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Conflicts Impact on Tourism and Women

Conflicts Impact on Tourism and Women (Forimmediaterelease.net) (Australia, 28 September 2007) The stark realities of conflict situations and the impact on tourism were vividly illustrated in presentations made at a World Tourism Day event organized by IIPT-Australia Chapter in conjunction with Australia Travel and Tourism Professionals and Intrepid Travel. Post conflict transition consultant and Commonwealth scholar, Nimalan Karthikeyan, spoke about the situation in Sri Lanka and Intrepid Travel’s Responsible Travel Manager, Jane Crouch, about her experiences in East Timor.

As designated by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the main purpose of World Tourism Day (27 September) is to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic values. Each year there is a different host country and theme – this year’s host country was Sri Lanka (an active UNWTO Member for 30 years) with the theme, Tourism opens doors for Women.

Both speakers spoke about the potential and economic importance of tourism, the role and position of women in society and how tourism could open doors for women and provide additional income to help support families. However, progress in recent times has been significantly negated by the internal conflicts in both countries.

Karthikeyan pointed out that Sri Lanka’s patriarchal society already presented difficulties for women, but this paled in significance when compared to the major problems resulting from the internal conflict in Sri Lanka’s northeast, where there are 47,500 war widows and 30,000 households headed by a female.

In a country that had been traumatized by conflict for so long, Crouch spoke about her post independence discussions with the East Timorese to discover their attitudes towards tourism. She then accompanied the first small group of travellers to East Timor in May 2003 and subsequent groups organized by Intrepid Travel. Last year, Crouch took long service leave and went as an Australian Aid Volunteer to work with the Timor Leste Ministry of Foreign Affairs to assist in the development of tourism. Unfortunately, with the outbreak of internal conflict and fighting she had to be evacuated after only 12 days.

However, she later returned to East Timor to work as PA for Timor Leste’s first lady, Kirsty Sword Gusmao and her Alola Foundation, which assists women and children. Once again, as in Sri Lanka, armed conflicts result in a growing number of widows and children who have lost their breadwinners. Added to the problems associated with the loss of husbands and fathers, is that most Timorese families are large with 8-10 children.

In his WTD Message, UNWTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli said, “One of the most important characteristics of tourism is its great capacity to create employment for women and for youth and particularly at a community level in poor countries. This is a major potential for responding to the war on poverty.”

IIPT Australian president Daphne Lowe Kelley stressed the importance of building a culture of peace and not war, and that building a culture of peace through tourism is a journey that the travel and tourism industry could take in helping to make a more peaceful, just and sustainable world for all.

Since its formation in 1986, IIPT Founder and President Louis D’Amore has led the way in promoting a “higher purpose” of tourism, with the belief that Travel and Tourism can be the world’s first global peace industry and every traveller is potentially an Ambassador for Peace.

About International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT)
IIPT is dedicated to fostering and facilitating tourism initiatives which contribute to international understanding and cooperation, an improved quality of environment, the preservation of heritage, and poverty reduction, and through these initiatives, help bring about a more peaceful and sustainable world.

For more information on IIPT please visit: www.iipt.org.

The Bradford Group iiptme@aol.com

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