How can tourism play a role within the current issues in Europe?
Recent violent events in Europe, still unimaginable only a few weeks ago, have left us all feeling shaken. Citizens of the world, no matter which country they hail from, are displaying immense courage and determination in the fight for their freedom to think, to act, to refuse or embrace what happens around them. We bear witness to rising imperialism all around us; some are realising that this phenomenon is not only without, but within. Every time we look away from a neighbour in need; every time we forget to lend a helping hand; every time we favour personal gain over solidarity; and every time we turn a blind eye to other realities than our own, we contribute to the rise of an imperialism built on individualism and withdrawal. The writings of Gramsci, who detested indifference and to whom the silence of house slippers was even worse than the stomping of boots, have never been so topical. If we want a brighter future, filled with hope, solidarity, freedom, and equality, we must begin writing it into existence today.
In such a context, the topic of holidays may seem futile and unimportant. Here at ISTO, however, we know that the right to travel is a condition for full citizenship. We must reject indifference and complacency and loudly proclaim our commitment to tourism for all, and to diverse encounters, which allow people and economies to thrive. We must defend our vision of tourism, which unites peoples, breaks down barriers, and scales borders. All nations must unite and connect with one another; this is the only possibility in the face of rising imperialism and nationalism, stemming from fear and an ignorance of otherness. Travelling, whether close to home or further away, means experiencing diversity and fostering open-mindedness. Travelling means taking control of our own destiny and forging a path for ourselves. In each region where ISTO is present, we must reject tourism as simply a way to stay in one’s bubble and instead defend tourism as a means to witness, to experience, to exchange with others, and to express one’s potential to the fullest.
We recently produced a document advocating for youth tourism and mobility. My heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone who contributed to this project. As of today, it will be sent out to all of our members, States, and Regions, as well as European institutions and the UNWTO. Beyond this, we would also greatly appreciate it if you shared the project with your network.
The youth of today will write tomorrow’s reality. To paraphrase Gramsci: the old world is dying, but it is desperately trying to survive. We must do everything possible to help our youth. They will see a new world into existence, though it struggles to be born. This rebirth will also happen through travel and mobility; through building an identity not only as tourists, but as citizens of the world who move through it in a state of eternal discovery and respect.