World Tourism Day 2011

Anil Hajarimayum *

UNWTO logo

The World Tourism Day has been observed every year on 27th September since 1980 by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTOJ. Its purpose is to foster awareness among the international community on the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value.

The event seeks to address global challenges outlined in the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to eradicate poverty, hunger and disease, fight gender inequality and foster sustainable development by 2015 and to highlight the contribution the tourism sector can make in reaching these goals.

The event will also highlight the responsible and sustainable tourism which helps destinations and companies to minimize the negative impacts of tourism on the environment and on cultural heritage while maximising its economic and social benefits.

In October 1997, the 12 Session of the UNWTO General Assembly decided to designate a host country each year to act as the Organisation's partner in the celebration of World Tourism Day. On its Fifteenth Session in Beijing, China in October 2003, the Assembly decided to follow geographical order for World Tourism Day celebrations: 2006 in Europe; 2007 in South Asia; 2008 in the Americas; 2009 in Africa; 2010 in Asia Pacific and 2011 in the Middle East.

This year World Tourism Day (WTD) 2011 is taking place under the theme "Tourism - linking cultures" and is a celebration of tourism's role in breaking down barriers across cultures and encouraging tolerance, respect and mutual understanding. Tourists travel to a different country, coming into direct contact with tangible - art, monuments; and intangible - music, food, traditions and culture.

World Tourism Day 2011 is a celebration of this unique interaction and aims at furthering understanding of the values of cultural diversity. And Egypt, home to some of the world's most celebrated cultural heritage and a leading tourism destination, will host the official 2011 World Tourism Day (WTD) celebrations.

Official planned WTD activities in Aswan, Egypt will include a High-Level Think Tank on the 2011 theme, at which leading public and private tourism stakeholders, academia and the media will address the role of tourism in building understanding, respect and tolerance worldwide.

World Tourism Day 2011 will draw attention to the importance of preserving and promoting the cultures of the world in all their forms. Culture, which compels millions of tourists to travel and spend, is of immense value in itself, but is also a vital tool for the development of a sustainable tourism sector.

Culture is one of our most precious assets and needs protecting. Cultural tourism forms an important component of international tourism in our nowadays world. It has a high potential for contributing to the reduction of poverty in poor and remote destinations, which are rich of intangible cultural resources, such as customs or folklore.

The better way to learn about a new culture is to experience it first-hand. Tourism offers a wonderful connecting thread between visitor and host community. It promotes dialogue and interaction. Such contact between people of different and diverse backgrounds is the very foundation for tolerance. In a world struggling for peaceful coexistence, tourism can build bridges and contribute to peace.

This year's theme is a celebration of tourism's role in linking together the cultures of the world through travel. With millions of people travelling the world each year, there is tremendous increase of tourist population which are newly exposed to other cultures.

This interaction between individuals and communities, and their diverse cultures, leads to tolerance, respect and mutual understanding - the building blocks for a more peaceful world. In today's world, these values represent the stepping stones towards a more peaceful future.

Tourism is not merely an economic and commercial activity, but one of the world's principal instruments for human interaction. There is no better way to learn about a new culture than to experience it first-hand.

Every people and every place possess a unique culture. Experiencing different ways of life, discovering new food and customs and visiting cultural sites have become leading motivations for travel, and as a result, a crucial source of revenue and job creation, particularly for developing countries. Income from tourism is often redirected towards the safeguarding of these sites and even the revitalization of cultures.

Recently North-East India has become a must-go tourist destination. Its enchanting hills, dancing rivers, roaring waterfalls, thick and dark forests, innumerable varieties of flora and fauna, melodious folk music, thrilling dances and festivals, variety of many delicious dishes, handlooms and handicrafts, and above all its green landscape used to attract people from different parts of the world for many years.

Manipur, one of the constituent states of the region, rich in its history and culture, and also an embodiment of the natural beauty and grace, a true representative of the region, but has never been at the centre stage of tourist attraction because of its political instability and lack of infrastructure. Tourists are reluctant to travel to a trouble torn state as they need a safe destination.

As the World Tourism Day comes let's grasp the opportunity to reflect on the importance of preserving and promoting of one's cultural heritage and hope one day Manipur becomes preferred international tourist destination.

On this observance let us also engage with other cultures and celebrate human diversity by recognizing tourism as a force for a more tolerant, open and united world for a global well being.

* Anil Hajarimayum wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition)
This article was posted on October 11, 2011.

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