contribution to the three dimensions of sustainable development, especially in developing countries." 

In this sense, three dimensions of sustainability are promoted: the ecological - aiming for the maintenance of ecosystems; the social - which develops in harmony with the host community; and the economic - which stimulates inclusive growth. 

The Church is called to promote the integral development of the human person in the light of the Gospel. Christians who wish to offer their contribution to tourism must assist in the development of peoples, especially the most disadvantaged. We must put the human person as the focus of our attention; we recognise the dignity of each person and the relationships among persons; we must share the principle of the common destiny of the human family and the universal destination of earthly goods. 

The human being acts not as a master, but as a 'responsible steward'. In acknowledging each other as brothers and sisters and as gratuitous gifts of God, we will pursue our duties of solidarity, justice and universal charity. 

Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development