by Lakshman Ratnapala
“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.
—Silver Blaze, Arthur Conan Doyle
The steady growth of international tourism continues unabated, despite the depressed economies, joblessness and shrinking incomes that are affecting the prosperity of the major tourism source markets of the world. Some see the dichotomy as a “curious incident,” as curious as the dog that did not bark in the night. However, stakeholders see in the curious incident a remarkable characteristic of the travel industry: its resilience that has proven, time and again, the ability to rejuvenate and reinvent itself from one crisis after another, whether economic downturn, natural disaster, war or pestilence. It also proves that tourism will not just survive, but indeed thrive, given mankind’s abiding curiosity of things unknown and the unquenchable thirst for exploration.
Last year, global tourism reached a historic watershed when more than a billion tourists crossed international borders, generating record incomes for countries rich and poor, many of which are dependent on tourism income for national development. That trend of growth is set to continue this year.
Tourism has reached a point where it is now one of the most important economic sectors and social activities of our time, employing millions of people across the world, lifting entire communities out of poverty. It has become one of the world’s major trade categories, ranking fourth after fuels, chemicals and food. For many countries, it is one of the main – and for some, the major – sources of foreign income for investment in national development.
Even more important is that tourism is a force for peace in the world, for it brings people of different backgrounds to share memorable experiences, to recognize the ethnic, cultural and natural diversity of our planet, and to build bridges of understanding and harmony.
The rise of tourism as an economic power and an agent of peace comes with greater challenges for all – governments, private sector entrepreneurs, media and individual travelers – to drive economic growth in a manner that is responsible, to ensure social growth that is equitable and to safeguard the planet’s natural habitat, as stewards of a heritage we hold in trust for future generations.
We owe it to the communities we visit to invest in their future by using tour programs, services and products that are environmentally sound, appreciate traditional cultures, and generate economic benefits for host communities. As travel writers, when we write about destinations, our responsibility to the local communities is a vital point to consider. Our writings should go beyond the showcasing of a destination’s tourist attractions. What we write should transcend the parochial and contribute to the understanding of the ways of life and the aspirations of local communities. It is but a small contribution we can make to enrich our world. It needs individual commitment and common effort.