Vatican promotes 'tourism with a human touch' in seasonal message

ReutersThe Vatican.

A senior Catholic cardinal has marked the summer period by urging tourists to be mindful of other people and the environment around them, respecting the dignity of their surroundings and fellow individuals.

The Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson was speaking on behalf of the Vatican yesterday, according to reports, when he said: 'Holiday time cannot be a pretext either for irresponsibility or for exploitation: in fact, it is a noble time in which everyone can add value to one's own life and that of others.'

According to the Catholic News Agency, the Catholic Church supports the idea of 'sustainable tourism' promoted by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

'This means that it must be responsible, and not destructive or detrimental to the environment nor to the socio-cultural context of the locality,' Cardinal Turkson wrote in a message ahead of World Tourism Day, on September 27.

'Moreover,' he said, 'it must be particularly respectful of the population and their heritage, with a view to safeguarding personal dignity and labour rights, especially those of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people.'

Cardinal Turkson, who is the head of the dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, noted that 'every genuinely human activity' – including tourism – 'must find its place in the hearts of Christ's disciples'.

According to the World Tourism Organization, the number of international tourist arrivals was around 1.2 billion in 2016. Globally, the sector accounts for 10 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and seven per cent of total exports, with one out of every 11 jobs being in tourism.

Therefore, said Turkson, sustainable tourism 'is also a development tool for economies in difficulty if it becomes a vehicle of new opportunities and not a source of problems'.

It 'can be an important tool for growth and the fight against poverty' as well, the cardinal said.

But this can only happen if it respects 'all aspects of life: social, economic, political, cultural, and spiritual, making them elements in a single synthesis, the human person'.

Sustainability, he said, is promoted under three dimensions: 'the ecological, aiming for the maintenance of ecosystems; the social, which develops in harmony with the host community; and the economic, which stimulates inclusive growth.'

He went on: 'What are the consequences for tourists, entrepreneurs, workers, governors, and local communities? It is an open reflection.

'We invite all those involved in the sector to engage in serious discernment and to promote practices towards attaining this, accompanying behaviours and lifestyle changes towards a new way of relating to each other.'

According to Turkson, the Catholic Church is making its contribution, including with initiatives that place tourism at the service of the development of the human person.

'This is why we talk about tourism with a human touch, which is based on projects of community tourism, cooperation, solidarity, and an appreciation of the great artistic heritage which is an authentic way of beauty,' he said.

'We recognize God as the creator of the universe and father of all human beings, and He who makes us brothers.

'We must put the human person as the focus of our attention. We recognise the dignity of each person and the relationships among persons; we must share the principle of the common destiny of the human family and the universal destination of earthly goods.'

Finally, Turkson quoted from a speech by Pope Francis to the United Nations in September 2015, when the Pope said: 'The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman...'

The cardinal concluded: 'May we live out our commitment in the light of these words and these intentions!'