UNWTO Conference on Religions and Dialogue of Cultures

Travel News Asia Latest Travel News Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Tourism is well established as one of the most dynamic economic sectors and also represents an important social phenomenon of our time. Tourism not only fosters economic development but has also vast potential to contribute to the improvement of relations among different nations, peoples, cultures and religions. These issues will be highlighted during the Conference on Religions and Dialogue of Cultures, Cordoba, Spain, 2931 October 2007, convened by the UNWTO with the support of the Government of Spain.

International tourism flows are experiencing continued growth at the same time that tourism destinations are diversifying geographically, reaching all cultures and civilizations. Between the years 2000 and 2006 alone, international tourism grew from 684 million to 846 million arrivals and UNWTO forecasts nearly 1.6 billion in 2020.

At the same time, religions motivate people to travel, and trips for religious reasons have multiplied over the past decades thanks to the facilitation of transport and the expansion of hotel accommodation that has accompanied the development of tourism in the late 20th and early 21st century. Religious motivations that generate tourism trips include pilgrimages, the fulfilment of pledges, religious celebrations, visits to notable buildings or monuments of a religious nature and offerings to divinities, among others.

In a geopolitical context with no shortage of international tensions, which in many cases are precisely the result of lacking cultural and religious understanding, tourism can make an effective contribution as one of the few sectors which interacts both with sustainable development and international understanding.

Tourism is a mechanism that makes person-to-person encounters possible; these in turn foster understanding of the differences among societies. Tourism makes it possible to establish bonds among persons who would otherwise continue to view each other with wariness and mistrust. In short, tourism is capable of contributing to a dialogue of civilizations that can lead to a world of stable and lasting peace, said UNWTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli.

As an activity which cuts across the majority of economic sectors, tourism can serve as a common social denominator. The underlying intercultural exchange contributes to the enrichment of civilizations and can close the gaps that separate people and their points of view.

All of this lies at the centre of the international Cordoba meeting, which will bring together public and private stakeholders, the academic community and religious leaders from all faiths, which have already confirmed their participation.

The Conference on Religions and Dialogue of Cultures aims at:

- Analyzing the relationships between tourism and religion and how to optimize their synergies and interactions by harnessing tourism's potential to stimulate and facilitate dialogue among civilizations, cultures and religions. 

- Offering orientations and recommendations to governments, religious authorities and tourism operators for the sustainable development and management of tourism motivated by religious purposes or associated with religious heritage sites, as well as regarding how to optimize the benefits that such tourism can generate.

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