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BY Jim Cosgrove
At summer's end comes the World Day of Tourism ó Sept. 27. Pope John Paul II has spoken eloquently of the value of vacations during his own down time during recent summers.
He took the opportunity of the World Day of Tourism to weigh in on a problem common in our day: The moral laxity that often accompanies tourism. It manifests itself in small ways ó hotel television pornography ó and large ways: full scale “sex tourism.”
Excerpts from the Holy Father's statement for the World Day of Tourism follow:
The development of tourism, particularly cultural tourism, can undoubtedly benefit both visitors and host communities. Most agree, for instance, that major works of art are important for the insight into civilizations that they provide, and as such they should be more effectively protected by the international community. In some places, however, mass tourism has produced a kind of sub-culture that degrades both the tourists and the host community: it tends to exploit for commercial purposes the traces of “primitive civilizations” and “initiation rites still practiced” in some traditional societies.
For the host communities, tourism often becomes an opportunity to sell so-called “exotic” products: hence the phenomenon of sophisticated holiday resorts that are cut off from any real contact with the culture of the host country or that are marked by a “superficial exoticism” offered to the curious who are eager for new sensations
Sadly, this unchecked desire leads at times to humiliating aberrations, such as the exploitation of women and children in an unscrupulous sex trade which is an intolerable scandal. Every possible measure must be taken to ensure that tourism never becomes a latter-day form of exploitation, but is instead a point of fruitful dialogue between different civilizations in which experiences are exchanged in creative ways.
In a globalized world, tourism is at times an important element in a process of internationalization that can produce radical and irreversible changes in the culture of the host communities.
Driven by consumerism, the culture, religious ceremonies and ethnic festivals can become consumer goods which are increasingly debased in order to meet the demands of a larger number of tourists. In order to satisfy these demands, host communities resort to a “reconstructed ethnicity” which is the opposite of a genuine dialogue between civilizations in which each respects the authenticity and identity of the other....
Let no one succumb to the temptation of making free time a period of “rest from values” (see Angelus message July 4, 1993). On the contrary, an ethic of tourism must be promoted. In this context, the World Ethical Code for Tourism merits attention. It is the fruit of wide-ranging reflection undertaken by various nations and tourism associations, and by the World Tourism Organization.
This document is an important step towards ensuring that tourism is seen not just as one among many economic activities, but as a privileged means for the development of individuals and peoples. Through tourism, the cultural heritage of humanity can be placed more effectively at the service of dialogue between civilizations and the promotion of a stable peace. It should be noted too that this World Ethical Code acknowledges the different motives that lead people to travel the length and breadth of the planet, and refers especially to journeys for religious purposes, such as pilgrimages and visits to shrines.