On 21st September of every year different cities all over the world celebrate the International Day of Peace . As an Egyptian historian working in the field of tourism and dedicating as much time and effort as possible for community projects , one question kept forcing itself " Under which circumstances can peace be promoted through tourism? "
Through out the past 19 years myself and my two co-founders, became more involved in conducting tours from the West to the East and we eventually became very aware of our role in supporting global peace and one of our main objectives became presenting openly our culture and religions. Yet with the rapidly changing world around us , we had to work for a broader objective, we needed the travelers and the locals to be more open to fostering global peace and from there the belief of Peace Through Tourism was born . After all ‘Peace Begins in the Heart and Reaches around the World’.
We believed that Tourism has extremely complex facets through which identities and world views are continuously being represented, consumed, reconfirmed, negotiated and modified. It is as a free zone where people can exchange and learn a great deal about cultures and interact with people from other cultures and in the same time provide a solid economic foundation for better lives. On the first of Sep 2010 we have announced our initiative ( Peace Through Tourism). The first activity was carried out on 21 Sep where we have invited various NGOs representing different activities in the community in addition to inviting school students between the ages of 15-18 years to present their art work (photos and songs) and give them a chance to express their views of peace, solidarity, unity and integration in their communities. The other regular events of this initiative were carried out through a special type of travel called Voluntourism. Voluntourism is the broad name given to the combination of travel with volunteering in countries or communities affected by poverty, disaster or threats to their survival. Our vision is to spread more this type of travel to make Tourism, the first 'global peace industry' where every traveler is potentially an 'Ambassador for Peace'. The gulf of misunderstanding was growing wider as people worldwide, have fallen stronger in the trap of reinforcing stereotypes and deepening misperceptions instead of promoting a better understanding between all. When we encourage direct, spontaneous and non-mediatized contacts it will allow men and women of different cultures and lifestyles to beneficially interact with each other and overcome any kind of a clash of religions and civilizations. We aimed to make the tourists and the locals own the kind of attitude that considers the ‘Other’ as an opportunity for emotional growth, where the encounter with the ‘Other’ is managed in a culturally nonviolent way. That is why in addition to volunteering in community service projects in Egypt, we also requested from all participants and locals to evaluate their attitudes and manners in dealing with a foreign culture and religion. They both reached the same conclusion , we suffer from two things a “knowledge deficit”, and a “communication deficit”. These deficits needed promoting communication, foster connectedness, cooperation and understanding between individuals, communities and countries. Participants and locals were encouraged to exchange information on their religions , social traditions, cultures and even political views . The end result has always been the same for all as they have found it a life changing experience that helped them build new friendships and close on cultural gaps.
The peace-through-tourism idea is rapidly gaining ground among policy makers and industry representatives, volunteers and locals who are dedicated to fostering international understanding and cooperation, the preservation of heritage, and consequently help to bring about a peaceful and a sustainable world .I invite any of you who believe in the importance of spreading a Culture of Peace to work with us in reaching more people worldwide.