[Translate to english:] Nomadin vom Stamm der Rendille fertigt traditionellen Halsschmuck

Why Tourism?

”Tourism is like fire. You can use it to heat your soup or burn down your house!“

A different kind of tourism is necessary…

For many people all over the world, tourism means hope and the risk of poverty at the same time. No question: tourism creates jobs and brings urgently needed economic momentum, especially for countries of the Global South. One in ten jobs worldwide depends on tourism – which amounts to a total of 292 million jobs. In one out of three developing countries, tourism is the main source of foreign exchange. It does not come as a surprise that more and more countries rely on tourism as an economic strategy. The sector is one of the fastest growing industries worldwide – with particularly high growth rates in countries of the Global South. The demand seems to be insatiable. From a level which had already been high, international tourist flows are set to double in just 20 years to 1.8 billion international tourist arrivals by 2030.

Nevertheless, the dark sides of tourism are also visible everywhere. Never before have so many children worldwide become victims of sexual exploitation by tourists. In some places water consumption in the tourism sector exceeds locally available resources; and if aviation and cruise tourism continue to grow as they did in the past, they will by 2050 be responsible for 40 percent of man-made climate change. In many places, fisher folk are evicted or displaced to make way for the construction of resorts and beach hotels. Not only in large European cities, but also at world heritage sites and at particularly beautiful beaches or sights, local people suffer under overly intensive and misguided tourism development.

… and possible!

Tourism is growing, but its positive effects on the environment, society and people’s wellbeing are not. There are ways to do things differently!

In many places, initiatives have been launched that offer a different kind of tourism. They include community based eco-lodges and accommodation in host families in many countries of Asia, Latin America, and Africa. On the guidebook market we find tips on how to travel around the world without taking a flight and on how to spend a holiday in India without using plastic bottles. More than 150 labels certify thousands of tourism products and services, the sustainability of which has been verified. A few pioneers in the tourism industry have developed strategies to identify and avoid human rights violations.

The necessary transformation in tourism cannot be achieved unless all players eventually take responsibility!

From policy makers and industry we demand:

  • more participation of local people in the planning and design of tourism
  • more measures to protect human rights in destinations
  • more climate justice, especially for people who don’t travel themselves
  • more corporate responsibility of tour operators, hotels, and airlines

We advise travellers:

  • to intensively prepare for their trips
  • to select tour operators responsibly
  • to chose climate friendly transport to and from the destination
  • to seek more encounters at eye level

For more than 40 years, the churches in Germany have been addressing the impacts of tourism in developing countries. At the beginning, in as early as the 1970s, Asian and Ecumenical groups were the first ones to feel the impacts of growing international tourism, a little later also groups from Africa and Latin America. They requested the churches in Europe to do more to prepare tourists and to raise public awareness of the negative impacts of tourism. Central points of criticism at that time, just as today, were the sexual exploitation of children, the displacement of local people to make way for infrastructure development, the lack of participation and self-determination, and the cultural exploitation of communities and indigenous groups. Environmental damage and poor working conditions have also been issues since the onset of critical reflections on tourism in a development context.