This paper will discuss the relationship between tourism and peace while presenting various opinions and the example of the Israeli 'Island of Peace'.
Let me introduce you to a topic that is obviously more than controversial. Politicians, tourism experts and researchers think that tourism generates peace in a country. Many touristic organisations were founded in order to create peace. But is it genuinely possible; can tourism lead to peace?
As I already said, there are many different opinions related to this topic. However, it should be useful at the beginning to define 'peace' and 'tourism' in a more discriminating way. While searching for explanations in dictionaries, peace will be defined as an absence of war. This would mean that every country provides peaceful living conditions as long as it does not suffer from a war. However, I think that it is questionable to talk about peaceful circumstances when a country has to face political unrest, terrorism or the outbreak of a severe disease. Moreover, it seems likely that people from different cultures and ethnical backgrounds have a different understanding of peace. So when we talk about peace, it is a highly subjective matter. For some people, peace is the absence of physical and structural violence, but others describe it as the presence of justice.
Tourism in general entails the movement of people to countries or places outside their usual environment for personal or professional purposes. Enlarging this definition, people who travel around can get to know different countries, their inhabitants, cultures, traditions and finally an 'international understanding'.
However, as you can see, there are many different attempts to define tourism and peace. In order to discuss whether tourism can lead to peace or whether peace comes first, some of the various opinions are presented in the following. On the one hand, nowadays tourists are very sensitive to tourist attacks and political instability in a destination. Therefore, I would rather suspect that the tourism industry requires peace and tranquillity in order to exist and flourish. A further opinion is that peace building can only reached through a number of political actions, decisions and treaties. As a consequence, in this case peace would rather contribute to tourism than the other way round. On the other hand, several organisations like Tourism for Peace, Peace Boat or the International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT) aim at peace building through tourism by creating unity and understanding between the nations. This may be an evidence for the hypothesis that tourism actually can lead to peace, but we have to consider that surely not every form of tourism can create this international understanding. As a result, the term 'tourism' in connection with peace has to be differentiated, as e.g. alternative forms of tourism like volunteer tourism, pilgrimage, ecotourism or sustainable tourism do rather focus on these peace building purposes than others.
Peace building was likewise the purpose of a project conducted in Israel. The state of Israel is known for its several ups and downs, as it has endured seven official wars, an 18 years conflict in southern Lebanon, two intifadas and armed uprisings by Palestinians, as well as countless terrorist attacks since 1948. Even if the country still has to face those crises, the interest in visiting Israel seems to increase from year to year. Consequently, the example of Israel could be evidence for the presumption that tourists still visit countries which are rather unsafe, as long as there is an interesting touristic offer. Israel enjoyed e.g. a surprisingly 26% growth in tourist arrivals from 2009 to 2010. One reason for such a growth could be the project I mentioned previously. A so called 'Island of Peace' has been built, which is a protected area that spans the boundaries of Israel, Jordan and Syria and in which visitors are allowed to move free around without having to fear terrorist attacks. This area actually was a location where battles between the three countries often took place. Nowadays, however, it is a popular tourist attraction because visitors can enjoy the boundaries of Israel and Jordan while being protected and guided. So in this case, tourism through peace has been successfully promoted.
To sum up, several opinions regarding the relationship between tourism and peace were presented, but there still is plenty room for debate. In my opinion, tourism and peace are simply in a co-relationship and they influence each other positively in some ways. In addition, tourism i.e. certain alternative forms probably belong to one of the vital forces which can improve economic growth, development and peace in a destination. Nevertheless, we have to consider that all of the forces influence each other, so there will be no 'what comes first', but only a 'how do they make our life easier and more bearable?'.
D'Amore, L. (1988a) Tourism - A vital force for peace. Tourism Management, 9 (2), pp. 151 - 154.
IIPT (2008) International Institute for Peace through Tourism: Mission statement. [Online]. Available from: http://www.iipt.org/AboutUs.html [Accessed: 20 April 2012].
Gelbman, A. and Maoz, D. (2012) Island of peace or island of war: Tourist guiding. Annals of Tourism Research, 39 (1), pp. 108 - 133.
Keywords: alternative tourism, peace, peace building, Israel, Island of Peace