Not one to feel comfortable using the word “I” in writing, on this occasion I will absorb the discomfort and make an exception. Reason being, in this sharing the ‘I’ extends far beyond me.

In brief, on May 16th, 2019. the United Nations’ International Day of Living Together in Peace which is defined and designed to be one for “mobilising those in the international community to promote peace, tolerance, inclusion, understanding and solidarity”, the title of Ambassador For Peace At Large For Global Relations was bestowed upon me by the IIPT, the International Institute For Peace Through Tourism.

I was deeply touched by the honour, and the reaction of colleagues, clients, friends and family, near and far. And I was quite silenced thinking ‘what does it actually mean? What does it mean to get this title at this time in my career? What does this mean for my future focus in working to develop peace through tourism.

And ultimately, why do we need an organi​s​ation like the IIPT?’

Why indeed.

The IIPT as an organi​s​ation has been around for decades. Its mission is to promote peace through tourism’s ability to connect people, places, and possibilities. It hasn’t changed since 1986, even as the world around it, and peace itself, has taken on new challenges and meaning. Its reason for being has endured, actually strengthened.

Suddenly it was clear: the appointment was not a recognition of my work in the past. It was, in fact, a clear statement of expectation of my work in the future.

And here is why: becau​s​e now more than ever our world needs travel and tourism, to not only promote all that our shared world has to offer – socially, culturally, economically and environmentally – but to protect it.

Today we are bles​s​ed to live in a world without borders. Nowhere is out of bounds either in our imagination or infrastructure. We have the ability to get from A to B, right through to the end of the alphabet, as often, as frequently, and quite honestly, as indulgently as we wish. If we have the means – the time, the funds, the motivation, the inspiration, the facilitation, we have the ability to move anywhere.

As I say repeatedly from whichever stage I am blessed to speak, there is no industry in the world that demonstrates the desire of the people of the world to come together to understand and appreciate one another like travel and tourism. It is travel and tourism that inspires people to invest their time, money and energy to cross the street or cross the world to discover the other – exploring differences in people and places to understand, appreciate, and respect.

That is how tourism has become a vehicle for peace. And right now we need this proactive, empowering, and uniting vehicle for bridge-building, a force for good that works every day to unlock people’s ability to venture out into the world to feed their curiosity, find their compassion, to give, not just take.

For years, the linear premise of tourism being a vehicle for peace would yield questioning, often incredulous looks. The leap was too far. And then the early two thousands happened. Where tourism was one seen as peripheral, as recreational, a non-essential, in the last 15 years it has become an essential part of life for both travellers and locals alike. Business Development requires tourism. Understanding of the global community around us requires tourism. Economic opportunity requires tourism. Social stability and unity requires tourism. Local identity required tourism. The potential of the world to really see the value in which it holds together as well as independently requires tourism.

Importantly, without travel and tourism, we lose the opportunity for economic expansion that raises the baseline for billions, the opportunity for social understanding and inclusivity, the opportunity for environmental protection and preser​v​ation, the vital ways in which we can ensure that, for generations to come, proudly and purposefully protecting and preserving what Mother Nature gave us, and ultimately allowing us to see, feel, that it is our differences that unite us.

It is through our differences that we learn compassion, we learn understanding, we learn respect. This applies to not only how we see and accept responsibility for our engagement with other people. It is also about how we engage with the environment around us, living harmoniously with Mother Nature.

Powerfully, to travel is to also learn about oneself.

It is through tourism that all of these prisms of life are brought to life, creating connection. That connection creates harmony, which in turn, at scale, creates peace.

This truism has always been central to the IIPT, champions of the message that we as travellers around the world have a responsibility to vocali​s​e the invaluable impact of tourism beyond the tourists. It is our responsibility to vocali​s​e just how blessed we are to be able to reach out into the world, and in doing so, to actively work to knock down walls where differences are being used as a way of separating people, politics, policies, philosophies, and ultimately hearts.

The need for all of us to stand up and work for peace has become ever more personal. Now, right here and right now, travellers of the world need to embrace it is not someone else’s responsibility, it is all of ours. It is mine.

As we look at the UN SDGs and the 17 ways in which the goals develop a framework not just at government and corporate level, but at a citizen level, to examine how we can play our part to shape a truly sustainable world, there is an overt need to, through tourism, directly strengthen the fabric of our shared global community and home, for all people and places, all creatures great and small, all of Mother Nature’s creation.

I will forever be grateful to the IIPT for this moment, this mandate. I am committed to serving the sector, now in a way that brings greater credibility, exposure, and inclusiveness of the IIPT into the global community as a part of the DNA of our sector truly being a force for good.

Now is the time, the perfect time, to get to work. x


Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2019