This introduction seeks to set out the paradigm within which the Centre for responsible Tourism has operated. Tackling the negative impacts was not just another programme initiative of the Archdiocese of Goa. It was an intervention that tried to find the right relations in the tourism equation. Caritas-Goa and the Council for Social Justice and Peace, the two bodies which initiated the programme saw their goal as affirming the idea that tourism is, in the final analysis, an encounter that belongs in the realm of human affairs and that concerns human beings. The enrichment that tourism can produce must not be simply economic or material. There has to be a spiritual dimension to it. Hence, it was important that the entire work be approached from the perspective of humanizing tourism. In other words, the effort would have to be established on ethical foundations with justice as the corner stone and clearly directed at protecting the human rights of host communities, workers, women and children. It would also need to bring benefits to local communities.
At the Second Vatican Council the following pertinent observation was made: “Shorter working hours are becoming the general rule everywhere and provide greater opportunities for large numbers of people. This leisure time must be properly employed to refresh the spirit and improve the health of mind and body…by means of travel to broaden and enrich people’s minds by learning from others.”
Tourism can promote an authentic human and social development thanks to the growing opportunity that it offers for a sharing of goods, for rich cultural exchanges, for approaching natural or artistic beauty, and for an understanding of different traditions. Especially in our time, tourism appeals to the person who wants to grow in knowledge and to experience how men and women are the bearers of civilization. In order for this to be possible, a serious preparation is necessary, one that avoids improvisation and superficiality. It is important to develop a persuasive program of education for the values of tourism in relation to and in defense of the communities and natural and cultural goods of the hosts. Only then will the new marketplaces of tourism and leisure become resources for true human enrichment for all.
Rest constitutes one important reason why people try to have free time, and it is also the most common reason for engaging in tourism. A voyage and a more or less extended stay in a place different from one’s usual place of residence predispose people to take a break from work and other obligations that are part of social responsibilities. Rest thus takes on the form of a parenthesis in normal life. There is a danger that rest may be considered a time for doing nothing. Certainly this conception does not correspond to the anthropological reality of rest. In fact, rest consists principally in regaining the full personal equilibrium that normal living conditions tend to destroy. Therefore, just stopping all activity is not enough; certain conditions must also be created in order to regain one’s equilibrium.
Tourism can facilitate these conditions not only because it involves going away from one’s residence or usual environment, but also because through many activities, it makes new experiences possible.
It was in 1969 that the World Council of Churches first convened a World Consultation on Tourism. That was a milestone in the tourism debate. And the tone of the debate about meaning of human existence in tourism was set when Professor James Glasse, a principal speaker at the meeting, raised issues of tourism and posed the challenge of evolving an ‘ethics of leisure’ and underlined how, it was pertinent to draw up the parameters of a ‘leisure ethic just as much there is the demand for a work ethic. Another dimension that emerged at the discussions was around the affirmation that all human energies exist to serve God and celebrate God’s gifts of life to humankind. Leisure activities including tourism must similarly be subject to God’s rules and ways.
Tourism is, above all, the quest for a form of spirituality that acquires the traits of a pilgrimage. A pilgrim goes off in search of God and in the pursuit of truth. God’s truth cannot be found outside the ambit of justice and true community. In a world torn asunder by economic divisions, a traveler can make the choice, or be encouraged to chose, to go out in search for people-to-people encounters as part of which each discover the other, understand each other, share with each other what they can and have. This is a pilgrim pathway that can lead to mutuality, solidarity, and to the real discovery of human community. It will be the trail to cessation of abuses of the previous ways of exploitation rooted in greed. It will symbolize the abandonment of the search for profit alone and, instead, instill stewardship values of God’s world of people, the mountains, seas, islands, the air, the birds, the trees- indeed all of God’s precious creation.
There was an obvious lacuna in the way resistance to the forms of tourism inGoawas being organized. Perhaps, that explains why one found a sense of urgency and a quick preparedness of communities and of different sectors inGoato the initiatives of the CRT. The work of the centre for responsible Tourism has just begun. Much more that needs to be done. We have merely set up the foundations for the work. We must now enter a period of consolidation. A strategy to develop sustainability for the programme must also follow. This report will, hopefully, stimulate more parishes in the coastal areas to join the programme to create patterns of responsible tourism.
Consultant, Centre for responsible Tourism
June 20, 2009