07/11/2014, 00.00
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Tourism can contribute to "integral human development"

In his message for World Tourism Day, the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant notes that tourism can be an instrument of progress, provided that its benefits reach all sectors of the host society. "It is also essential that these benefits follow ethical criteria that are, above all, respectful to people both at a community level and to each person, and avoid a purely economic conception of society".

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Tourism can contribute to "integral human development" by reducing poverty in disadvantaged areas," said cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò, president Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, in his message for World Tourism Day, which is celebrated on 27 September.

"If properly developed, it can be a valuable instrument for progress, job creation, infrastructure development and economic growth." But for this to happen, "It is imperative that the economic benefits of tourism reach all sectors of local society, and have a direct impact on families, while at the same time take full advantage of local human resources."

The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) chose 'Tourism and Community Development' as this year's theme. The notion of community development is closely linked to a broader concept that is part of the Church's social teaching, which is "integral human development". It is through this latter term that we understand and interpret the former.

In this regard, Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Populorum Progressio helps us understand that tourism should be directed towards achieving progress that is balanced, sustainable and respectful in three areas: economic, social and environmental. 

"Tourism is a key driver of economic development, given its major contribution to GDP (between 3% and 5% worldwide), employment (between 7% and 8% of the jobs) and exports (30% of global exports of services).

As the world diversifies in terms of destinations, "tourism is one of the most viable and sustainable options to reduce poverty in the most deprived areas," becoming "a valuable instrument for progress, job creation, infrastructure development and economic growth. Hence, tourism becomes one of the sectors with the most capacity to generate a wide range of "creative" jobs to the benefit of the most disadvantaged groups.

For this to happen, "It is also essential that these benefits follow ethical criteria that are, above all, respectful to people both at a community level and to each person, and avoid a purely economic conception of society that seeks selfish benefit, regardless of the parameters of social justice. No one can build his prosperity at the expense of others."

"The benefits of a tourism promoting 'community development' cannot be reduced to economics alone: there are other dimensions of equal or greater importance," such as "cultural enrichment, opportunities for human encounter, the creation of 'relational goods', the promotion of mutual respect and tolerance, the collaboration between public and private entities, the strengthening of the social fibre and civil society, the improvement of the community's social conditions, the stimulus to sustainable economic and social development, and the promotion of career training for young people, to name but a few."

Local communities "must be the main actor in tourism development". They can make it on "their own, with the active presence of government, social partners and civic bodies," whilst at the same time safeguarding their "natural and cultural heritage".

With this in mind, Christians living in such communities "must be capable of displaying their art, traditions, history, and moral and spiritual values, but, above all, the faith that lies at the root of all these things and gives them meaning."

Parishes in tourist regions should be able to offer "liturgical, educational and cultural events" whilst seeking "to develop a 'friendly pastoral care', which allows them to welcome people with a spirit of openness and fraternity, and project the image of a lively and welcoming community."

Finally, such "pastoral proposals are becoming more important, especially as a type of 'experiential tourism' grows. This type of tourism seeks to establish links with local people and enable visitors to feel like another member of the community, participating in their daily lives, placing value on contact and dialogue."

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